By the time I adopt a baby I'll have spent about $30,000. Here's how the costs break down.

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  • My husband and I are in the process of adopting a baby in Ohio. We've completed the home study and are waiting to be matched with a birth family.
  • We expect to pay about $30,000 for the whole process (double that if we're placed with twins), but we'll get a big chunk of it back in tax credits.
  • In addition to tax credits, there are adoption loans available to help families that don't have that big chunk of change upfront.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

My husband and I have toyed with the idea of adoption for a long time. We love spending time with kids, and my husband is a real sucker for babies in particular.

We began exploring options after a few years of marriage: Did we want to foster? Foster with the plan to eventually adopt a child from the foster care system? Work through an adoption attorney? Work with a private adoption agency? All of a sudden, the options seemed endless.

Our process of narrowing down options led us to an adoption agency close to home here in Ohio that was recommended by a friend, where the social workers were warm and kind while also being incredibly clear and straightforward about the complexities of adoption.

They prioritize an excellent experience for birth families, who are going through a lot during the process of adoption, and this resonated with us. They work toward open adoptions, where the children and their birth parents have contact in some form throughout childhood, and they tend to focus on the adoption of newborn babies. These priorities checked all our boxes.

I won't lie, though: When we saw the costs of this process, we were taken aback. Pretty much the minute we realized that our total expenses on adoption could be $30,000 (double that if we place with twins!), we started saving, using this need for a large amount of cash as a reason to tighten our belts and work overtime when it was available.

However, we'll get a lot of this money back in the future. When we file our taxes post-placement, we'll get generous adoption-related tax credits from both the federal and state governments.

Pre-baby expenses

To get the ball rolling, we paid an application fee of $1,500. This fee seems to serve two purposes: 1) It pays for the actual costs of our social worker's time in getting us approved as adoptive parents through the state of Ohio, and 2) It tells the adoption agency we're definitely serious about this process.

Then we had a few expenses while our "home study" was proceeding. The home study is basically a large file of documents and home visits by a social worker that verifies that we can provide a safe environment for a child.

During the home study stage, we spent $150 on background checks and $200 on online adoption training that taught us about some of the things we can expect.

Later on, we chose to take infant CPR classes that totaled about $180, and they certified us to offer first aid and CPR to both children and adults.

As our home study was wrapping up - we were submitting all the documents and our social worker was making sure everything was uploaded correctly - we also began creating adoption profiles; one shorter profile was a page long and used on the adoption agency's website, while another was four pages long, to be carried by social workers to show to birth parents.

One thing we like about our agency is that they let the birth parents pick their adoptive family when they are making an adoption plan. In our profiles, we wrote a little about our lives, compiled some photographs, and a graphic designer put it all together and printed up a stack of these profiles on thick, glossy paper.

The goal of using printed profiles is, I think, to build trust with the birth parents: When they see the bright pictures on the physical copies, we hope they see how committed and excited we are to be parents. Physical profiles are also portable, though these days the online profiles seem to also be a popular option for the social workers to use, if they don't have the physical profiles with them.

We spent about $500 on these profiles - that seems like quite a bit, but it also covered the cost of paying a professional to create something that looks great.

Post-placement expenses

While we are currently waiting to have our future child placed with us, we do know what is coming in terms of costs. The placement fee, which is essentially the entire payment the agency receives for all our training, their work with the birth mother, and their support of us along the way, is around $19,000.

In addition, there are a variety of legal fees (from a $2,100 fee for our lawyer and a lawyer for the birth parents, to a $90 filing fee for adoption proceedings in court).

There will also be a $2,000 fee charged for post-placement social worker visits to make sure the baby is doing well in our home. And there will be up to $3,000 in expenses that the birth mother can claim during pregnancy that we will cover.

The medical expenses of the birth mother are our responsibility during delivery if she doesn't have insurance that covers it, and we also are responsible for things like travel to the birth mother's hospital, hotel stays for as long as the baby remains in the hospital, and any travel we need to do when meeting and (hopefully!) making a match with a birth mother.

This is why, all told, we are budgeting around $30,000 for the whole experience. It's a big bill, but a lot of excellent professionals are working to make this happen, keeping the process as smooth and as positive as it can be for the birth mother, the child, and for us. We think of the bills as a large amount of money that corresponds with a tremendous amount of value.

Tax credits from the federal and state governments

While this is a huge chunk of change, the truth is we are quite lucky to be adopting in the US, and in Ohio in particular.

For one thing, the federal government offers a tax credit of almost $14,000, which means that when we file taxes after placement, we'll be able to deduct that much from our taxes, resulting in a pretty great refund. We can also roll that credit over, so if we don't owe that much in taxes, we can take part of the credit in a future year.

Ohio is also really generous with this same credit - the state lets you deduct up to $10,000 from your taxes for adoption. It takes a lot longer for most people to pay $10,000 in state taxes (vs. federal taxes), but we can roll this credit over to future years, too. In the end, we'll get back as much as $24,000 in tax credits.

That same money will probably go into all the many things babies need, but in the meantime, it is nice to have a concrete reason to be disciplined with our money (i.e. paying for adoption).

It's worth looking into the tax incentives in your area if you are weighing options for growing your family. While it is a big initial payment, there are adoption loans and other ways of paying while waiting for tax credits to kick in.

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