September 22, 2015

How to afford an international adoption: Part 3 - What it REALLY costs to adopt from China

Can we just take a moment here and mourn the loss of summer? It's September in South Dakota which means we're in the bewitching season that's called Autumn, but actually should be called "introduction-to-winter." Those of you who love Fall (along with those of us who love Summer) live in the wrong part of the country, because here the Fall season is basically a 2-3 week period of time where the temperature goes from a daily average of 80 to 20 in an unexplainable feat of nature.

Thank you Jesus, that this week it's miraculously still 80 and I haven't yet had to start wondering why I live here and begin plans to migrate South.

And once Fall comes around, we get back on the crazy train. I mean, we keep a schedule in the summer, but it begins with "let the children sleep as long as possible." This year we didn't do ANY scheduled activities, and you know what? Best decision ever. My kids slept and read books and played outside and went to the pool. And when anyone complained about being bored, I pointed them to the list of "100 Things To Do" that we made in June, made them pick one and after two or three times of that, the little Einsteins figured it out. I have always told them it is not my job to entertain them and we run around like crazies during the school year; why would I want to do that to myself in the summer? I am not super-mom. I plan to not raise narcissists. Therefore in the summer, it's not about you, dear children. It's about some rest and relaxation for your mama, so she doesn't begin to lose her mind before the age of 40.

Sleeping in the grass. 
Turns out my girls LOVE to cook. Especially with friends. 
Oh yeah, they had water fights too!

But since it is officially Autumn, I figured it would be a good time to make use of the more scheduled, structured lifestyle that having kids in public school affords and try to squeeze in some of the things that were neglected over the summer. Like finishing posts I started say, in November of last year.

When we were researching adoptions, we found it was really difficult to get a good grasp on the actual costs. Of course we saw statistics on websites and forums and people always gave some ballpark number that usually came out to around $30,000. And that's helpful to a degree, but something a little more specific was what I was looking for. Like is "about $30,000" ever possibly $27,000? Or is it more like $33,000? Because now we're talking about a $6,000 difference and that's huge when you're an average, middle-class family.

My reasons for posting this are two-fold:
1. So that anyone considering China adoption can have an idea of what to really expect. I'll also include a timeline for that same purpose.
2. So that people can begin to understand why it's so expensive. (There ARE actual reasons for the costs. It's not to just prevent people from adopting!).

My reason for posting this is not:
1. To brag about our ability to afford the costs. Because as we've already established here, that that was ALL God.

Because we are not at liberty to post exact fees that we paid to our agency, and because those fees vary so much from agency to agency, those numbers will be somewhat approximated, but shouldn't affect the overall grand total. Also note that our experience is now almost four years old, so some fees will be outdated. Additionally, many fees vary based on agency, provider, or state and time of year travel occurs.

November 2011:
$550 - formal application
$70 - drug testing
$20 - fingerprints
$125 - training

December 2011 - February 2012:
$125 - training
$116 - home study mileage
$36 - fingerprints
$150 - psychological evaluation

April 2012:
$4400 - United States adoption fees
$4300 - home study fees

May - June 2012:
$41 - birth certificates
$15 - marriage and birth certificate state authentication
$33 - shipping for authentication
$55 - South Dakota Secretary of State authentication
$1150 - CCAA (dossier fees paid to China)
$220 - courier fees for visas
$300 - dossier translation fees
$434 - dossier authentication fees
$15 - training

(no payments made July - September)

October 2012:
$1000 - referral fee
$45 - training
$4000 - post-placement fees (reporting, documentation, visits, etc for 5 years post-adoption)
$500 - Children's Hospital of Philadelphia referral review (optional)
$280 - child's visa and courier fee
$24 - Supplement 3 shipping
$360 - Supplement 3

Current total prior to travel: $18,364

February 2013:
$3200 - Two round trip tickets to China
$970 - One one-way ticket from China (for Meili)
$280 - Seat upgrades (optional, but highly recommended if you are tall!)
$4000 - in-country travel costs (flights from Bejing, to Nanjing, to Guangzhou and car/bus travel within provinces and to Hong Kong, drivers, and guides)
$5700 - orphanage donation (our "thank you" for their "care" of our child)
$2000 - legal fees in China
$420 - seat upgrades for return flights (optional)

Grand Total: $34,934

I'm forever thankful that the "grand total" is not due all at the same time and that we had those 16 months to prepare, research and pray and watch the Lord provide. The amount effort that goes into preparing documents like a home study is huge for a social worker, and while it seems crazy, it's necessary for the integrity of the agency and safety of adopted children. It's my hope that this breakdown is informative, not overwhelming, and helpful to someone who can't find it elsewhere. If you missed the first two posts on affording international adoption, they can be found here (part 1) and here (part 2).


  1. UGH. I have never added up our totals for any of the three boys -- for the above reason. Haha! I always say that had we had them from conception to the time we adopted them, we probably would have spent that much $ in child care, food, health care, diapers, etc... but wow. Just wow. ;) The reality is, though, if we were able to adopt our three blessing as two South Dakota teachers, if you are called to do so, it can be done!

    1. Absolutely Diane! You guys are an awesome example. I love that you've been able to bring home not just one, but THREE beautiful boys.