How to Fund Your Adoption: The Complete Guide to Affording Adoption

By Jess Nelson, Community Manager, PairTree

May 2, 2024

Adoption is too expensive, which is a huge issue in adoption today...but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be changing. In fact, the cost of adoption has been steadily on the rise over the last few years.

We believe the high fees being charged in adoption encourage unethical behavior that is not in an expectant mom's best interest and leads to coercive and predatory practices. While we’re working to lower the cost of adoption in the US, we still want to help families afford to grow their family through adoption - so we created the Ultimate Guide to Funding Your Adoption.

Before we dive into adoption fundraising and taking your adoption journey public, there are two things we encourage you to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t Overshare - be mindful of sharing personal details about the child you hope to adopt. Those few details you know are the most important details in their life at that moment and shouldn’t be shared far and wide.

  2. Be Sensitive to Those Around You - you never know who in your audience may be an adoptee or birth parent, and they may be sensitive to your situation and fundraising efforts.

In this guide, we will:

  • Introduce and explain adoption fundraising

  • Learn about ethical adoption fundraising

  • Provide adoption grant and loan information

  • Share adoption fundraising ideas

Download your own copy of our "How to Fund Your Adoption" Guide!

What is Adoption Fundraising?

Adoption fundraising refers to the process of raising funds to cover the expenses associated with adoption. Adoption can be costly, involving agency services, legal fees, travel expenses, home studies, medical bills, and expectant parent expenses. Since these costs add up quickly, many adopting families turn to fundraising as a way to help cover some of the costs associated with the adoption process.

Adoption fundraising encompasses many different avenues, including:

Crowdfunding: Setting up online fundraising campaigns on platforms like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, YouCaring, or AdoptTogether, where friends, family, and even strangers can donate money to support the adoption process.

Events: Hosting fundraising events such as dinners, auctions, concerts, or charity runs where attendees can purchase tickets or make donations to support the adoption cause.

Selling Goods & Services: Selling merchandise like T-shirts (BonFire is a great resource for hopeful adoptive parents), bracelets, or other items with proceeds going towards adoption expenses.

Grants and Scholarships: Applying for adoption grants or scholarships offered by organizations, foundations, or churches to assist with adoption costs.

Asking Family & Friends: Making direct appeals to friends, family, and community members through letters, emails, or social media posts explaining the need for financial assistance in the adoption journey.

Adoption fundraising is often a creative, crucial way for prospective adoptive parents to make their dreams of expanding their family a reality, especially for those facing financial constraints…we know most people don’t have an additional $30,000 - $50,000 in the bank to cover adoption costs.

However, it's important to approach fundraising ethically and transparently, ensuring that the funds received are used responsibly and conservatively.

Positive Adoption Fundraising - A Birth Mother’s Perspective

Adoption is expensive…too expensive. Especially when you consider that most of the hefty fees you’re paying to adoption consultants, facilitators, or agencies go to their marketing and advertising budgets…not to provide additional support and resources for expectant moms.

My goal is never to rain on your parade or to tear apart your adoption journey. My goal is to simply share my perspective as a birth mom and show you another way of thinking about things - even when it’s hard to hear sometimes. But when we know better, we do better, so try and remain empathetic and if something feels icky - don’t do it.

And when you’re considering fundraising for your adoption, I encourage you to keep these thoughts in mind:

Don’t Profit Off Adoption: When you’re setting your goal to fundraise for your adoption journey, your goal shouldn’t be to fundraise the entire cost of your adoption. Make sure your household is making financial changes to afford this process. If the cost is $30,000, set your goal at $15,000-$20,000.

Also remember, the Adoption Tax Credit is nearly $16,000. This means if you fundraise the full amount of your adoption fees, and receive a $15,950 tax credit…you’ve essentially profited off the adoption process. And speaking as a birth mom, that feels gross to me.

Be Transparent: Be clear and upfront about the purpose of the fundraising efforts. Clearly communicate your fundraising goal, how the funds will be used, your overall fundraising efforts, and provide regular updates on the progress of your adoption journey without sharing personal details.

Hot tip: Create a private adoption Facebook group for friends and family only! It’s a great way to keep everyone updated on your adoption journey!

Respect Privacy: Respect the privacy and dignity of everyone involved in the adoption process, especially birth parents. Avoid sharing sensitive information, personal details, or intimate parts of their story or an adoptee's story…that information should be theirs to hold and share if or when they want. This includes sharing personal information about birth parents (homelessness, addiction, incarceration, family medical history) and information surrounding the birth of a child (prenatal substance exposure, withdrawals, birth story).

Keep Your Future Child in Mind: Some adoptees have complex feelings about being adopted, especially surrounding the cost of their adoption. Knowing their family fundraised to cover adoption costs can add an additional layer of complexity. Those feelings are sometimes exacerbated by the comments of some well-meaning family members when they say “I helped pay for you” or “you were an expensive baby.” How will your future teenager feel when they learn their full adoption story - loved, proud, embarrassed, commodified?

GoFundMe: Go or No Go? As a birth mom, I have strong feelings about using crowdfunding platforms for your adoption. Hang around me long enough and you’ll find me on a soap box about it at least once, so I’ll save those thoughts for another day and instead ask you to consider this question when you’re setting up a CrowdFunding page - Would you donate to a pregnant woman’s GoFundMe to help cover her rent, utilities, and time off work so that she could keep her family intact? This isn’t to say you can’t accept donations from family, friends, and co-workers…but maybe accept it privately instead of asking for it publicly.

Additional questions to ask yourselves when considering adoption fundraising:

  • What sacrifices are we making to cover adoption costs? Where can we cut our budget to save money?
  • Are our fundraising ideas respectful of potential expectant parents?
  • How would this make a potential expectant parent feel? Would we be embarrassed if they knew how we were fundraising?
  • Will we feel comfortable telling our future child how we fundraised for their adoption?

Adoption Grant & Loan Programs

These grant and loan programs are meant to help you navigate the financial part of your adoption journey. The resource list below is presented in no particular order. Keep in mind that these resources are ever-changing, so please read carefully.

Show Hope: The Adoption Aid grant, which ranges from $6,000 to $10,000, is designed to reduce financial barriers associated with adoption. The organization also provides $6,000 Medical Care grants to assist families with medical expenses for adopted children.

Katelyn’s Fund: Grants of up to $3,000 to two-parent, Christian, traditional families.

Help Us Adopt: Grants of up to $20,000 are awarded four times a year to families with significant financial barriers to adoption.

Gift of Adoption Fund: Grants of up to $15,000 are awarded to qualified applicants for both domestic and international adoptions. The average grant is $4,000.

National Adoption Foundation: Grants range from $500 to $2,000, depending on the needs of the family and circumstances surrounding the adoption.

Abba Fund: The award range varies from family to family. There is no maximum household income limit but financial need must be demonstrated. You must be Christian and married to qualify and be working with a licensed 501(c)(3) adoption agency.

A Child’s Wait Foundation: Open to citizens of the U.S. and Canada adopting domestically, including through foster care, this grant offers up to $10,000 to cover final adoption costs.

Lifesong For Orphans: Lifesong for Orphans guides adopting families through the fundraising process, removing the financial barriers to adoption. Families can apply to receive matching grants, interest-free loans, and access to a free crowdfunding platform.

The Sparrow Fund: specific to covering the cost of utilizing specialized medical professionals

The Buescher Foundation: A quarterly grant provided for home study-approved families with amounts determined on a case-by-case basis.

The Never Alone Foundation: Zoe’s Rainbow grants are awarded through The Never Alone Foundation, an organization that assists parents in bringing orphaned children home by helping them with the immense expense involved in international adoption.

JSC Foundation: JSC Foundation’s hope is to assist Christian couples for whom the cost of adoption is a hardship. They are pleased to be able to partner with some of these families as they step out in faith by following the call, allowing one more orphan to come home to their forever family.

CrowdFunding & Financing Options

Adopt Together: Crowd Funding - AdoptTogether is the world's largest non-profit crowdfunding platform for adoption.

LightStream: Adoption Loan Financing - Low-interest adoption loan financing.

Pathways for Little Feet: Interest-Free Adoption Loans - Pathways’ interest-free loan program provides up to $10,000 in adoption financial assistance.

America’s Christian Credit Union - Low-rate adoption loans are great for both international and domestic adoption. Use the funds for expenses such as agency, court, and lawyer fees, a home study, or travel costs.

Adoption Fundraising Ideas

Some adoption fundraisers will make you more money than others, some are more creative than others, and some take more time and effort than others. But at the end of the day, these are fun and creative ideas to ask your friends, family and community to support you on your adoption journey.

T-Shirt Sales: Everyone loves a good t-shirt…or at the very least, most people will buy a t-shirt. Sites like Bonfire allow you to design your shirt, promote it and sell it, with no upfront cost. You don’t have to keep track of inventory or manage shipping - Bonfire handles all of that!

Puzzle Pieces: Choose a puzzle that's meaningful to your family or your adoption journey, and create a fundraiser selling the pieces! Decide on a $ amount per puzzle piece, and when someone purchases one (or a few!) they get to sign the back of their pieces (or sign for them). Once all the pieces are sold, assemble your puzzle and hang it in the nursery or somewhere special in your home!

Be the Easter Bunny: Take a load off other busy families by offering Easter Bunny services on Easter weekend. Charge a set amount based on the number of eggs you're offering and ‘egg’ people's yards the night before Easter! Kids will love waking up to a yard full of colorful Easter eggs, and Mom and Dad will love not having to do the egg-work!

Garage Sale: Everyone loves a yard sale, especially when it’s for a good cause! Don’t think you have enough stuff for a yard sale on your own? Ask your friends and family, even your neighbors to help out - chances are they have some stuff they’ve been meaning to take to Goodwill for months now. Take it up a notch and have a bake sale at your yard sale!

Restaurant Fundraisers: This is a classic fundraiser that is so easy to facilitate. Many franchised restaurants do fundraiser nights in their locations, where you can sign up for a night and they give you a flier to hand out to everyone you possibly can. On your given fundraiser night, a set percentage (usually 10-20%) of the profits from everyone who brings in the flier goes back to you! That’s the catch though - you only get money from the tables that bring in your flier, so you want to get it in as many hands as possible and remind everyone when your fundraiser is!

Some restaurants that offer community fundraising nights: Buffalo Wild Wings, California Pizza Kitchen, Jason’s Deli, Newks, Pita Pit, and Chipotle, just to name a few!

Tag the Bag: If you’re traveling to pick up your new addition, or are adopting an older child this is such a fun idea. Buy a suitcase and let your friends and family pay $5 to ‘tag the bag!’ Everyone pays $5 and they get to sign their name and write a short note on the suitcase. It’s such a simple way to fundraise, but it’s something special your child is going to be able to keep forever.

This is by no means an extensive list of options for adoption fundraisers - just a short list to get the creative juices flowing. Other options to try might be organizing a community 5K, a spaghetti dinner, a neighborhood block party, selling football squares or organizing a bracket challenge, selling baked goods, or wrapping Christmas gifts.

Additional Financial Support

Adoption assistance comes in many different ways, like a tax credit or benefits from your workplace or military service.

Adoption Tax Credit

The adoption tax credit is a one-time, federal tax credit available to help offset the costs of adopting a child. It is designed to assist adoptive parents with the expenses associated with the adoption process, including adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, travel expenses, and other eligible adoption-related expenses.

The adoption tax credit is non-refundable, meaning it can reduce your tax liability to zero but cannot result in a refund if the credit exceeds your tax liability. However, any unused credit can be carried forward for up to five years. For the 2023 tax year, the maximum credit allowed is $15,950.

To learn more about the Adoption Tax Credit and how to utilize it, our friends at Creating a Family have compiled all of the essential Adoption Tax Credit Resources!

Hot Tip: Scroll down on this page to find our Adoption Tax Credit Calculator!

Employer Benefits

Employer benefits for adoption vary widely depending on the company and its policies. However, more and more employers are offering some form of adoption assistance or benefits to support employees who are adopting.

Some employers provide financial assistance to help cover adoption-related expenses. This assistance may come in the form of reimbursement for adoption fees, legal fees, and other eligible expenses. The amount and eligibility criteria for financial assistance can vary greatly from one employer to another.

Need help talking to your HR department about implementing adoption benefits? The Dave Thomas Foundation put together an Adoption-Friendly Workplace Employer Toolkit to support employers looking to grow their adoption benefits.

Hot Tip: 70% of employers add benefits because their employees ask for them. PairTree will contact your employer on your behalf! Scroll down here to fill out our HR Contact Request Form.
Additional Resources:

Jess Nelson Jess Nelson is the Community Manager at PairTree, focused on growing the resources, programs and education offered for both expectant and birth families, and adoptive families. Jess has spent the last 5 years working in the field of private adoption, first as a paralegal for an Adoption Attorney in Louisiana and most recently with PairTree. As a birth mom of two through private adoption, her firsthand experience of both agency and attorney adoption led her to becoming an adoption professional and join the fight for reform and post placement care for birth moms.