Adopting a child through a state agency in the U.S. foster care system is often referred to as "free adoption," even though there may be some expense to the adopting parents. However, most states offer adoption credits and reimbursements that cover most if not all actual outlay.
Most public agencies place only children with special needs, which is defined differently in each state. Up-front fees and expenses range from zero to $2,500, including travel and attorney's fees. Most states, under a federal match program, will reimburse non-recurring adoption expenses up to a set limit (which cannot exceed $2,000).
Federal and state adoption subsidies may be available for the ongoing care of children with special physical, mental, or emotional needs; the adoption subsidy agreement must be negotiated and signed before the child's adoption is finalized. However, there is a process whereby adoption subsidy can be applied for or renegotiated after finalization, but only under certain conditions.
In addition, some children qualify for SSI (Social Security Insurance) payments or Medicaid coverage because of their medical conditions.
After families have finalized the adoption of a child with special needs from the public child welfare system, they may be able to apply for reimbursement of expenses they paid related to the adoption, which may include home study fees, travel expenses to meet the child, attorney fees, etc. Each state sets a maximum cap which cannot exceed $2,000 per adoption.
When compared with the costs of private agency, independent, and international adoption which can be as high as $30,000 and more, "free adoption" is perhaps, not a bad description.
More on adoption costs.
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