• Trent Hess

Pulling Back the Curtain on Adoption Finances

Emily and I recently brought home our new daughter, Heidi from China. This was a long process, although much shorter than we were anticipating.

Arriving home in the beautiful USA after an ENTIRE DAY of travelling... We tried to hide how exhausted we were!

It's been amazing to have Heidi join our family, and we've already been blessed by having her with us and watching her grow. It's been exciting to settle back into family routines here at home. We're also excited to get back to some normalcy with our finances. We won't need to track costs, fund raise, pinch pennies, and will be able to finally have a handle on where our personal finances are at.


Speaking of adoption finances, a few months ago we did a video on our Facebook page where we were very open and shared the exact dollar amounts from our adoption. We felt this was important mainly because we know that the cost of adoption is often a stumbling block for potential adoptive families. We've talked to many of them. They may have the heart for adoption, the willingness and desire, but they never seriously explore it because they assume they can't afford it. After all, most of us don't have $10's of thousands of dollars just sitting around waiting to fund an adoption. Well, we didn't either. Thankfully, you don't need to.

Here are our personal, full adoption financial details this time around.

COST: In general, an international adoption from China costs about $35,000. This is from start to finish. From application fee to flying home, including all travel costs. Obviously, this is a lot of money... but keep in mind, it's not all due at once. Adoption is a long process, generally around 18 months. The costs are spread out over that time, so you have time to raise funds and to save your own money. Our adoption this time around will likely end up being a bit less than $35,000, but not much less.


There are 3 primary sources of funds for an adoption.

  1. Grants

  2. Fundraising

  3. Personal Savings

Here's are our adoption funds broke down.


Many people are not aware that adoption grants are available.

Grants are provided by nonprofit organizations that exist to help make adoption more affordable. Probably the most famous of these is Show Hope, which was founded by Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman, but there are many others as well. Locally here in Lancaster PA we have Brittany's Hope, which is also a well-known adoption grant organization.

Each organization operates a little differently. Some provide matching grants, some send a check directly to your adoption agency, and some send you a check directly once you have completed the adoption and arrived home. Regardless, every grant organization requires you to complete an application, which is time-consuming, but generally worth it.

We received 3 grants this time around. Two $5,000 grants, and a $2,000 grant; for a total of $12,000 of grants! For whatever reason, these were more available this time then they were for our first adoption 2 ½ years ago. Two of these grants came from organizations that declined us the first time around.


Fundraising is generally the bedrock of your adoption finances, not only because it is where a lot of your money comes from, but it's also how you get your friends, family and church involved in your adoption. This involvement is very meaningful and important.

We did a few fundraisers.

Dessert Bar / Silent Auction: This was our biggest fundraising event. We tried to keep it fairly simple, but you will find that this is hard to do if you want to have a good event. We held this event at our church during the Winter. It consisted of a large buffet of desserts, coffee and hot chocolate that was available by donation at the door. We also had about 25 items (mostly donated) that were offered as a silent auction. The auction was started on Facebook a few days prior to the auction so that people who didn't attend the event could take part. This entire event was very successful and raised about $5,000.

T-Shirt Sale: This was quite easy. Emily designed a shirt online in about 30 minutes using Bonfire, then we sold it via Facebook. This raised $1,000! I have to be honest, I was skeptical of this. I told Emily not to waste her time, because no one would buy a t-shirt... thankfully she didn't listen to me.

Hand-Painted Signs: Prior to our first adoption Emily ran her small business (Mama Hess Painting) where she made hand-painted wooden signs. She didn't restart this after we brought Ruth home, but as a fundraiser she painted some signs and offered them in an auction format for sale on Facebook. This generated a lot of interest since people were excited to have another opportunity to buy one of her very great signs. This raised $1,600.

This means that in total, our fundraisers brought in $7,600.

However, fundraising also includes donations that are given outside of a specific fundraiser. We are so blessed, grateful, and fortunate to have many wonderful friends who were generous enough to give us $6,400 in total!! These are amazing people.

Just a note about fundraising. This works much better if you have a tight-knit community of friends, family and especially church family that you can get involved and ask for help from. Without this, fundraising will be much more difficult.

One of the most amazing parts of the whole adoption process was being blown away over and over again by the generosity of those around us. It is a truly humbling experience.

Also, fundraising is a lot of work.


The total of our Grants and Fundraising mentioned above was $26,000. With a total adoption cost of about $35,000, this leaves around $9,000 as our personal financial responsibility. Once again, this is not all due up front. Over a 12-18 month adoption process you can save some of this up as you go, and have some saved up when you begin the adoption process. Some people take out loans for their adoption, and in-fact there are nonprofits that offer no (or low) interest loans for adoption purposes. I'm not necessarily advocating a loan for an adoption, but it is a possibility.

ADOPTION TAX CREDIT: One final, but very important piece of the financial puzzle is the Federal Adoption Tax credit. This credit is currently over $14,000 per adopted child and is to offset money that you spent on an adoption.

Over the next couple of tax years, this credit will basically repay every dollar that we spent on our adoption.

While each person's tax situation is unique, this credit is generally a big deal for adoptive families.

The short version of my message is this: Adoption is expensive, but there are solutions. I won't pretend that it isn't a sacrifice, but I would encourage you to not let finances be the only thing that holds you back from pursuing an adoption. The financial aspect of our two adoptions has truly been a faith-building experience as God has provided what we need in incredible, and unexpected ways. He can absolutely do that for you as well!

If you are interested in adoption but have questions about the financial aspect, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to answer any questions you might have!
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