Adoptive family in autumn colors outside

National Adoption Month 2022: How Donors Can Help More Families Afford to Adopt

Kelly Ellison, creator of Your Adoption Finance Coach, shares about the resources available to help fund adoptions, and how donors can help more families afford to adopt the children who wait.

Many of us think of November as the start of the holiday season, gathering with family and friends to consume thousands of calories for Thanksgiving. While this is true, it’s also a month to celebrate adoption through National Adoption Day, which has been observed the Saturday before Thanksgiving every year since 2000. Since its inception, over 75,000 children have been united with their adoptive families on National Adoption Day. 

Adoption Awareness and the Rising Cost of International Adoption

National Adoption Day’s primary focus is on foster care and foster to adopt; however, it’s also been an important opportunity to shine a light on adoption awareness in general. In the United States, there are approximately 1.5 million children who were adopted — that’s equivalent to 1 in 50 or about 2% of the population. Every year, there are approximately 140,000 adoptions by American families. 

Shining a bigger light and concern is on international adoption, which has had steep declines of over 60% in recent years. In 2020, the total number of international adoptions in the United States was 1,622, a decline from 2,971 in 2019.  Due to economic, political and social impacts, these numbers continue to drop dramatically. One barrier is that many countries require extended stays, which adds to the overall complexity of the process as prospective adoptive parents have to live abroad for an extended period while stopping work and essentially putting their lives in the United States on hold.

However, probably the number one barrier for international adoption continues to be the high cost to complete the process, with direct expenses ranging from $30,000 to $60,000. These costs put international adoption out of reach for many families who would otherwise love to build their family in this special way. For all the reasons we’ve stated above, it takes a great deal of fortitude to adopt internationally. 

Even so, there is help and hope! Many foundations provide grants, and sometimes loans, to families who adopt internationally. Though all grants have eligibility requirements and deadlines that vary from foundation to foundation, qualified families can often receive grants in amounts ranging from $2,500 to $15,000.     

It’s an important point to make that if adoption agencies could get more support in the form of donations from foundations, families and corporations, it would result in the ‘tide rising for all boats.’ 

Recently, the SECURE Act introduced QBOAD (Qualified Birth or Adoption Distribution), which allows prospective adoptive parents to each withdraw up to $5,000 from a qualified retirement plan without incurring the early withdrawal penalty. In addition, the Adoption Tax Credit benefits 90% of adopting families. However, given that it is a credit and not a refund, it is often of minimal help for those without a federal tax liability, such as those in the ministry or military. Lobbying efforts continue to encourage Congress to make the credit refundable again. For adoptions finalized this year, the IRS just posted that the tax credit will be $15,950 for adoptions finalized in 2023, an increase of nearly $1,000 from 2022.

Fundraising is another option to assist with funding an adoption, although this is often a more challenging way to come up with adoption funds. Some families lack an appropriately sized network of friends and community members to support an adoption fundraiser; others just lack the skills to know how to create and manage a successful fundraising campaign. 

Employers are also stepping up to provide adoption benefits that include reimbursement and paid time off. Over 650 corporations are currently offering an adoption or family benefit to their employees. 

Even though there are many resources available to help families adopt, not all of them apply to every family and most fall short of funding the entire journey. While families should be at stake for funding a portion of their adoption, the overall cost of international adoption has simply become too high even for many middle-income families.

To help families afford to adopt, agencies like Holt now fund additional adoption grants and offset many of the added costs for adoption through philanthropic gifts. But this means that adoption fees no longer cover the full cost of an international adoption. To sustain international adoption, donations are needed to fund the agencies that provide all the support and placement of the child with the family.  

This is one reason that the field of adoption providers is now shrinking as many adoption agencies that used to do both domestic and international adoption have closed their doors or just decided to pursue domestic adoption. Other reasons include the number of legal and political barriers and regulations in place. We won’t delve into all the reasons for the decline in the number of international adoption providers in this article, but it’s an important point to make that if adoption agencies could get more support in the form of donations from foundations, families and corporations, it would result in the ‘tide rising for all boats.’  Nearly all adoption agencies are nonprofit organizations and can easily receive donations from individuals, corporations and foundations.  

Children Need Families, and Families Need Help

Even though the number of international adoptions in the United States is declining, there is still a great need, as there are an estimated 140 million children growing up without families worldwide. While some children can now join domestic adoptive families in their birth country, for many, international adoption is the only remaining path to a family. Many families have the heart and fortitude for international adoption, and would love to provide a stable home for a child who needs one. 

Please consider giving a gift to Holt International to help fund adoption grants and protect international adoption as a path to a family this National Adoption Month!

Vietnam children in orphanage waiting to be adopted

Help Protect International Adoption for Children

Your gift today will help a child be adopted, care for them while they wait, and even ensure that they receive critical post-adoption help for life!


Kelly Ellison is the creator of Your Adoption Finance Coach, which partners with Holt International to help families create a comprehensive financial plan to complete their adoption. Kelly’s team of professional coaches help families with grants and loans, fundraising and more. Her partnership with Holt International is intended to help bring more families to international adoption — no matter what their financial needs are.

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