Adoption for Military Families

Adoption is a dream come true for thousands of families each year. But frequent moves and other issues have sometimes complicated the adoption process for military families. Fortunately, adoption agencies have come to realize the benefits that military families can offer adoptive children, and they're helping make the process easier. This information will help you better understand the adoption process and its potential challenges for military families:

  • Moving. Because rules and regulations differ from state to state, you may find yourself having to duplicate certain expensive requirements, such as a home study, when you move. If possible try to complete the adoption process at one duty station. You may want to research your state's laws and choose an agency before you move so you can begin the process quickly at your new duty station.
  • Living overseas. Many military families believe it will be too difficult to adopt while stationed overseas. However, you can adopt if you live outside the United States. First you'll want to find an agency experienced in working with U.S. citizens living abroad. Adoption support groups in overseas locations can also help you find the resources you'll need to complete your adoption.
  • Deployments. Because so much adoption paperwork must include signatures from both adoptive parents, a deployment can put the adoption process on hold for several months. If possible complete the necessary paperwork, such as the criminal background check, home study and fingerprinting, before the deployment. Keep in mind that service members may be eligible for a deployment deferment when adopting a child. See your personnel office for specifics.
  • Background checks. Most adoptions require criminal background checks. If you've lived overseas, these checks can be difficult. Your agency may be able to help you obtain the necessary paperwork, or you may be able to obtain a background check from the military law-enforcement office at your overseas duty station.
  • Travel. If you're adopting from another state or a foreign country, you may need to travel to complete the adoption. Adoption from some foreign countries requires that both parents travel, which may be a problem for service members. Some countries also require multiple or extended trips. Sometimes military duty cannot accommodate such a lengthy travel schedule. If there is a possibility that your spouse can't travel with you, work with your agency to come up with an alternate plan. You may also want to ask a family member or friend to travel with you for emotional support.
  • Adoption leave. Service members may be eligible for an additional 21 days of adoption leave. However, when two married service members adopt a child, only one is eligible for the leave. You can check out the DoD policy on adoption reimbursement and see your personnel office for details.

Adoption costs and financing options

Although adoption costs can be overwhelming, there are several ways to help defray them. As you budget for your adoption expenses, be sure to look at all available resources. Adoption costs vary widely. Some adoptions, such as those arranged through public agencies for children with special needs, may cost little or nothing. But most adoptions will cost somewhere between $10,000 and $30,000. You won't incur all the expenses at one time, but over several months or years. Costs for adoption can be broken down by the following:

  • Agency fees
  • Home-study costs
  • Medical costs for the birth mother and baby (in some domestic adoptions)
  • Court and legal fees
  • Immigration fees for international adoptions (visit for current information)
  • Program fee for foreign country (in international adoptions)
  • Travel
  • Fees to certify documents and conduct background checks

When you talk with an agency about adoption, make sure you understand what costs are included in the agency's fees before you make a commitment. Costs can vary widely depending on the agency, state or country. For international adoption between Hague Convention countries, adoption fees must be itemized and disclosed up front.

Military subsidy

A subsidy of $2,000 per child (up to $5,000 per calendar year for multiple adoptions) is available to military families who choose to adopt. The subsidy is available once the adoption is finalized and only if the adoption is arranged through a qualified adoption agency. The subsidy reimburses specific adoption costs including placement fees, legal fees and medical expenses. However, the subsidy does not reimburse travel expenses. For more information, read the Department of Defense (DoD) Adoption Reimbursement Policy.

Adoption tax credit

Families adopting a child may qualify for a tax credit to help offset the costs of adoption. This is not a tax deduction, but rather a credit to your tax liability. If you can't use all the credit in one year, it may be carried forward. For more information, read Publication 968 "Tax Benefits for Adoption" at the Internal Revenue Service website.


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