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Adoption Subsidy
in the United States

In the U.S. today, almost 90 percent of children and youth adopted from foster care receive adoption subsidy (or adoption assistance) to help their families meet their special needs. Children may receive a federally funded (Title IV-E) subsidy or a state-only subsidy, depending on whether they meet the IV-E eligibility criteria (see NACAC's fact sheet on IV-E eligibility and benefits).

Adoption assistance programs vary significantly from state to state. The state profiles outline the benefits and eligibility criteria for children adopted from each state and the District of Columbia. To compare the major aspects of states' adoption assistance programs, view the national summary. The fact sheets provided detailed information about a variety of important issues related to adoption assistance, including negotiating an agreement, appealing adoption assistance decisions, and more.

Subsidy as a Tool

Adoption assistance is an important tool to encourage the adoption of children and youth in foster care who cannot return home. In a survey by Children's Rights, 81 percent of pre-adoptive and adoptive parents said that adoption assistance was important to their decision to adopt, and 58 percent said they could not adopt a foster child without this support that helps them meet the child’s special needs. The same study cited inadequate subsidy support as one of the two most critical barriers to adopting from foster care.

A lack of adoption assistance seriously affects children’s ability to find a permanent family and might resign them to a childhood spent in foster care. Research shows that post-placement support—including adoption assistance—is a key factor in many families’ decision to adopt children who have special needs. Authors who analyzed state data noted that “[a]doption subsidies are perhaps the most important tool by which the child welfare system can encourage adoption and support adoptive families.”

Adoption assistance is cost-effective. An analysis demonstrated that the 50,000 adoptions from foster care each year save from $1 billion to $6 billion in government funds.
 The same report estimates that supported adoptions cost less than half than foster care. The savings result from reduced administrative costs and court oversight.

Another study found that each dollar spent on an adoption from foster care saves about three dollars in public and private costs. This analysis showed that each adoption saved from $90,000 to $235,000 in public costs, and even more in private costs.

For additional information, please contact NACAC's Adoption Subsidy Resource Center at 800-470-6665, 651-644-3036, or e-mail at

North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)
970 Raymond Avenue, Suite 106
St. Paul, MN 55114
phone: 651-644-3036
fax: 651-644-9848