FAQ:What does adoption cost?

Costs of adoption 2018

The need to know

Well, this is an awkward post – because it’s about money and talking about money makes most of us feel awkward. Many prospective adoptive parents feel under pressure to show that they have the resources (both financial and emotional) to parent a child. This is probably why one of the most frequently-asked questions we receive on the Passionate About Adoption Facebook group is how much does adopting a child cost a family.

For some prospective adoptive parents, money is no object. They are willing to pay whatever it takes to make their dream of a family come true. But for most, though, the issue of money causes anxiety and they want to know how much it will cost them. Unfortunately, the reported adoption fees vary so wildly. For some whether they can afford the adoption might well be the deciding factor in whether they pursue the adoption or not. There are also those who don’t understand why fees are charged at all. For them, the idea that they should have to pay for the process makes no sense at all.

No matter what your view is on payment for adoption, there are costs involved and in the adoption field transparency is key.

As I support and guide families through their decision-making about whether adoption is for them, many considerations come into play: such as whether they will make good parents to an adopted child, how their extended family will react to news about their decisions, and how an adopted child will fit into their family. Having a ballpark figure as to what the process will cost and getting an idea of how long the process will take are often the most important logistical questions they want answers to.

Once prospective adoptive parents have made the decision to adopt, they must make a choice about which social worker or agency to use. The “fit” between prospective parents and social worker or agency is crucial, and parents want a social worker who understands them, and who shares their values. However, the fees of social workers and agencies vary, and this may play a role in who the parents choose.

To try get a sense of the variation in the costs I spoke to many adoptive families about what they paid in total and their responses confirmed what I suspected about the range of fees ranging from R17 000, to R50 000. One person was quoting R150 000 and one even said it only cost R600.  I was no nearer knowing what to tell prospective adoptive parents.  I needed to get a sense of what accounted for the discrepancy in fees.  I approached a couple of adoption social workers to explain the variations.  It is also a good idea to ask your social worker or social work agency specifically what they are charging for, especially if the costs seem higher than you expected.

One important factors for the variation is whether the adoption is a disclosed or undisclosed. In an undisclosed adoption, the social worker has to match the prospective adoptive parents with an unknown child; in a disclosed adoption the prospective adoptive parents already know the child they’re planning to adopt. These are kinship adoptions, step-parent adoptions, or adoption from foster care.

Some guidelines have been drawn up by the Department of Social Development which guide social workers and agencies as to how much they’re allowed to claim for any specified part of the adoption process.

The regulation* gives clear guidelines on the fees payable to accredited child protection organisations or adoption social workers.  These guidelines are applicable to accredited organizations but not to Accredited Adoption Social workers in private practise. The adoption organizations are registered at DSD and receive subsidies for services rendered whilst Social Workers in private practise do not receive any subsidies for adoption services rendered.

Group orientation R305 per session
Interview of counselling (maximum of 4 hours) R305 per hour
Home visits (maximum 4 hours) R305 per hour
Home study report R609 per report
Court processes R609 per day
Birth registration R207 per hour
Administration costs R207 per hour
After care services R609 once-off payment
Child study report R553 per report
Origin enquiry/tracing R200 per hour

* 107 of The Children’s Act Regulations was published in the Government Gazette 2 September 2016.

With regards to Social Workers in Private practise, SAASWIPP requested guidelines on fees payable/chargeable and they are awaiting pre-scribed fees structures and guidelines from DSD that will also guide Social Workers in Private Practise to how much they’re allowed to claim for any specified part of the adoption process according to best practise, standards and norms.

Costs of Undisclosed Adoptions

Adoption agencies usually start the process with an orientation meeting which might be charged for (PROCARE charges R900). At this meeting the process is usually outlined, and all the subsequent costs will be explained.

After the orientation, the process for the prospective adoptive parents is usually broken into three components: screening, placement and post adoption care. Agencies usually charge for these components separately. There are also processes involving birth parents and the baby/child to be adopted.

Costs associated with the expectant mother and baby before placement

Some agencies accommodate the expectant mother and these costs are sometimes charged to the adoptive family. Counselling services are also offered to both birth parents if needed.  If the mother for example needed to be admitted to a Mother’s Home during her pregnancy the Mother’s home might charge accommodation costs of between R1000 to maximum R3000 and this will be discussed with the adoptive parents according to length of stay and reason for stay in the Home. Agencies usually make use of state services for the medical procedures related to the expectant mother’s pregnancy such as ante-natal visits and the birth itself, so these are not usually paid for by the adoptive parents.

A range of medical and other assessment of the child are often done after birth.  For example, there are costs associated with screening tests of the baby. A paediatrician will usually do an assessment of the baby before placement with adoptive parents.  A PCR test for HIV (for approximately R1050) is done at 10 weeks and might be repeated at 14 weeks if the baby is HIV exposed.  The syphilis test (about R30) and hepatitis B test (about R200) is usually also done.  Premature babies and those exposed to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy might have an occupational therapy assessment (about R250) and a developmental physiotherapy assessment (about R350 – R500).

This stage also includes an assessment of adoptability of the baby and the report compiled by the adoption social worker. It might also include fees for a private investigator or announcements in local newspapers to trace other biological family members who might want to parent the child.

These additional costs will be confirmed with supportive documents regarding actual cost as received from the service provider/s such as Pathcare and must be discussed with the prospective adoptive parents.

Screening of potential adoptive parents

The screening of the adoptive parents could include the following aspects which cost money.  The cost of a medical check-up might be covered by your medical aid, depending on the medical aid, the plan you are on, and the benefits still available for the year.  A police clearance certificate costs R114 but these costs can increase significantly if you courier the forms to the head office or if you use a private agency to do the police clearance. Form 30 applications are free but might also be couriered, which is also for the adoptive parents’ expense.

Once the relevant forms have been submitted to the agency, the screening process starts for the prospective adoptive parents. This normally starts with interviews by the adoption social workers, which usually includes a joint interview as well as individual interviews. There may be a psychometric assessment, which is charged for separately. If there is any need for psychological support the prospective adoptive parent/s might be referred for therapy, either individually or as a group.  This, and the psychometric assessment, might be covered by your medical aid. The screening also includes a home visit and possible further preparation meetings. Agencies also sometimes offer workshops covering important topics related to parenting adopted children, such as attachment and telling your child their adoption story.  Once all these screening procedures are completed, a panel finally approves you as a suitable parent to an adopted child and your names get placed on the Register of Adoptable Children and Adoptive Parents (RACAP). All professional services rendered by the accredited adoption social worker are billed at hourly rates.


The waiting period allows the social workers to match you with a suitable child.  Social workers will present all the details of the child you could adopt, and prospective adoptive parents then have the chance to decide whether you want to adopt this specific child. The social worker from PROCARE indicated that detailed information about the costs are usually discussed at the orientation meeting, however the final cost can only be specified once a match is made, because these costs vary significantly from case to case. Clients usually receive written confirmation and an outlay of agreed upon fees and this agreement must be signed by all parties involved.

Placement involves a court appearance in which the reports prepared about the adoptable baby/child and the prospective adoptive parents are presented.

Post- adoption care

Once the child has been placed with you a social worker might arrange a post-adoption meeting with you at your home.

Here is a summary of costs as outlined by Cape Town Child Welfare

Activity Cost per hour Cost
Orientation meeting No charge
Services to the child




Birth registration R207 per hour R207
Medical examination (at state expense) None
Monitoring visits R305 per hour (charge for max of 2) R710
Child study reports/court reports R553 per report (charge for only 1 report) R553
 Services to birth parents





Counselling interviews


R305 per hour (charge max of 3)



Advertisements Individually determined
Hospital/home visits R305 per hour (charge for max of 2) R710
Services to Adoptive parents






 Joint and ind interviews  R305 per hour (charge max 3 hours)  R915
Training session R305 per session R305
Screening home visit R305 per hour R305
Home study report R609 R609
Placement of baby/

post placement services

R609 once off R609
Time spent at court R609 per day R609
Administrative costs Photocopies, emails, tel calls, travelling R207 per hour (max 4 hours) R828
 Post adoption inquiries/tracing  No charge


Disclosed adoptions

Some social workers or agencies do only adoptions where the child is already known to the prospective parents.

ACVV is such an organisation, which has no waiting list of adoptive parents or adoptable babies or children and do not do non-disclosed adoptions.  Over the last few years ACVV has only focused on court ordered step-parent adoptions, adoptions from foster care and other disclosed adoptions.  They also do tracing of biological parents/children for non-disclosed adoptions.

They do have a set free-structure per application/family/child. For step-parent adoptions they would charge R1 100, for adoptions from foster care, they charge R825.  An origin of birth enquiry is charged at R825 and disclosed adoptions are charged at R2 750.

Private social worker Eileen Jordaan also only does disclosed adoptions such as kinship adoption or step-parent adoptions.  She charges a professional fee of R500 an hour and indicated that the total cost for work that she does (including the needed reports) is usually no more than R4000.


The adoption of a child is a very demanding process and there is a lot of professional service that has to happen for the process to proceed ethically and with the best interests of the child.

The final cost of any adoption depends on many factors, including the type of adoption, which social worker or adoption agency is being used, the specific circumstances of the child that is being adopted and also the prospective adoptive family’s means.

Although not all the costs can be stipulated up front, I hope this article gives some idea of what you are likely to be charged and provides some guidance as to of what questions to ask your social worker when going into adoption process.

Do communicate with your adoption social worker or agency because they will be able to give you an outline of their fees. They may well be willing to consider a reduction, or a payment plan based on your income, and could structure the process to reduce your expenses as much as possible. It doesn’t have to be awkward.