Comparing Finances: Foster Care vs. Adoption

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Adoptions initiated by the hard work of the South Carolina Heart Gallery are expected to result in significant cost savings for society.

The South Carolina Heart Gallery Foundation reports that from October 2012 through the end of September 2013, the South Carolina Heart Gallery photographed 217 children in foster care who are legally available to be adopted—more than any year before. That means 217 new smiling faces are being seen by potential families around the state. It means that 217 children now have a better chance of finding their “forever home”—and some of them already have.

In the same time frame, 73 new families started the adoption process through the South Carolina Heart Gallery. Anecdotally, we see the positive results of adoption from foster care: the security of a stable home, love and encouragement, and a greater sense of identity and self-worth. But what about the financial side of adoption compared to foster care? Does the work of the South Carolina Heart Gallery result in cost savings to the general public?

The May 2011 issue of Adoption Advocate, a publication by Dr. Nicholas Zill for the National Council for Adoption, discuses the budgetary differences between foster care and adoption. As one might expect, the public cost of removing maltreated children from their birth families and caring for them in foster care is significant; annual state and federal expenditures total more than nine billion dollars under Title IV-E of the Social Security Act alone. Compare that to the $4.5 billion spent on state and federal assistance payments supporting adoption—about half of that spent on foster care, despite the fact that the number of children adopted is roughly the same as those in foster care at any one time.

Dr. Zill writes in Adoption Advocate, “Comparing the per-child cost of subsidized adoption from foster care with the cost of maintaining a child in foster care, one concludes that the child adopted from foster care costs the public only 40 percent as much as the child who remains in foster care. The difference in cost per child per year amounts to $15,480. If the number of children adopted from foster care doubled (increased by 57,500), the savings to the public would amount to $890 million per year.”

So if the 73 new families who started the adoption process this year through the South Carolina Heart Gallery are selected for placement—with adoption savings over foster care of $15,480 per child per year—the work of the South Carolina Heart Gallery this year will save the public over $1.1 million in a single year.

The South Carolina Heart Gallery is a collaborative program administered and supported by the Children’s Foster Care Review Board, Office of the Governor and the South Carolina Department of Social Services.

The South Carolina Heart Gallery Foundation is a fundraising foundation for the SC Heart Gallery, a statewide organization that works to find Forever Families (adoptive families) for South Carolina’s waiting children.

Learn more about the South Carolina Heart Gallery at or its Foundation at


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Catherine Ryan
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