Adoption Assistance Program

Support for Adopting a Child

The Columbia University Adoption Assistance Program is a benefit designed to help with the cost of adopting a child. The benefit reimburses up to $7,500 per adoption, and is offered to full-time, regular benefits-eligible Officers and full-time, regular Non-Union Support Staff, on or after the first day of full-time employment.

If you adopt two children at the same time, the maximum reimbursement is $15,000 for combined adoption-related expenses. If both you and your spouse or same-sex domestic partner are eligible Officers or Non-Union Support Staff, you are eligible for a maximum $15,000 reimbursement per adoption ($30,000 for simultaneous adoption of two children).

After an application is approved, reimbursement is paid in your paycheck. No federal, state, or city taxes will be withheld. In accordance with IRS requirements, however, FICA and Medicare taxes will be withheld.


Full-time, regular, benefits-eligible Officers and full-time, regular, benefits-eligible Non-Union Support Staff who have recently adopted a child under age 18 can apply for reimbursement of adoption-related expenses. The adopted child must be under age 18 when an expense is paid or incurred.

If an employee uses the Surrogacy Benefit, the employee is not eligible to use the Adoption Assistance Program for the child born of the surrogate mother.

If you leave the University, you remain eligible for reimbursement of eligible expenses incurred while you were employed. You must submit your application within 31 days of employment end date.

Reasonable and necessary fees and expenses directly related to, and whose principal purpose is for, the legal adoption of an eligible child (whether or not the adoption is finalized) are considered eligible adoption expenses. 

Examples of eligible expenses:

  • Public or private adoption agency fees permitted or required under the law of the state having jurisdiction over the adoption
  • Legal and court fees
  • Fees for medical and hospital services provided to the child (not otherwise covered by insurance)
  • Traveling expenses associated with the adoption, including transportation, meals, and lodging
  • Immigration, child's immunization, and translation fees
  • Temporary foster care charges provided before placement of the eligible child in the employee's home

Examples of expenses not eligible for reimbursement:

  • Any expenses that violate state or federal law
  • The costs of carrying out any surrogate parenting arrangement
  • Costs paid using funds received from any federal, state, or local program
  • Expenses allowed as a credit or deduction under any other federal income tax rule
  • Expenses already paid or reimbursed by another employer or other party

To apply for reimbursement, complete the Adoption Assistance Application Form.

You must submit an application for reimbursement to the Benefits Service Center within six months of the date the adoption becomes final (or adoption process is terminated). You cannot apply for reimbursement while the adoption is in progress.

Acceptable documentation of eligible expenses:

  • original itemized bills accompanied by receipts or canceled checks
  • paperwork that demonstrates that a legal adoption has been finalized or terminated. 

Examples of acceptable documentation:

  • adoption agency statements on letterhead
  • attorney/lawyer invoices on letterhead
  • canceled checks (personal or certified)
  • credit card receipts/statements

Documentation of a cash payment is not acceptable.

If original documents cannot be produced for review, notarized copies can be accepted.

If a portion of, or your entire claim, is denied, you will be notified of this determination in writing within six (6) months of receipt of your claim by the Benefits Department. The determination of the AVP of Benefits and Compensation with respect to your claim shall be binding and final. If you wish to bring a civil court action challenging the denial of a portion of, or your entire claim, you must file any such action within one (1) year following the issuance of the denial notice. In addition, any such action must be filed in a court of competent jurisdiction with venue in New York County.

Notwithstanding anything to the contrary, the University reserves the right in its sole discretion to change or terminate, in whole or in part, the Program at any time.