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Adoption Assistance

Cornell University reimburses eligible employees for qualified adoption expenses up to $5,000 per adoption (an additional $1,000 for a disabled child), up to three adoptions per family. 

The adoption reimbursement amount is not subject to state or federal income tax withholding but is subject to Social Security and Medicare. More information is available on the IRS website.

Spring 2024 - New Adoption & Surrogacy Benefits Coming Soon! Cornell Benefit Services is in the process of finalizing a surrogacy benefit, as well as improvements to current adoption assistance benefits. Details will be announced and posted here soon.

Contact the HR Services & Transitions Center for more information.



  • Benefits-eligible faculty and staff members* at the time the adoption expenses are paid for by the employee. 
  • If the adoptive parents are both Cornell employees, only one employee is eligible for reimbursement per adoption.

*If you are uncertain of your eligibility status for this benefit, please contact your HR representative to review.

Your adoptive child(ren)

  • Under the age of 18, and cannot be the child of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner.
  • Disabled children are those who have a medical condition or a physical, mental, or emotional disability including, but not limited to: Cerebral palsy, cleft lip and palate, deafness/hearing loss, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, HIV/Aids, severe and/or multiple disabilities, spina bifida, visual impairments (documentation needed from a doctor/medical professional).

Qualified Expenses

“Qualified adoption expenses” as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are reasonable and necessary expenses directly related to, and for the principal purpose of, the legal adoption of an eligible child, including:

  • Adoption fees
  • Attorney fees
  • Court costs
  • Travel expenses (including meals and lodging) while away from home

In addition to allowable federal adoption expenses, qualified expenses eligible for reimbursement through the Cornell University adoption assistance program include:

  • Public and private adoption agency fees permitted or required under the state law with jurisdiction over the adoption
  • Fees for medical and hospital services provided to the child (not otherwise covered by insurance)
  • Immigration filing fees, required and recommended immunizations, and dossier translation fees
  • Foster care charges incurred by the adoptive family while finalizing the adoption process, provided the adoption results in the placement of the eligible child in the adoptive employee's home.
  • Adoptive parents may incur expenses for a potential adoption in which birth parents are unwilling to proceed with the adoption. Some individuals may have had more than one adoption arrangement with a birth parent fall through. Adoptive parents are advised to carefully select a licensed agency to arrange their adoptions. Dissolved and disrupted adoptions are included in the adoption benefit reimbursement cap.

How to Apply

This benefit is a reimbursement program. Eligible employees may apply for reimbursement of qualified adoption expenses.

Send the completed adoption assistance form (pdf), with verifying documents and invoices to:

Adoption Assistance Program
Benefit Services and Administration
395 Pine Tree Road
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14850

Tax Considerations

The Adoption Assistance Program is a formal benefit plan sponsored by Cornell University, which allows you to avoid some of the impact of taxation on the benefit amount. Please visit the IRS website for tax filing guidance and dollar limitations.

Adding Your Child to Existing Benefits

At the time of placement, you may need to add the child to your medical, dental, group life and personal accident plans and establish a 529 New York College Savings Plan. In addition, you may enroll in a flexible spending account. Adding or enrolling the child in these plans may involve deadlines.