First, I want you to know that the expenses you can pay on behalf of your birth mom/birth parent are regulated by each state, so please make sure you do your own research for your state before paying something on behalf of a birth parent.
In most states, adoptive parents can cover expenses such as medical, legal, counseling, and living expenses for the birth parent(s). Again, make sure you check with your state or social worker to verify what expenses you can pay on behalf of the birth parents. I know in our state we could pay for things such as rent (up to $5,000), maternity clothes (up to $300), reimbursement for travel expenses at 54 cents per mile (or direct bus pass or taxi fees), counseling expenses, legal fees, uninsured medical expenses, and a “gift” not to exceed $100.00.
Once you are chosen by a birth parent you are almost willing to do anything to make sure they don’t change their minds and decide to go with another family because you did not cover certain expenses for them. But, there is not a legal contract that would require a birth parent to relinquish their rights to their child based upon a financial commitment by the adoptive parents.
I also know personally that once you pay these “approved” expenses you might also be thinking “will we get our money back if she changes her mind?” A lot of times, the answer is no, you won’t get your money back. These are usually considered to be “gifts” to the birth parents and cannot be recovered. In some states, there are adoption costs/expenses you can claim on your tax returns, even if the adoption was not finalized. Again, make sure you check with a professional in your state to see if these would qualify. There are legal actions you can take to try to recover some of these expenses but you will most likely be spending more money chasing down the birth mom/parents than you would get back from them if you tried.
My recommendation is two-fold. One, make sure you and your spouse have a discussion on what you are willing to contribute to and what you are not willing to contribute to. Make sure you have this discussion before you are chosen as adoptive parents so that it does not sneak up on you after the fact. Secondly, I recommend that you have an open discussion with your potential birth mother or agency about what you are willing to contribute to and what you are not willing to. These expenses should not come as a surprise to either one of you. And lastly, I know your emotions are strong while waiting for a baby and you may want to cover all of their expenses just to ensure you will be having a baby in the end, but I caution you against this.
My biggest piece of advice is to get to know your potential birth parent so that you trust each other well enough not to have to question the money aspect of it. Our first adoption we had an amazing birth mom that never asked for a penny from us. Our second adoption (failed), she asked us for money all the time and we lost thousands of dollars. But I wouldn’t change the experiences for anything. We learned a lot and have our gained experiences to share with others.