Surprising Adoption Statistics You May Not Know About

Adoption is all around us, even if we don’t see it. Every day, there are children being adopted into loving families all across the country. Here are some interesting adoption statistics you may not know about.

How long does the average child spend in the foster care system?

More than 60% of children in foster care spend two to five years in the system before being adopted. Almost 20% spend five or more years in foster care before being adopted. Some never get adopted.1

How many children are waiting to be adopted in the United States?

Of the over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S., 114,556 cannot be returned to their families and are waiting to be adopted. Among these children, males outnumber females, African American children are disproportionately represented, and over half are 6 years old or older.2

How many Americans have adopted a child?

Although no more than 2% of Americans have actually adopted, more than 1/3 have considered it.3

One out of every 25 U.S. families with children have an adopted child. According to the U.S. Census, about half of these have both biological and adopted children.

How common is international adoption?

U.S. citizens completed 19,942 international adoptions in 2007, which declined to 9,319 in 2011 as international adoptions became more restrictive.4

How common are open adoptions?

Today, almost 60%-70% of domestic adoptions are now open adoptions, which means there is a degree of openness and disclosure of information between adoptive and birth parents regarding the adopted child.5

How many Americans are adopted?

Around 7 million Americans are adopted.6

How many children are adopted each year?

Around 140,000 children are adopted by American families each year.7

How common is adoption?

Nearly 100 million Americans have adoption in their immediate family, whether this includes adopting, placing, or being adopted.8

6 in 10 Americans have had personal experience with adoption, meaning that they themselves, a family member, or a close friend was adopted, had adopted a child, or had placed a child for adoption.9

How many Americans are adopted?

There are about 1.5 million adopted children in the United States, which is 2% of the population, or one out of 50 children.10

What is the average age of an adopted child in a private adoption?

62% were placed with their adoptive families within a month of birth.

How many children are adopted per year?

About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. Of non-stepparent adoptions, about 59% are from the child welfare (or foster) system, 26% are from other countries, and 15% are voluntarily relinquished American babies.

How many people are waiting to adopt a child?

There are no national statistics on how many people are waiting to adopt, but experts estimate it is somewhere between one and two million couples. Every year there are about 1.3 million abortions. Only 4% of women with unwanted pregnancies place their children through adoption.

How many children are in the foster care system in the United States?

On any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States. In 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. Unfortunately, instead of being safely reunified with their families — or moved quickly into adoptive homes — many will languish for years in foster homes or institutions.

What is the most adopted race?

Thirty-seven percent of adopted children are non-Hispanic white, compared with adoptive parents, 73% of which are non-Hispanic white. Overall, 40% of adopted children are of a different race, culture, or ethnicity than both of their adoptive parents (or their sole parent if there is only one parent in the household).

How many children are available for adoption in the United States?

There are 107,918 foster children eligible for and waiting to be adopted. In 2014, 50,644 foster kids were adopted — a number that has stayed roughly consistent for the past five years. The average age of a waiting child is 7.7 years old and 29% of them will spend at least three years in foster care.

What is the average age of an adopted child?

The average child waits for an adoptive family for more than three years. 11 percent spend 5 years or more waiting for a family (43,083 children). The average age of children waiting for an adoptive family is 8.

How much does it cost the government to keep a child in foster care?

State and federal expenditures for foster care administrative costs (placing and monitoring children in foster care) totaled $4.3 billion. The number of children entering foster care or in care totaled 679,191. Thus, the average administrative cost per child served per year was $6,675.

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Table 1: Characteristics of children ages 0-17 adopted from foster care: United States, 2007Child CharacteristicsPercentStandard ErrorChild’s age at placementUnder age 145(3.2)Ages 1-535(3.1)Ages 6+20(2.8)Child’s current age0-2 years3(0.8)3-4 years6(1.3)5-9 years31(3.0)10-12 years18(2.6)13-14 years19(2.6)15-17 years23(2.7)Child is male57(3.2)Child race and Hispanic originHispanic16(2.4)Non-Hispanic white37(3.0)Non-Hispanic black35(3.2)Non-Hispanic Other12(1.9)Child has special health care needs54(3.2)Parent believes the following types of abuse or neglect were likely or very likely prior to placement:Physical abuse44(3.3)Sexual abuse21(2.7)Neglect59(3.2)Pre-natal drug/alcohol exposure73(3.0)Emotional abuse50(3.3)Child’s relationship to parent prior to adoptionRelative, knew child prior to adoption17(2.3)Relative, did not know child prior to adoption6(1.6)Non-relative, knew child prior to adoption (primarily foster parents)22(2.5)Non-relative, did not know child prior to adoption55(3.2)NOTE: Percentages may not sum to 100 in percent distributions within categories due to rounding. SOURCE: 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health and 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents.

Famous people who were adopted include Jamie Foxx, Jack Nicholson (by his grandparents), Ray Liotta, Steve Jobs, Frances McDormand, Nicole Richie, Debbie Harry (“Blondie”), Dave Thomas (Wendy’s Founder), Nicole “Snookie” Polizzi, Gary Coleman, Faith Hill, Melissa Gilbert, and Scott Hamilton.[2]Prior to the development of infant formula in the 1920s, most adoptees were older children.[1]More than 60% of children in foster care spend two to five years in the system before being adopted. Almost 20% spend five or more years in foster care before being adopted. Some never get adopted.[4]Of the over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S., 114,556 cannot be returned to their families and are waiting to be adopted. Among these children, males outnumber females, African American children are disproportionally represented, and over half are 6 years old or older.[7]

Between 1854 and 1929, approximately 200,000 orphaned or homeless children were placed during what is known today as the Orphan Train Movement

From 1854-1929, homeless children (especially Catholics and Jews) were placed on trains and taken to rural sites in the Midwest and West in search of homes. At each stop, children were “put up” on platforms to see if anyone would want to take them, which led to the phrase “put up for adoption.” Criticism of the Orphan Train movement sparked new agencies and laws, such as Minnesota’s Adoption Law of 1917, which required an investigation of all adoptions.[1]The age distribution of children in foster care waiting for adoptions is as follows:

1-3 years = 26%

4-6 years = 19%

7-9 years = 15%

10-14 years = 20%

15+ years = 12%.

[7]

One in 3 children adopted from foster care are adopted by parents who are a different race. Most adopted children from foster care are non-white, while the majority (73%) of the children’s adopted parents is white.[7]Nearly 40% of children adopted from foster care live in families with three or more adopted and birth children, making their family structures more complex than other adopted children.[7]Over 30,000 children in the American foster care system “age out” each year.[8]The time it takes a couple to receive a child domestically or internationally depends on many factors, such as how restrictive a family’s adoption plan is (e.g., being open to only one race or gender).[6]Both domestic and international adoptions have similar total costs, typically ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, but they both have their own unique costs. For example, couples adopting internationally may have to budget for a visa, whereas couples adopting domestically may have to budget for the birth mother’s rent or medical bills.[6]Although no more than 2% of Americans have actually adopted, more than 1/3 have considered it.[8]

Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.

– Oprah Winfrey

U.S. citizens completed 19,942 international adoptions in 2007, which declined to 9,319 in 2011 as international adoptions became more restrictive.[6]Couples adopting internationally may not have access to a child’s medical record, such as family medical history or possible prenatal exposures to drugs or alcohol. Couples adopting domestically are usually provided with a more detailed medical record and the social history of the birth parents.[9]At the same time that the U.S. is adopting children internationally from Russia, China, and Guatemala, it is “exporting” black babies to be adopted in other countries. Most of the adopting parents are Caucasian.[5]Research shows that many white Americans prefer to adopt from abroad than adopt available black babies at home. Experts note that racism, an affinity for a particular country, and a desire to help as explanations. Additionally, white couples may worry it may not be in the best interest for an African American to be raised in a white environment. Finally, white couples may not be aware that black babies are so readily available.[5]Most adoption professionals agree that (all things being equal) it’s better to place an African American child with an African American family. The National Association of Black Social Workers is adamantly opposed to transracial adoptions, arguing that such adoptions are “racial genocide.”[1]

New restrictions have slowed international adoptions

In May 2007, China instituted new rules for foreign adoptions. The rules include that a single woman may adopt a child but only a special needs child, and a single woman must sign an affidavit that she is not a homosexual. China prohibits adoptions to foreigners who are morbidly obese or who have facial deformities, people who have taken antidepressants for serious mental disorders in the past two years, blind applicants, or applicants who have schizophrenia or a terminal disease. Adopting couples must be married at least two years unless either person has been previously divorced; if someone has been divorced and then remarried, they aren’t eligible to adopt until five years after their second wedding. Prospective families must also have an annual income equal to $10,000 for each family member and at least $80,000 in assets.[12]Although exceptions exist, American parents prefer babies to toddlers, girls to boys, and Caucasians to African Americans. Other ethnicities fall in between, depending on skin color. African American boys are at the bottom of this “ranking.”[1]Those who want to adopt healthy white babies in the U.S. may wait as long as five years. The waiting time for African Americans, however, is usually weeks or months, especially for boys. The wait for biracial (black/white) babies falls in between. The waiting time for a biracial girl can be more than a year.[1]Adopting a white baby costs more than adopting a black or biracial one. The cost for Caucasian babies can be as high as $40,000. For biracial babies, the cost is about $18,000. For African American newborns, the cost ranges from $10,000-$12,000.[1]There are more orphans globally than the population of UK and France combined.[8]In most states, open adoptions are not legally enforceable. Only seven states legally enforce them: California, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.[1]If one family in every three churches in the U.S. adopted a child, every child in need of a family in the U.S. would be adopted.[8]Today, almost 60%-70% of domestic adoptions are now open adoptions, which means there is a degree of openness and disclosure of information between two sets of parents and the adopted child.[1]Sometimes a black birth mother prefers having her child adopted overseas because she believes there is significantly less prejudice there than in the U.S.[1]Around 7 million Americans are adopted persons.[3]

Approximately 7 million people in America are adopted

There are two children orphaned in Asia for every child born in the U.S.[8]Around 140,000 children are adopted by American families each year.[3]Nearly 100 million Americans have adoption in their immediate family, whether this includes adopting, placing, or being adopted.[3]In 2011, Americans adopted the highest number of children from China, followed by Ethiopia, Russian, South Korea, and Ukraine. U.S. families adopted more than 9,000 children that year.[14]After rising for decades, overseas adoptions to the U.S. have dropped nearly half since 2004. The decline is due to rising regulations and growing sentiment in countries, such as Russia and China, against sending orphans abroad.[12]Russia passed a bill banning adoptions to the U.S. by 2014.[12]Many of the top sending countries to the United States in the last 15 years—such as Guatemala, Nepal, and Vietnam—have halted or suspended adoptions because of concerns about kidnapping and corruption.[12]A law professor at Samford University in Alabama adopted a pair of children from India in 1998 only to discover that they were stolen from their mother.[4]Before it closed adoptions in 2008, Guatemala sent one in every 100 children born for adoption abroad.[12]

Children who are raised in orphanages have an IQ 20 points lower than that of children in foster care

Children who are raised in orphanages have an IQ 20 points lower than that of children in foster care.[14]The highest adoption rate ever recorded was South Korea in 1985, when 1.3 of every 100 children born were sent abroad for adoption.[12]In an attempt to regulate international adoptions, many countries ratified the Hague Adoption Convention, which tries to avoid trafficking and to make it easier for children to have their citizenship finalized in their new countries. It also says that every attempt should be made to place children in their own country before an international adoption is considered.[12]UNICEF estimates that there are 151 million children who have lost at least one parent worldwide and 18 million who have lost both parents.[12]Around the world, more children are living in foster care or institutions than there are children being adopted. Most of these children are older, have special needs, or are not the healthy infants many adoptive parents want.[12]In 2012, the Korean National Assembly implemented the Special Adoption Law, which explicitly discourages sending children abroad. Under the law, birth mothers must nurse babies for seven days before the child can be considered for adoption. Additionally, a mother may choose to revoke the adoption up to 6 months after her application.[12]The United States adopts more children, not only internationally but also domestically, than the rest of the world combined.[4]Research suggests that a child under 3 years old should not be placed in institutional care without a parent or primary caregiver because the risk is high for developing attachment disorder, developmental delay, and neural atrophy in the developing brain.[14]While adopted children constitute 2% of the child population under the age of 18, nearly 11% of all adolescents referred to therapy have been adopted.[14]

Henry Herbert Goddard (August 14, 1866 – June 18, 1957) was an American psychologist and eugenicist during the early 20th century

Reflecting popular eugenic ideas in America, Henry H. Goddard (1866-1957) warned against adopting children of unknown origin because they might be from poor and “degenerate stock.”[1]There are about 1.5 million adopted children in the United States, which is 2% of the population, or one out of 50 children.[10]Some animal communities show adoptive behavior. In the chacma baboon family, for example, infants whose mothers have died are cared for by young adults in their social groups. Their adoptive parents carry them, groom them, and protect them.[1]In 2010, an American woman put her adopted 7-year-old son on a plane back to Russia with a letter citing “severe psych