2002 National Survey
NATIONAL ADOPTION ATTITUDES SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS
2002 National Adoption Attitudes Survey finds that a large
majority of Americans support adoption and a significant
minority have considered adopting. The Survey also reveals
that Americans increasingly view adopted children no differently
from children raised by biological parents. The 2002 Survey
was sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption,
in cooperation with the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute,
and tracks changes in Americans’ views about adoption
from the Adoption Institute’s 1997 Benchmark Adoption
Survey, the first such national survey of adoption attitudes.
The 2002 survey also provides significant new information
about the American concerns that affect their willingness
to adopt, especially from foster care.
Increasingly Support Adoption
comparison of the 2002 and 1997 survey results shows that
American support for adoption has increased in the past
proportion of Americans with very favorable opinions about
adoption increased to 63% in 2002, from 56% in 1997. The
number with very and somewhat favorable opinions
rose from 90% to 94% while the proportion with somewhat
and very unfavorable opinions fell from 8% to 5%.
2002, 64% of respondents reported that a family member or
close friend had been adopted, had adopted, or had placed
a child for adoption, up from 58% in 1997.
percent of Americans have very or somewhat seriously considered
adopting at some point in their lives, up from 36% in 1997.
While this 3-percentage point shift is not statistically
significant, it may indicate the beginning of an increase
in the number of Americans who seriously think about adoption
as a way to build their families.
1997 and 2002, there was an 11% increase – from 46%
to 57% -- in the number of respondents who believe adoptive
parents derive the same satisfaction from raising adopted
and biological children.
60% of Americans believe it is usually good for adoptive
parents when their adopted children find their biological
parents, up from 44% in 1997. The number who think this
is usually bad declined significantly, from 45% to 27%.
both surveys, 68% of respondents believe an adopted person’s
successful search for birth parents is usually good for
the adoptee, while the number who believe such a search
is usually bad declined slightly from 21% to 19%.
half (49%) of respondents today believe it is usually good
for the birth parent when the child they placed for adoption
finds them. In 1997, 56% of respondents held this view.
There was virtually no change in the number who think it
Increasingly View Adopted Children No Differently From Children
Raised by Biological Parents
the 2002 and 1997 surveys explore Americans’ perceptions
of adopted children’s physical, social and emotional
development in comparison to children who are not adopted.
proportion of Americans who believe adopted children are
equally likely as other children to have school problems
jumped from 21% to 47%. The number of Americans who think
adopted children are more likely to have problems in school
increased from 35% to 41%, while the proportion who believe
they are less likely to have such problems decreased substantially
from 36% to 8%.
number of Americans who think adopted children are equally
likely as other children to have behavior problems grew
from 19% to 43%. The proportion who believe adopted children
are more likely to have behavior problems increased from
39% to 45% and those who believe they were less likely to
have such problems decreased from 34% to 8%.
numbers of Americans also believe adopted children are equally
likely as other children to have problems with drugs and
alcohol, from 23% in 1997 to 50% in 2002. An increased number
think adopted children are more likely than other children
to have such problems (28% to 33%), while those who think
they are less likely to declined from 39% to 11%.
2002 survey respondents, 22% believe adopted children are
less likely to be happy than their non-adopted peers, 32%
think they are less well-adjusted and 34% believe they are
less likely to be self-confident.
and Ethnicity Influence Views of and Willingness to Consider
2002 survey findings illustrate some differences among African
American, Hispanic and White populations’ views of
very and somewhat favorable responses are combined, however,
views are more comparable, with Hispanics and Whites at
94%, and African Americans at 90%.
respondents have the highest rate of personal experience
with adoption (69%), while 51% of African Americans and
48% of Hispanics have experience.
are most likely to seriously consider adopting a child (32%),
while 23% of African Americans and 16% of Whites have seriously
African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to consider
adopting children with characteristics often seen as decreasing
their likelihood of adoption, such as children who are
in foster care, of a different race, and part of a sibling
Have Misperceptions About the Adoption Process
2002 survey responses illustrate some common misconceptions
about the adoption process.
widespread sentiment was expressed despite the fact that
adoptive parents are the child’s legal parents after
the adoption is finalized and successful birth parent challenges
are extremely rare. Moreover, when prospective birth parents
are provided competent, professional counseling about their
options -- a best practice that is increasingly offered
by high quality adoption service providers --there is more
assurance that the birth family has made an informed decision
about placing their child for adoption.
is a concern at all income levels: 45% of those earning
$50,000-$99,999 and 52% of those earning $25,000-49,999
are worried about being able to pay for adoption. The reality
is that the federal adoption tax credit, increasing employer
assistance for adoption costs, low-to-no-cost foster care
adoptions and ongoing government subsidies of foster care
adoptions go a long way toward addressing this concern,
but the general public may simply not be aware of these