For Release:
Wednesday, November 5, 1997, 9:00 A.M.

First National Survey on Americans' Attitudes On Adoption Indicates Widespread Ambivalence, Highlights Need for Education

Contact: Jamie Moss
Madelyn Freundlich

An unprecedented national survey released today reveals that while most Americans view adoption very favorably or somewhat favorably (90%), many Americans (64%) have never considered adopting a child and about half (49%) believe that adoption is not quite as good as raising one's own biological child.

"The survey illustrates the public's ambivalence and the need for more education on the issue," according to Madelyn Freundlich, executive director of The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. "The implications of these findings pose significant problems for children who need adoptive homes, as well as major challenges for professionals in the adoption and social service arena."

"One disturbing outcome of the survey is the extent to which we see attitudes toward adoption are significantly related to education, race, and personal experience with adoption," Freundlich says. "The survey results indicate to us that important sectors of American society are ambivalent about adoption and may not see how critical it is for tens of thousands of children in this country who need adoptive families. On the positive side however, for the first time, it also provides data on which to base policy decisions, allocate resources and focus on public education."

According to the survey, the U.S. population generally divides into one of three categories:
  • Full Supporters (32%) express unqualified support for adoption.
  • Qualified Supporters (37%) have mostly positive opinions about the institution, but some hesitancy to fully embrace it.
  • Marginal Supporters (31%) generally are more supportive than not, but less convinced than others of adoption's merits.

Other Findings of the survey include:
  • Six in ten Americans (58%) have had personal experience with adoption. Those with first-hand experience are more supportive of the institution than those without such experience.
  • College educated Americans (48%) are more likely than those with a high school education (23%) to be Full Supporters of adoption.
  • Women embrace adoption more fully than men. 36% of women are Full Supporters compared with 27% of men.
  • Whites (35%) are three times as likely as blacks (11%) to be Full Supporters of adoption.
  • Nearly half (45%) of Americans say family and friends are their main source of information about adoption, while 30% get their information from news sources and 16% from magazines.
  • Half (52%) of those surveyed believe children adopted from other countries are more likely than children adopted in this country to have emotional problems, and nearly the same proportion (48%) say children from abroad are less likely to be physically healthy. On the other hand, Americans do not believe that children adopted internationally are any more likely to have trouble in school than children adopted in this country.

Curtis R. Welling, president of the board of The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and an adoptive parent says, "With these survey results in mind, we need to embark on a public education initiative to educate and provide balanced information about adoption. Adoption has been an important service for children whose birth parents cannot rear them and will remain so only if adoption is viewed positively by prospective adoptive parents."

"Despite the prevailing myth that there is a shortage of children awaiting adoption, the fact is that many children languish in the foster care system for years," Freundlich says. "If we are to place these children without parents in loving homes we need to educate segments of society who are not embracing adoption."

The Benchmark Adoption Surveyed commissioned by The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates. The probability survey conducted in July of 1,554 Americans drew responses from the general population including an over-sample of African-Americans. The margin of error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute was established in New York in August 1996 as an independent, not-for-profit institute. Its mission is to improve the quality of information about adoption, enhance the understanding and perception of adoption, and advance adoption policy and practice based on reliable information. The survey will be used as the basis of the Institute's programs and initiatives for the coming year.

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
120 Wall St. 20th Floor New York, NY 10005
(212) 269-5080
Fax: (212) 269-1962

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