Press Release -- 2002 National Survey
Contact: Bob Bertini

Gaby Vizcaino


Positive Attitudes Toward Adoption
Give New Reason for Hope

DUBLIN, Ohio, June 19, 2002 – Nearly 40% of American adults, or 81.5 million people, have considered adopting a child. If just one in 500 of these adults adopt, all of the 134,000 children in foster care waiting for adoption would have permanent, loving families, according to the new National Adoption Attitudes Survey. Among a number of other insights now available to the adoption community, the survey revealed overwhelming support for adoption, giving America’s waiting children new reason for hope.

Commissioned by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and conducted in cooperation with the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, the research has established important new benchmarks about society’s perception of adoption. Prior to this landmark study, very little comprehensive research existed on Americans’ attitudes toward adoption, particularly related to children in foster care.

“This groundbreaking information gives us even greater optimism that we can absolutely place far more children with safe, loving and permanent families,” said Rita Soronen, executive director of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “The key is to use this valuable tool to further heighten public awareness about foster care adoption and shift positive opinions into tangible actions.”

Survey statistics overall showed that adoption in the millennium has a better reputation than ever, and that people are connecting with the idea of adoption as good for their families and for society:

  • 4 in 10 American adults (81.5 million) have considered adoption for their own families
  • 63 percent of all American adults have a very favorable opinion about adoption (seven percentage point increase since measured in 1997)
  • 64 percent have experienced adoption within their own families or among close friends (a six percentage point increase since 1997)
  • 78 percent believe the country should be doing more to encourage adoption
  • 95 percent think adoptive parents should receive the same maternity and paternity benefits from employers as biological parents
  • Hispanic populations are more likely (54 percent) to consider adoption than African-American (45 percent) and White populations (36 percent) – though African-Americans are most likely to consider adopting a child who has been in foster care for a few years

“This research shows that Americans are more positive about adoption than ever before – in large part due to their personal experiences with it,” said Cindy Freidmutter, executive director of the Adoption Institute. “We still have a lot of work to do to address misperceptions and improve support for adoptive families, so that every child has a home.”


While the study revealed a large number of potential parents for the adoption community to recruit, it also noted some misperceptions that easily can be overcome with the right education and communication initiatives.

Perhaps the most common misperception was the fear of a birth parent taking back a child. Eighty-two percent of Americans cited this concern in the study, when in reality this practically never happens.

Respondents also were concerned about the costs of adoption. One in two Americans say that the cost of adoption is a major concern. Adoption cost issues worry almost half of middle income Americans (45 percent) (those earning from $25,000 to $99,000) who comprise the majority of American households, as well as over half (52 percent) of lower income Americans. This concern exists despite a $10,000 federal adoption tax credit, low-to-no cost foster care adoptions and growing employer benefits.

“These examples show that all of us in the adoption community need to do a far better job educating potential families about the realities of adopting a child from foster care,” added Soronen. “But while we certainly need more support for adoptive families, the good news is that many excellent resources already exist to help them.”

According to the survey, concern over the health and behavior of an adoptive child ranked highest – above concerns over adopting an older child or one of a different race. Although half of Americans said they have a high opinion of the foster care system, survey participants were more concerned about potential future problems affecting children from the foster care system.

“It is a common misconception that adopted children experience significantly more long-term problems than biological children.” Cindy Freidmutter points out. “In reality, the differences are less significant than people think.”

Respondents also cited specific support needs, including insurance for pre-existing conditions, increased education, support and counseling.

The survey results will be disseminated nationally to the adoption community, policymakers and other interested parties. The full report and results are available online at and


Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Dave Thomas’ vision was that every child deserves a permanent home and a loving family. In pursuit of this vision and his legacy, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is dedicated to increasing the awareness of waiting children in the foster care system. With the information from this survey, we will develop national awareness campaigns to inform the public and dispel misperceptions about adoptable children. The Foundation will also disseminate the survey to the adoption community in an effort enhance adoption practices relative to family recruitment, to impact caseworker training and to encourage the vision that all children are adoptable. In addition, we will notify policymakers of American opinions toward adoption to help facilitate and increase support for families considering adoption. Finally, the Foundation will continue to shape its operational strategies for resource use and public communications in response to critical data found in the survey in a manner that would make Dave proud.

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute will use the findings from the National Adoption Attitudes Survey to support policy initiatives at the federal and state level that increase the numbers of children in foster care waiting for permanent homes and improve adoption stability. One initiative will be to increase critical supports for adoptive families, such as comprehensive health insurance, competent and effective health and social services (including post-adoption services), and financial assistance during and after the adoption. Additionally, the Adoption Institute will work with government leaders and adoption providers to educate journalists, the public and adoptive families about the positive impact of adoption on the long-term outcomes of children in foster care. Finally, the Adoption Institute will use the findings to convince employers to take a leadership role in educating employees about adoption and providing both financial support for adoption costs and flexible leave policies.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a non-profit public charity dedicated to increasing the adoptions of the more than 134,000 children in North America's foster care system who are without permanent families. The Foundation focuses on supporting and creating premier adoption programs related to special needs children waiting for homes -- sibling groups, teenagers, minorities and medically fragile children -- in support of Dave Thomas' vision that every child can and must have a permanent home and a loving family. For more information, visit

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute is a national not-for-profit organization that provides a reliable, objective and respected voice for adopted persons, biological and adoptive families, and adoption professionals. 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. For more information, visit

The National Adoption Attitudes Survey was fully commissioned by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in cooperation with Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York. The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive, publisher of The Harris Poll ® by telephone from January 10 to January 31, 2002 polling 1,416 Americans 18 and older. The survey drew responses from the general population, including more than 250 interviews with African Americans and more than 250 interviews with Hispanics to ensure adequate representation of minority opinion. The margin of error attributable to sampling and other random effects for percentages near 50 percent is plus or minus three points for the entire sample.

1997 Benchmark Survey


© 1997 The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute