One and a Half Million Adopted Children in the United States

There are 1.5 million adopted children in the United States, over 2% of all U.S. children. [1]

Half a Million Women Seeking to Adopt, While the Percentage of Women Adopting Has Declined
In 1995, about 500,000 women were seeking to adopt a child, and 100,000 had applied with an agency. [2] The same year, an estimated 1.3% of women adopted one or more children, a decline from 2.1% in 1973. [3]

1992 Was the Last Year National Adoption Totals Were Gathered
The total number of adoptions each year has not been comprehensively compiled since 1992. While there are reporting mechanisms for foster care and international adoptions, states are not legally required to record the number of private, domestic adoptions. In 1992, the National Center for State Courts gathered adoption totals from a variety of sources, and estimated that 126,951 children were adopted through international, foster care, private agency, independent and step-parent adoptions. [4] NCSC estimated that stepparent adoptions accounted for 42% of all adoptions and foster care adoptions 15%. [5]

The Number of Adoptions Have Fluctuated Over Time
For a variety of societal and economic reasons, there have been dramatic fluctuations in the annual number of adoptions. For instance, adoptions skyrocketed from a low of 50,000 in 1944 to a high of 175,000 in 1970. [6] In 1992, the last year for which reliable numbers were available, there were almost 127,000 annual adoptions in the U.S. [7]

About 60% of Americans Have a Personal Connection to Adoption
The Adoption Institute’s 1997 Public Opinion Benchmark survey found that 58% of Americans know someone who has been adopted, has adopted a child or has relinquished a child for adoption. [8]

There Are a Variety of Adoption Types
Domestic adoption is the adoption of children who reside in the U.S. either through the public child welfare system or private adoption.

Foster care adoption is the adoption of children in state care for whom reunification with their birth parents is not possible for safety or other reasons. It is arranged by state child welfare agencies or by private agencies under contract with the states. Children may be adopted by their foster parents, relatives (who may or may not have been caring for the child through kinship foster care), or adults to whom they have no prior relationship. Adoption from foster care has increased in the past five years in response to a federal mandate that states take timely action to provide permanent homes for children in state care.

Private adoption can be arranged either through an agency or through independent adoption. In private agency adoption, children are placed through a non-profit or for-profit agency that is licensed by the state. In independent adoption, children are placed directly with adoptive parents by birth parents or with the help of a facilitator or attorney.

International adoption is the adoption of children from other countries by U.S. citizens. International adoptions are usually arranged through adoption agencies. Adoptions are finalized abroad or in the United States, depending on the laws of the country where the child resided.

Transracial adoption refers to children who are placed with an adoptive family of another race or ethnicity. While it is a subgroup of both domestic and international adoption, it is frequently discussed as a separate category due to the unique cultural issues faced by the new families. A study found that in 1987, 8% of all adoptions included parents and children of different races. [9] An estimated 15% of the 36,000 adoptions from foster care in 1998 were transracial or transcultural. [10]

Children Adopted Internationally Tend To Be Younger Than Children Adopted From Foster Care
Almost 90 percent of children adopted internationally are less than five years old, [11] while a majority of those adopted from foster care are more than five years old. [12] Almost half of the children adopted internationally are infants, [13] compared with 2 percent of the children adopted from foster care. [14]

Inability to Have Biological Children Is a Motivating Factor in Private Adoption
People decide to adopt for many reasons, but infertility is one of the most common motivating factors. In one study, more than 80% of those adopting independently or through a private agency responded that the inability to have a biological child was the reason they chose to adopt. By contrast, only half of those adopting from foster care cited infertility as the reason for their decision. [15] It is estimated that 11% to 24% of couples who experience difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term pursue adoption. [16]

Sources and References
[1] Fields, Jason, Living Arrangements of Children, at pg. 9, Current Population Reports, P70-74, U.S. Census Bureau (Apr. 2001). [Children encompasses the ages 18 and under. The total includes the approximately 500,000 children living with one biological parent and a stepparent who adopted them.]

[2] National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Fertility, family planning, and women’s health: New data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, at pg. 8, Vital Health Statistics 23, No.19 (May 1997).

[3] [The estimate refers to currently or formerly married women age 18-44.] Chandra, Anjani; Abma, Joyce; Maza, Penelope; Bachrach, Christine, Adoption, Adoption Seeking and Relinquishment for Adoption in the United States, at pg. 5, Advance Data, No. 306. National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (May 1999).

[4] Flango, Victor and Flango, Carol. How Many Children Were Adopted in 1992, at pg. 1022, Child Welfare, Vol. LXXIV, No. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1995).

[5] Flango, Victor and Flango, Carol, How Many Children Were Adopted in 1992 at pgs. 1018 & 1024, Child Welfare, Vol. LXXIV, No. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1995).

[6] Maza, Penny, Adoption Trends: 1944-1975, at Table 1, Child Welfare Research Notes, No. 9 (Aug. 1994).

[7] Flango, Victor and Flango, Carol, How Many Children Were Adopted in 1992, at pg. 1022, Child Welfare, Vol. LXXIV, No. 5 (Sept.-Oct.1995).

[8] Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Benchmark Survey. 1997.

[9] Bachrach, et al., Adoption in the 1980s, at pg. 6, Advance Data, No. 181, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1989).

[10] National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, Transracial Adoption Fact Sheet, available at www.calib.com/naic/pubs/s_trans.htm.

[11] [International adoption data is for 1998.] Immigration and Naturalization Services Statistics Branch, Table 15: Immigrant-Orphans Adopted by U.S. Citizens by Sex, Age, and Region and Selected Country of Birth, Fiscal Year 1998, at pg. 53, 1998 Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, available at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/aboutins/statistics/imm98list.htm.

[12] [Foster care data is for 1999.] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, at pg. 5, AFCARS Report, No. 6 (June 2001), available at http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/afcars/june2001.htm.

[13] [International adoption data is for 1998.] Immigration and Naturalization Services Statistics Branch, Table 15: Immigrant-Orphans Adopted by U.S. Citizens by Sex, Age, and Region and Selected Country of Birth, Fiscal Year 1998, at pg. 53, 1998 Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, available at http://www.ins.usdoj.gov/graphics/aboutins/statistics/imm98list.htm.

[14] [Foster care data is for 1999.] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, at pg. 5, AFCARS Report, No. 6 (June 2001), available at http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/afcars/june2001.htm.

[15] Berry, et al., Preparation, Support and Satisfaction of Adoptive Families in Agency and Independent Adoptions, at pg. 166, Table 2, Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Vol. 13, No. 2 (April 1996).

[16] Mosher, William D. and Bachrach, Christine A, Understanding U.S. Fertility: Continuity and Change in the National Survey of Family Growth, 1988-1995, at pg. 9, Family Planning Perspectives, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 1996).

— Updated January 2002 —
For more statistics about adoption click here:
Domestic Adoption Facts
http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/FactOverview/domestic.html
Foster Care Facts
http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/FactOverview/foster.html
International Adoption Facts
http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/FactOverview/international.html
Costs of Adoption
http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/FactOverview/costs.html
State Statistics
http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/research/resstates.html