9 Statistics About Adoption in America

Adoption has long played a role in American history. What does adoption look like in the US today?

Jennifer Mellon July 04, 2016

This Independence Day, the United States will be 240 years old. Throughout our country’s history, the statistics surrounding adoption have been ever-changing. From public perception of adoption to the number of intercountry adoptions completed in a given year, the numbers have changed significantly. It can feel overwhelming for a family contemplating building their family through adoption to process all of the facts and figures regarding adoption in United States. The constant is that adoption is an important part of our country’s values and storied history. Great Americans were adopted and have adopted.

The Start of Adoption in the US
1. The Start of Adoption in the US

While the practice of adoption has existed throughout the history of civilization, the first documented evidence of adoption in the United States was with the Massachusetts 1851 Adoption of Children Act, which ensured judges would deem adoption decrees fit and proper based on child welfare.

The 1850s also were the start of the orphan trains.

One century after the implementation of the Massachusetts law, the first documented intercountry adoptions occurred. These adoptions took place after World War II beginning with the airlift of the German and Japanese orphans to the US.

These “babylifts” continued after the Korean and Vietnam Wars. The wide spread of intercountry adoption commenced in 1955 with the special act of Congress which enabled Henry and Bertha Holt to adopt Korean “war orphans.”

US Adoption by the Numbers
2. US Adoption by the Numbers

The 2000 census was the first in which adoption statistics were collected.The estimated number of children adopted in the year 2000 was slightly over 128,000, bringing the total US population of adopted children to 2,058,915. In the 2010 census, the number of children adopted increased to 2,072,312. This means that over 2% of the U.S. population of children were adopted.

Intercountry Adoptions
3. Intercountry Adoptions

Intercountry Adoption has slowly been on the decline. The closure of Joint Council on International Children’s Services came at the height of the steady fall. The number of intercountry adoptions completed by U.S. parents dropped by 12 percent last year to the lowest level since 1981, according to new State Department figures.

The State Department's report for the 2015 fiscal year shows 5,648 adoptions from foreign countries, down from 6,438 in 2014 and about 75 percent below the high of 22,884 in 2004.

4. China

Photo Credit: Katoosha / Shutterstock.com

For many years, China has accounted for the most children adopted in the US. In 2015, the total was 2,354, which was up 15% from 2014. The peak of China adoptions was 7,903 in 2005. The average wait time for adopting a waiting child from China, which is the majority of children now adopted from the PRC, is 1-2 years.

Adoption Costs
5. Adoption Costs

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, the cost to adopt varies, from minimal expenses to $40,000, depending on the adoption. Some averages are below:

Public Agency (Foster Care) Adoptions $0 - $2,500
Licensed Private Agency Adoptions $5,000 - $40,000+
Independent Adoptions $8,000 - $40,000+
Facilitated/Unlicensed Adoptions $5,000 - $40,000+
Intercountry Adoptions $15,000 - $30,000

Search & Reunion
6. Search & Reunion

In a study of American adolescents, the American Adoption Congress Search Institute found “72 percent of adopted adolescents wanted to know why they were adopted, 65 percent wanted to meet their birth parents, and 94 percent wanted to know which birth parent they looked like.” Similarly, the Maine Department of Human Resources Adoption Task Force found that 95% of birthparents were open to being contacted by the child they placed for adoption.

Individuals or families wanting to start the Search & Reunion process should explore the Adoption Reunion Registry or if they prefer to have the work done for them contact a private investigator specializing in adoption.

Foster Care By the Numbers
7. Foster Care By the Numbers

The most recent Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data from 2014 reports that 415,129 children were in foster care in the United States. 264,746 entered the foster care system in 2014. 238,230 exited the system that same year. 107,918 are waiting to be adopted. 50,644 were adopted in 2014. Could you open your home and your heart to a child currently in foster care waiting for their forever family?

Adoption Attitudes in the US
9. Adoption Attitudes in the US

According to the 2013 Dave Thomas Foundation For Adoption Adoption Attitudes Survey, 65% of Americans have a favorable to extremely favorable opinion of international adoption, 80% have a favorable opinion of private infant adoption, and 84% have a favorable opinion of foster care adoption. 24% of Americans would consider any form of adoption to build their families and 51% of their survey respondents agree that every child is adoptable.

Statistics Should Never Overshadow People
10. Statistics Should Never Overshadow People

As we celebrate our country’s independence with our friends and family, let us not forget that there are children in the United States and around the world waiting for their forever families. The statistics may seem big and overwhelming, but it only takes one family to make the difference in one child’s life.

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Jennifer Mellon

Jennifer Mellon has worked in the child welfare field for more than a decade, serving in varying capacities as the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer of Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) and the Corporate Communications Program Manager for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Jennifer has served on the Board of the Campagna Center, which provides critical educational services to children and families in the DC Metro Area and on the Development Committee for the National Council for Adoption. She is the mom of three children and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.

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