Waiting Children (Glossary)

Waiting Children: This term generally refers to non-infant, school age children, who have become legally available for adoption. They will generally be under the legal jurisdiction and care of public foster care agencies, and will have come into the foster care system for a variety of reasons, which could include neglect, abandonment, abuse and/or some other dysfunction within their family environment.

The most recent estimates indicate that of the 520,000 children in foster care in the United States, 117,000 are waiting children. The number of children in foster care has increased steadily for the past years, but the proportion freed for adoption remains constant, at about 20 percent. Of those who were adopted, the vast majority (48 percent) were under the age of five years. Most (65 percent) of the children were adopted by their former foster parents. The other children were adopted by relatives, by people unrelated to them and by stepparents. 86 percent of the families adopting children from foster care received adoption subsidies. Two thirds of the waiting children were adopted by married couples, the rest by single parents.

Most (61 percent) of the domestic waiting children were removed from their homes before the age of five. The length of time the children are in foster care before being adopted varies widely and depends on a number of factors, but the vast majority (90 percent) are in care for at least a year.

Technically, all children available for international adoption are "waiting" children, but the term is usually used to describe those who have conditions that place them beyond the "healthy infant" most families request. Each country administers its waiting children lists differently, making it difficult to make generalizations.

Waiting children may or may not have developed emotional and/or behavioral reactions to these experiences, and may or may not be physically or developmentally challenges or delayed as a natural result of what they have been through. How severe and treatable these conditions will be will depend entirely on the individual circumstances of each child. By the same token, a significant percentage of waiting children will be healthy and well cared for, but will have become victims of some type of family tragedy that has put them in a position where they need responsible parenting.

Many waiting children will have siblings who are also available for adoption, and who would prefer to stay together as a family unit. In most geographic locations, more than half of the waiting children will be ethnically diverse or will be children of color. Two things that all "Waiting Children" will have in common are:

1) Their need to become a permanent part of a responsible and nurturing family, where they will be loved and encouraged to achieve their full potential

2) Their ability to bring tremendous joy and satisfaction to their new families