We are always amazed that it is so hard to find answers to the 3 most basic and commonly asked questions about adoption:
- How many adoptions take place each year in the US?
- How much does it cost to adopt?
- How long does it take to adopt a baby or child?
The first step in answering these questions about adoption is to break down the three basic types of adoption—domestic infant adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption. The information about the numbers and cost of international adoption and foster care adoption is updated annually by the federal government. We only have estimates though good ones, for the data on domestic infant adoptions because domestic infant adoption is controlled by state law, and there is no one source for compiling the data.
How Many Kids Are Adopted in the US Each Year?
In general, adoptions in the US are declining.
In 2019, 115,353 children were adopted in the U.S. That number fell to 95,306 children adopted in the U.S. in 2020, including step-parent adoptions.
This overall decline is primarily due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the decreasing rate of intercountry adoptions (international adoptions).
Let’s look at the breakdown of the three main types of adoption to gain a deeper understanding of the state of adoption at the end of 2020.
How Many Domestic Infant Adoptions?
Approximately 25,900 infants were adopted in the US in 2019. Approximately 19,800
were adopted in 2020. The vast majority of these adoptions had some degree of openness between birth and adoptive families. We’re including data for 2019 and 2020 because it shows the impact of COVID-19 on adoptions. However, we’re uncertain how long that impact will last since the last year we have
data is 2020.
Domestic infant adoption comprises approximately .5% of all live births in the US and only 1% of births to single parents. We estimate this number to be relatively unchanged over the years.
How Much Do Domestic Infant Adoptions Cost & How Long Did They Take in 2020?
CreatingaFamily.org does periodic informal surveys of agencies and adopting families to check costs. When looking at cost, don’t forget to factor in the federal Adoption Tax Credit. Creating a Family has extensive information on the credit at our Adoption Tax Credit Headquarters and how it applies to domestic infant adoption.
CreatingaFamily.org Resources on the Adoption Tax Credit:
- Adoption Tax Credit 2021 – an online course from CreatingaFamilyEd.org
- 10 Tips for Claiming the Adoption Tax Credit
- 8 Facts You Must Know about the Adoption Tax Credit
Here are the average cost breakdowns of domestic infant adoption. We give these ranges for a reason — costs vary greatly across the country. Applying to multiple agencies, consultant fees, travel, and expectant mother expenses, especially if matched with a mom in a state with lenient laws for these expenses, can add to the cost.
Adopting a Baby via an Adoption Agency:
- Average cost: $40,000-$45,000
- Matched within 1 year: 62%
- Matched within 2 years: 82%
If your adoption is taking longer, you may find these articles by CreatingaFamily.org helpful:
Adopting a Baby via an Adoption Attorney:
- Average cost: $35,000-$40,000
- Matched within 1 year: 68%
- Matched within 2 years: 84%
How Many International Adoptions to the US?
The greatest change in adoption has been within the international adoption community. For the fiscal year ending September 30, 2020, the Intercountry Adoption statistics from the U.S. Department of State reported 1,622 total adoptions, with a relatively even split of boys and girls continuing to be reported. In 2007 the total international adoptions were 19,601 (61.1% girls, 38.9% boys). The highest number of international adoptions was in 2004 when 22,989 children were adopted from abroad to the US.
International adoptions have been on a steady decline for the last 10 years. There was a 45% decrease from 2019 to 2020 due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Here are the top three sending countries.
- China – 202
- S. Korea – 188
- Colombia – 137
Full data on the numbers of children placed by each country to the US can be found here.
We wish we could say that this decline reflects less need for international adoption with fewer children entering state care and greater numbers of adoptions within the country. Unfortunately, this is not true.
The reasons are complex and involve pandemic shut-downs and increasing regulations both in the U.S. and in the sending countries. There are frequent reports of corruption in-country and a sense of discontent over the failure of U.S. families to comply with their post-adoption reporting requirements. Additionally, there is a growing feeling in some countries that international adoption is not good for the child or for their national reputation.
How Much Does International Adoption Cost & How Long Did It Take in 2020?
The cost and timing of international adoption vary greatly by country. CreatingaFamily.org has detailed charts on the top placing countries to the U.S. which we update regularly. Often the cost variation is due to travel expenses, which are covered in these detailed charts.
When looking at cost, don’t forget to factor in the federal Adoption Tax Credit. CreatingaFamily.org has extensive information on this credit at our Adoption Tax Credit Headquarters and how it applies to international adoption. Take the CreatingaFamilyEd.org Adoption Tax Credit 2021 online course for a complete overview, also available with a certificate of completion for education requirements should you need it. Check out 10 Tips for Claiming the Adoption Tax Credit and How to Best Use the Adoption Tax Credit for more help with international adoption. We also offer the CreatingaFamilyEd.org online course, How to Afford Adoption, that you might find helpful.
Here’s a look at the cost and timing for a few of the top sending countries. Please refer to the CreatingaFamily.org Adoption Comparison Charts resource for more specific information on each of the top ten sending countries to the U.S.
- Average cost range: $25,000 – $35,000
- **As of November 2020, the CCCWA announced an indefinite suspension of adoption processes due to COVID-19. This page will be updated when that status changes.**
- **Due to the war in Ukraine, the Ukraine Ministry of Social Policy is not processing adoptions at this time. The Ukraine chart will be updated as the situation unfolds.**
- Average cost: $40,000 (There is a lot of variation due to the travel requirement of 2-3 trips.)
- Matched within 1 year: 100% (The Ukranian international adoption referral method requires that both parents must be in Ukraine to receive a referral.)
- Adopted child younger than 2 years: 50%
- Adopted child older than 10 years: 50%
- Average cost range: $35,000 – $45,000 (There is a lot of variation due to the travel requirement of two trips.)
- Matched within 1 year: 85%
- Matched within 2 years: 100%
- Adopted a child younger than two years: 69%
- Adopted a child younger than five years: 100%
How Many Children are Adopted from Foster Care Each Year?
Adoptions from foster care have declined recently. The most recent and comprehensive breakdown of the number of adoptions from foster care is the annual AFCARS report #28 by the US Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau.
For FY 2020 (the most recent year from which the data has been reported), the number of children adopted with public child welfare agency involvement was 57,881. That represents a decrease from 66,208 in FY 2019.
Currently, there are 408,000 children in foster care, down from 426,000 in FY 2019. Neglect is the primary reason children enter foster care. The average age of children in foster care is 8.4 years and 27% of kids in foster care are 13-20 years old. It’s most challenging to find foster and adoptive placements for these older kids.
About 25% of children in foster care will not be able to be reunified with parents or extended family
and will exit care due to adoption (usually by their foster families). However, more than 117,000 children are waiting in foster care for an adoptive family.
How Much Does It Cost to Adopt from Foster Care and How Long Did It Take in 2020?
To learn more about how to adopt a child from foster care check out CreatingaFamily.org’s extensive resources on foster care adoption.
The bottom line is that it cost very little to adopt a child from the U.S. foster care system – anywhere from free to about $2,500. In addition to the low cost, families who adopt from foster care are also eligible for the full federal Adoption Tax Credit, even if they do not have adoption expenses.
You can take CreatingaFamilyEd.org’s Adoption Tax Credit 2021 online course for a complete overview of how you can claim it for foster care adoption. We also offer 10 Tips for Claiming the Adoption Tax Credit and How to Best Use the Adoption Tax Credit for more help with adoption from foster care.
CreatingaFamily.org Resources on Foster Care Adoption:
- State of Adoptions in the US: Foster Care Adoption
- Foster Care Adoption Resource Page
- Why Co-Parent with My Foster Child’s Birth Parents When I Want to Adopt?
The timing for adopting from foster care is hard to calculate because often families start as foster parents and may have several foster placements before the child they are fostering becomes available for adoption. Also, unlike in international adoption, the child often lives with the adoptive family as a foster placement while they are waiting for the adoption to be finalized.
About 60% of families seeking to adopt from foster care are matched within one year. The length of time that families wait is usually related to how many restrictions they place on the type of child that they want to adopt (age, special needs, race).
For more information on adopting from foster care, check out these resources from CreatingaFamily.org:
- Introduction to Foster Care Adoption
- Transitioning From Foster Care to Adoption
- You Gotta Be Crazy to Adopt From Foster Care
Sources for this guide to Adoption in the U.S.
- CreatingaFamily.org’s Adoption Country Comparison Charts
- Adoption By the Numbers – A report by National Council for Adoption, truly for the data geeks among us.
- Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System – AFCARS No. 28 – FY 2020 data
- FY 2020 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption– A report by the US State Department, full of numbers, graphs, and charts to make the data geeks happy.
**This guide was first published in 2017; Updated and republished annually.
Image credits: John-Mark Smith; Omer Unlu; joan vila; Virginia State Parks