We are always amazed that it is so hard to find answers to the three 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 ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the decreasing rates of intercountry adoptions (also called 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 2021.
How Many Domestic Infant Adoptions?
Approximately 25,700 infants were adopted in the US in 2019. Approximately 19,700
were adopted in 2020. We speak in estimates regarding domestic infant adoptions because domestic infant adoption is controlled by state law, and there is no one source where data is compiled.
The vast majority of these adoptions had some degree of openness between birth and adoptive families. We’ve included data for 2019 and 2020 from the National Council for Adoption’s Adoption By The Numbers survey because it shows the impact of COVID-19 on adoptions.
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 recent years.
How Much Does Domestic Infant Adoption Cost? How Long Did They Take in 2021?
CreatingaFamily.org does periodic informal surveys of agencies and adopting families to check costs. Again, we only have estimated data on domestic infant adoptions because domestic infant adoption is controlled by state law, and there is no one source for compiling the data.
The cost of domestic infant adoption varies greatly, based on many factors, including but not limited to:
- whether the adoption is through an adoption agency or an adoption attorney
- how many services are provided by the adoption provider
- whether the adoptive parents have to travel to the state where the baby is born
- how many agencies the adoptive parents are working with
- whether the adoptive parents are working with adjunct professionals (such as an adoption consultant or facilitator)
- whether the expectant mom has health insurance
Given these variables, the average infant adoption cost from an adoption agency ranges from $25,000 – $60,000. Some adoption agencies have a sliding fee scale where adoption costs are based on your income. An independent adoption through an adoption attorney usually costs in the range of $35,000 to $50,000.
Don’t forget to factor in the federal Adoption Tax Credit when considering the cost. 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 2022 – 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: $25,000-$40,000
- Matched within 1 year: 62%
- Matched within 2 years: 82%
If your adoption is taking longer, you may find these resources by CreatingaFamily.org helpful:
- Why Are Others Getting a Match Before Me
- Legal and Medical Risk in Infant Adoption
- Can I Parent a Child Who Has Had Prenatal Exposure?
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 changes in adoption are again in the international adoption community. For the fiscal year ending September 30, 2021, the annual report of the U.S. Department of State reported 1,785 total international adoptions. This represents an increase of about 10% over FY20, which was sharply impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, international adoptions have been declining over the last decade. There was a 45% decrease from 2019 to 2020 due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Since China announced the suspension of all adoption processes, they no longer place in the top ten of sending countries. The numbers for international adoption peaked in 2004 when 22,989 children were adopted from abroad to the US (more than 7,000 of those were adoptions from China).
The gender split for the total number of international adoptions was about 48% male and almost 52% female. This trend has held for several years now. The fairly even split contrasts with the total international adoptions in 2007, which were about 61% female and 39% male.
For FY 2021, the top three sending countries were:
- Colombia – 297
- India – 245
- Ukraine – 235
Full data on the number 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 continued impacts from Covid-19 and increasing regulations in the U.S. and sending countries. There are frequent reports of corruption in-country and a sense of discontent from sending countries about U.S. families failing 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 2021?
The cost and timing of international adoption vary greatly by country. CreatingaFamily.org maintains detailed charts on the top placing countries to the U.S. Frequently, the cost variation is due to travel expenses, which are covered in these detailed charts.
Don’t forget to consider the federal Adoption Tax Credit when calculating the cost of international adoption. CreatingaFamily.org has extensive information on this credit at our Adoption Tax Credit Headquarters, including details on how to claim and maximize the credit for international adoption.
You can take the CreatingaFamilyEd.org Adoption Tax Credit 2022 online course for a complete overview. The course is 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 the top three sending countries (as of January 2022) in international adoption. Please refer to the CreatingaFamily.org Adoption Comparison Charts resource for more specific information on the top ten sending countries to the U.S.
1. Colombia – 297 adoptions
Check out our Top Ten Factors to Consider When Adopting from Colombia.
- Range of cost: $25,000 – $30,000 plus travel expenses
- Length of process: approximately 16 – 28 months
- Ages of children: 6 months to 15 years, at referral. Children younger than eight years typically have identified needs.
2. India – 245 adoptions
Check out our Top Ten Factors to Consider When Adopting from India.
- Range of cost: $25,000-$40,00 plus travel expenses
- Length of process: approximately 2 years, including a typical 2-week stay in-country
- Age of children: 6 months to 15 years, at referral. Children younger than six typically have identified needs.
3. Ukraine – 235 adoptions
Check out our Top Ten Factors to Consider When Adopting from Ukraine. However, due to the war in Ukraine, the Ukraine Ministry of Social Policy is still not processing new adoptions. The resource will be updated as the situation unfolds.
- Range of cost: up to $40,000, with many variations due to travel expenses. (Ukraine is not a Hague Convention participant, so no Median ASP Fee is reported.)
- Length of process: approximately two years, as there are multiple trips required for finalization
- Ages of children: 2 years to 16 years old
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How Many Children are Adopted from Foster Care Each Year?
The most recent and comprehensive breakdown of the number of adoptions from foster care is the annual AFCARS Report, #29 by the US Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau.
Adoptions from foster care have declined for two years in a row. In FY 2021 (the most recent year from which the data has been reported), the number of children adopted with public child welfare agency involvement was 54,240. This is a decrease from 66,208 in FY 2019 and 57,881 in FY 2020.
Currently, there are 391,098 children in foster care, compared to 408,000 children in FY 2020 and 426,000 in FY 2019. Neglect remains the primary reason children enter foster care, followed by parental substance abuse. The average age of children in foster care is eight (8) years old — 44% of kids in foster care are nine (9) years and older. Finding foster and adoptive placements for these older kids is particularly challenging.
About 25% of children in foster care cannot reunify with parents or other kinship relatives. Approximately 37% were adopted or placed in a guardianship relationship. The average time spent in care for a foster child was 21.7 months. In FY2021, more than 113,000 children were waiting in foster care for an adoptive family.
How Much Does It Cost to Adopt from Foster Care? How Long Did It Take in 2021?
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 2022 online course for a complete overview of how to claim and maximize the adoption tax credit 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
- Welcoming Older Foster Kids to Your Family
- Why Co-Parent with My Foster Child’s Birth Parents When I Want to Adopt?
The timing to adopt from foster care is hard to calculate because families often 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 they want to adopt (age, special needs, race).
For more information on adopting from foster care, check out these courses from CreatingaFamilyEd.org:
- Introduction to Foster Care Adoption
- Adopting Older Kids: Things to Consider
- Adopting Siblings: Things to Consider
- Transitioning From Foster Care to Adoption
- Adopting a Child from Another State
The following sources were referenced to update this guide to Adoption in the U.S:
- Adoption Country Comparison Charts – CreatingaFamily.org resource for top sending countries in international adoption
- Adoption by the Numbers – A report by National Council for Adoption, truly for the data geeks among us.
- The AFCARS Report #29 – The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, FY2021
- Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption, July 2022 – the annual report by the US State Department, full of numbers, graphs, and charts to make the data geeks happy.
- Adoption Statistics – the US State Department website full of more numbers, charts, and graphs
This resource was originally published in 2017 and is updated annually by CreatingaFamily.org.
Image credits: Mikhail Nilov; SHAHBAZ AKRAM; ROMAN ODINTSOV; cottonbro studio