I’m always amazed that it is so hard to find answers to the basic questions about adoption: how many adoptions take place each year in the US, how much does it cost to adopt, and 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 basic types of adoption—domestic infant adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption. We have great information on the numbers and cost of international adoption and foster care adoption, and we have a good estimate of the number of domestic infant adoptions. (We only have an estimate 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 2007, the total number of adoptions was 133,737. The numbers for 2014, the last year that full data was available, fell to 110,373. Of those adoptions, 41,023 were adoptions within the family (where the child is related to the adopting family) and 69,350 were unrelated adoptions. This overall decline is primarily due to a decrease in intercountry adoptions (international adoptions).
Let’s look at the breakdown of the three main types of adoption for 2020 to gain a deeper understanding.
How Many Domestic Infant Adoptions?
The number of infant adoptions has increased very slightly from 18,078 in 2007 to 18,329 in 2014, the last year data was available. Domestic infant adoption comprises only .5% of all live births in the US and only 1.1% of births to single parents. We expect this number to be roughly the same for 2020.
Adoption in the US – How Much Do Domestic Infant Adoptions Cost & How Long Do They Take in 2020?
Creating a Family 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.
Creating a Family Resources on the Adoption Tax Credit:
Adoption Tax Credit 2020 course (AdoptEd course)
10 Tips for Claiming the Adoption Tax Credit (blog post)
Here are the average cost break-downs of domestic infant adoption. We give a range for a reason–costs vary greatly.
Adopting a Baby via an Adoption Agency:
Average cost: $40,000-$45,000
Matched within 1 year: 62%
Matched within 2 years: 82%
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 adoptions has been within the international adoption community. For the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, the Intercountry Adoption statistics from the U.S. Department of State reported 2,971 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.
The numbers of international adoptions in FYE 2019 for the top ten countries that place children in the US are:
- China – 819
- Ukraine – 298
- Colombia – 244
- India – 241
- S. Korea – 166
- Bulgaria – 134
- Haiti – 130
- Nigeria – 116
- The Phillippines – 94
- Liberia – 51
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 increased regulations both in the US and in the sending countries, reports of corruption, and a growing feeling in some countries that international adoption is not good for the child or for their national reputation.
For a more detailed look at why international adoptions are continuing to decline, check out these Creating a Family posts:
- What’s happening with International Adoptions?
- What the Heck is Going on With International Adoptions?!?
- Ethics of International Adoption & the Orphan Care Movement
How Much Does International Adoption Cost & How Long Does It Take in 2020?
The cost and timing of international adoption vary greatly by country. Creating a Family has detailed charts on the top placing countries to the US which we update regularly. Often the cost variation is due to travel costs, which is covered in these detailed charts.
When looking at cost, don’t forget to factor in the federal Adoption Tax Credit. Creating a Family has extensive information on this credit at our Adoption Tax Credit Headquarters and how it applies to international adoption. Take our Adoption Tax Credit 2020 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.
Here’s a look at the cost and timing for a few of the top sending countries, for a general idea.
Average cost range: $25,000 – $35,000
Traditional Program (non-special needs), matched within 5 years: 0%
Waiting-Child Program, matched within 6 months: 62%
Waiting-Child Program, matched within 1 year: 75%
Waiting-Child Program, matched within 2 years: 90%
Adopted a child younger than two years: 25%
Adopted a child younger than five years: 72%
Average cost: $35,000 (There is a lot of variation due to travel requirements: 1 long or 2 shorter trips; approximately 6 to 8 weeks long or 3 to 4 weeks and 10 to 14 days long.)
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: $48,000
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 are increasing. The most recent and comprehensive breakdown of the number of adoptions from foster care is the AFCARS report by the US Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau. For 2019 (the most recent year from which the data has been reported), the number of children adopted with public child welfare agency involvement was 66,035. That represents an increase from 62,997 in FY 2018.
About 26% of children who enter foster care exited care due to adoption (usually by their foster parents) and about 47% reunified with their birth families or other primary caregivers.
The total number of children in care at the end of FY 2019 fell to 423,997. This is down from 435,031 in FY 2018 and 436, 656 in FY 2017.
How Much Does It Cost to Adopt from Foster Care and How Long Does It Take in 2020?
To learn more about how to adopt a child from foster care check out Creating a Family’s extensive resources on foster care adoption and 25 Factors to Consider When Adopting from Foster Care.
The bottom line is that it cost very little to adopt a child from foster care—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 our online Adoption Tax Credit 2019 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.
Creating a Family Resources on Foster Care Adoption:
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).
- Creating a Family’s International Adoption Country Comparison Charts
- Adoption By the Numbers – This older report is a ton of numbers and statistics, and if you are a true data geek like many of us here at Creating a Family, you can view the full report, including graphs, charts, and formulas that will make your nerdy heart sing. It is from 2017, but much of the information is still relevant.
- Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) – FY 2019 data
- FY 2019 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption – Again, full of numbers, graphs, and charts to make the data geeks happy.