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. 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
Add Your Comment
Foster care adoptions are actually decreasing according to the cited numbers, which are accurate according to the cited AFCARS Report #28.
OH! Yes. Thanks for catching that. It’s been edited and updated.
Me and my wife have always been wanting to adopt and now with everything that’s going on in Ukraine we have both decided that the time is now. May you please send the information to get the process started.
I’m sorry, Pete. But there is no information to send beyond the many links and resources listed here that reinforce that now is NOT the time to pursue an adoption from Ukraine.
BRO just let him adopt from ukraine
None of this is up to us. It’s up to international law.
This article states that this is review of adoption statistics for 2020, but the data is all from 2014. I have to wonder how accurate these 2014 statistics are for the year 2020. Adoption seems to change very quickly due to multiple factors. It’s difficult to believe that adoption statistics have remained static for six years.
While we are new to adoption and are in the research phase, I have notice a couple of alarming trends. The two adoption support groups we attend to get information about adoption has a large number of waiting couples (over 200). The number of couples attending these meeting that successfully adopted infants was small (less than 7) Not exactly a good statistical measure, but it does call in questions how many valid adoption situations were there in 2020 and how many adoption situations there will be 2021. I’m also sure that COVID has impacted the numbers, but information about how much and how many seems to be kept under tight control by adoption professionals.
Conversations with adoption agencies result in no statistical information about success rates or show many couples waiting and not many couples matching. I also have to wonder about statements such as “giving birth mother a wide selection of couples to choose from” or “if you wait long enough, you get a child.” None of these adoption professionals seem to be able to clarify either statement or provide any guidance about adoption success rates.
What I really like is an independent way to confirm the number of actual adoption situations that are available to childless couples in a given year. Is there an independent source for the actual numbers for 2020? Thanks for any clarity you can provide on this topic.
As stated in the article, data on infant adoption is hard to come by because the information is handled and collected (if at all) by each state separately. This article is updated annually. The last year overall data for the total number of domestic infant adoption was available was 2014. Our best guess from talking to agencies is that the number has held relatively even since that time. Data on the #’s of international and foster care adoption is readily available and updated annually.
We appreciate your desire for hard information and for some type of assurance that if you go forward you will eventually bring a baby home. You are wise to be asking questions of the agencies you are talking to. We include a lot of questions in our Creating a Family Multimedia Guide on Choosing an Adoption Agency or Attorney (bit.ly/AdoptionagencyGuide) to ask the agency to try to get to the very information you are seeking–what are my odds of bringing home a baby and how long will I wait. Another resource that may be helpful is “Five Reasons You are Not Getting an Adoption Match“. We wish you the best of luck. We have lots of resources to help guide you so come back often to both the blog as well as Adoption A-Z Resource Guide (bit.ly/AllAboutAdoption).
The lack of information makes me distrustful of adoption professionals. You state you spoken to adoption professionals that state adoption statistics are about the same as 2014. My conversations with adoption professionals are a bit different. They state that adoptions are down due to Covid. Where once they did over 100+ adoptions per year, they doubt they will be able to do 30. Another agency I spoke with stated their placement were down 40% this year after seeing placements down over 60% last year. But it appears that all these agencies are still accepting new clients, even if this causes their existing clients to wait longer. And the average wait time is 18 months. But given the number of waiting couples on their web pages and decrease in placements, it would appear that the wait time is 4 years or more, not 18 months.
I think the 2014 data was good for 2014. I don’t think it is reflective of current trends.
Thank you so much, did not have any knowledge. Now I’m aware and what to expect.
I would like information on adoption I can’t have kids of my own I would like to adopt thx
You’ve come to the right place, April. We suggest that you begin learning about the 3-4 major types of adoption first, to figure out which path is right for your family. To do so, we have this easy chart that lays it out for you in an easy to compare and contrast format. https://creatingafamily.org/adoption/comparison-country-charts/quick-comparison-adoption-types/
From that page, you can surf around to whichever topic or type of adoption interests you most.
Best wishes and reach out if you need more direction or resources to help!
I am an American Citizen, currently residing in Lebanon and married to a Lebanese woman. We still do not have kids of our own and we would love to adopt a child.
Could you please be of assistance?
Hello, Eli ~
We have a good number of resources to help you get started! Try this page first, to help you determine what sort of adoption will be the best path for your family: http://ow.ly/eKgm50vwph7
We also have this e-guide that will help you decide what agency or attorney best suits your needs: http://ow.ly/YGw150vwpp6
Then check out our directory of professionals for help in finding an agency or attorney that will guide you through the process. They are organizations that share our commitment to education and support: http://ow.ly/Ip1K50vwpv9
Best of luck to you and let us know what you are learning!
We would like some more information for adopting from a foster care. We are looking for a child around the age of 3 or 4. Please if you can lead us in the direction to start this process,we would great appreciate it.
Hi Stephanie! We are MORE than happy to help you get started with your research. Here are a couple of links to get you started:
Becoming a Foster Parent: http://ow.ly/oBnR50uru02
Choosing a Foster Care Agency: http://ow.ly/l7qH50uru18
Our online support group is also a great place to connect with folks who are in similar places of the journey and full of great support and experience: http://ow.ly/bHSb50urtYf
Please, feel free to reach out for more support or information once you start surfing around our site. Welcome!
For both are adoption we did our own paperwork and adopted straight from the birth parents. $135 in court fees and finalized the second Wednesday’s after they were born. All the paperwork is online and provide by the state. In the correct formate. All you have to do is fill in names, dates, addresses, ect. Of course this doesn’t give the same protection to the birth parent or adoptive parents as far as privacy, addresses and what not. I went to a few Dr appts and all imagining appts. We were both with the Birth Mother the whole time at the hospital for delivery and after. I was in the delivery room and was the first one to hold each baby. They babies had our names, so we never needed to change them. We were able to advocate for the Birth Mother when she couldn’t and we knew what she wanted. Unique situation but it’s possible to do for every little money and time. Extremely rare but possible.
Thanks for sharing your experiences. Hope you and baby are well!
Dawn, thank you for this information on adoption. I was hoping to get information on adopting internationally from Jamaica.
Tasia, one of the best places to get somewhat current info on a specific country if it is not listed on our Adoption Comparison Charts is the US State Dept. website under Intercountry Adoptions.
Thanks (as always) for your comprehensive and succinct summary of a complicated subject.
I’m more familiar with international adoption than I am with domestic, and was thus surprised to learn this statistic:
“Domestic infant adoption comprises only .5% of all live births in the US and only 1.1% of births to single parents.”
Thank you again.
Thanks for reading. We’re so glad it was interesting to you!
Thanks for sharing this informative Blog.