Adoption in the US: How Many? How Much? How Long Do They Take?
I’m always amazed that it is so hard to answer 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 strong information on the numbers and cost of international adoption and foster care adoption, and we have a good estimate on the number of domestic infant adoptions in the US. (We only have an estimate because domestic infant adoption is controlled by state law, and there is no one source for compiling the data.)
The Total Numbers of Adoptions in the US
In general, adoptions in the US are declining. In 2007, the total number of adoptions were 133,737. The numbers for 2014, the last year that full data is 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) and in kinship or related adoptions.
Let’s look at the breakdown of the three main types of adoption for a deeper understanding.
How Many Domestic Infant Adoptions in the US?
The number of infant adoptions in the US has increased very slightly from 18,078 in 2007 to 18,329 in 2014, the last year data is available. Domestic infant adoption comprises only .5% of all live births in the US and only 1.1% of births to single parents.
How Much Do Domestic Infant Adoptions Cost & How Long Do They Take?
Adoptive Family Magazine does a survey each year to find out the average cost and timing of adoptions in the US. Creating a Family also does an informal survey of agencies and adopting families to check costs, and our numbers track closely to what Adoptive Family Magazine reports.
Adopting a Baby via an Adoption Agency:
Average cost: $42,337
Matched within 1 year: 64%
Matched within 2 years: 84%
Adopting a Baby via an Adoption Attorney:
Average cost: $31,890
Matched within 1 year: 68%
Matched within 2 years: 83%
The article in Adoptive Family Magazine goes into a lot more detail and is well worth the read.
How Many International Adoptions to the US?
The greatest change in adoptions has been within the international adoption community. In 2016, the Intercountry Adoption statistics from the US Department of State reported 5,370 total adoptions, with a relatively even split of boys and girls being adopted. In 2007 the total international adoptions were 19,601 (61.1% girls, 38.9% boys). The highest number of international adoptions were in 2004, when 22,989 children were adopted from abroad to the US.
The numbers of international adoptions in 2016 for the top ten countries that place children in the US are:
- China – 2231
- Congo – 359
- Ukraine – 303
- S. Korea – 260
- Bulgaria – 201
- India – 194
- Uganda – 187
- Ethiopia – 183
- Haiti – 178
- Philippines – 156
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 country of birth, reports of corruption, and a growing feeling in some countries that international adoption is not good for the child and for their national reputation. For a more detailed look at why international adoptions are declining, check out these Creating a Family articles: What’s happening with International Adoptions?, What the Heck is Going on With International Adoptions?!?, and Ethics of International Adoption & the Orphan Care Movement.
How Much Does International Adoption Cost & How Long Does It Take?
The cost and timing of international adoption varies greatly by country. Creating a Family has detailed charts on the top 16 placing countries to the US. Often the cost variation is due to travel costs, which is covered in these detailed charts. Here’s a look at the cost and timing for the top three countries.
Average cost: $35,000
Traditional Program (non-special needs), matched within 5 years: 0%
Waiting-Child Program, matched within 6 months: 68%
Waiting-Child Program, matched within 1 year: 86%
Waiting-Child Program, matched within 2 years: 92%
Adopted a child younger than two years: 44%
Adopted a child younger than five years: 76%
Average cost: $30,600
Matched within 1 year: 60%
Matched within 2 years: 70%
Adopted a child younger than two years: 40%
Adopted a child younger than five years: 60%
*Please note that Ethiopia is currently closed to adoptions.
Average cost: $40,000–$50,000
Matched within 1 year: 83%
Matched within 2 years: 100%
Adopted a child younger than two years: 50%
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 break-down of the numbers of adoptions from foster care are the AFCARS report by the US Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau. For 2015 (the most recent year from which the data has been reported), the total number of adoptions from foster care was 53,549. That represents an increase over 50,913 in 2011. About 25% of children who enter foster care are adopted and about 50% go back to their birth families.
The total numbers of children in care have also risen: 427,910 in 2015 up from 397,605 in 2011.
How Much Does It Cost to Adopt from Foster Care and How Long Does It Take?
The bottom line is that it cost very little to adopt a child from foster care—anywhere from free to about $2,600.
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 articles by Creating a Family: You Gotta Be Crazy to Adopt From Foster Care (infographic), 25 Factors to Consider When Adopting From the United States (Foster Care Adoptions), and How to Adopt from Foster Care.
- Adoption By the Numbers This 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.
- Adoptive Family Magazine Their annual survey includes lots of detail and is well worth the read.
- FY 2015 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption Again, full of numbers, graphs and charts to make the data geeks happy.
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