Adoption in the US 2020: How Many? How Much? How Long Do They Take?

Dawn Davenport


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?

how much does adoption cost and how long does adopting take

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 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.)

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 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).

Let’s look at the breakdown of the three main types of adoption for a deeper understanding.

cost to adopt a baby in the US 2018

How much does it cost to adopt a baby through domestic adoption in the US in 2020 and how long does it take?

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 in 2020?

Adoptive Family Magazine did a survey a few years ago 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.

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 in the Adoption Tax Credit Headquarters:

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%

If your adoption is taking longer, you may find these articles by Creating a Family helpful: Why Are Others Getting a Match Before Me and What Adds to the Domestic Adoption Wait.

Adopting a Baby via an Adoption Attorney:

Average cost: $35,000-$40,000

Matched within 1 year: 68%

Matched within 2 years: 84%

The article in Adoptive Family Magazine is couple of years old, but is still well worth the read.


how does international adoption cost and how long does it take

How much does international adoption cost in 2020 and how long does it take?

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, 2016, the Intercountry Adoption statistics from the U.S. Department of State reported 3,980 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 2016 for the top ten countries that place children in the US are:

  • China – 1687
  • Congo – 263
  • Ukraine – 212
  • S. Korea – 162
  • India – 157
  • Haiti – 150
  • Ethiopia – 133
  • Uganda – 129
  • Philippines – 127
  • Bulgaria – 123

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 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 in 2020?

The cost and timing of international adoption vary 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.

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 2018 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 the three of the top sending countries, for a general idea.


A detailed chart of all the things you need to know if considering adopting from China.

Average cost: $36,000

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%


A detailed chart of all the things you need to know if considering adopting from Ukraine.

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%

South Korea

A detailed chart of all the things you need to know if considering adopting from South Korea.

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%


foster care adoption-how much does it cost and how long does it take?

How much does it cost to adopt from foster care in 2020 and how long does it take?

How Many Children are Adopted from Foster Care Each Year?

Adoptions from foster care are increasing. The most recent and comprehensive breakdown of the numbers of adoptions from foster care is the AFCARS report by the US Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau. For 2018 (the most recent year from which the data has been reported), the total number of adoptions from foster care was 63,123. That represents an increase from 57,208 in 2016. About 25% of children who enter foster care are adopted (usually by their foster parents) and about 50% go back to their birth families.

The total number of children in care have also risen: 437,283 in 2018, which is a slight decrease from 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.

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) and How to Adopt from Foster Care.



Image credits: (these children are not available for adoption)
Domestic Infant and Foster Care: makelessnoise
International Adoption nendra_gunawan
Foster Care Adoption: Lance Tet

30/04/2018 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog | 17 Comments

17 Responses to Adoption in the US 2020: How Many? How Much? How Long Do They Take?

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  4. Avatar April says:

    I would like information on adoption I can’t have kids of my own I would like to adopt thx

  5. Avatar Eli Edmond says:


    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?

    Thank you

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      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:

      We also have this e-guide that will help you decide what agency or attorney best suits your needs:

      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:

      Best of luck to you and let us know what you are learning!

  6. Avatar Stephanie Boyd says:


    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.

    Thank You

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      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:

      Choosing a Foster Care Agency:

      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:

      Please, feel free to reach out for more support or information once you start surfing around our site. Welcome!

  7. Avatar Nylyma says:

    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.

  8. Avatar Tasia says:

    Dawn, thank you for this information on adoption. I was hoping to get information on adopting internationally from Jamaica.

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      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.

  9. Avatar Jessica O'Dwyer says:

    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.

  10. Avatar RoberSmith says:

    Thanks for sharing this informative Blog.

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