Adopting a baby from foster care happens more often than you might think and seems to be on the rise.  Check out these nine facts you probably didn’t know about adopting an infant from foster care.

The goal of our foster care system is to help the birth family heal and reunify with their child. Foster parents, regardless of whether they enter fostering with the idea of adopting, need to accept that until the caseworker decides that reunification is not an option, their role is to help the family get their baby back. It’s also worth noting that the greatest need in adoptions from foster care is for school-aged children. Nevertheless, an increasing number of babies are entering foster care and more of them are being adopted by their foster parents. Here are some surprising facts about adopting a baby from foster care.

9 Surprising Facts About Adopting a Baby From Foster Care

  1. It is possible to adopt a baby from foster care. Infants (children under the age of one year) are a growing proportion of first-time admissions to the foster care system.
  2. Most children adopted from child welfare are under the age of 3. Nearly half of all adoptions are of children who entered care before age 1.
  3. The majority (60%) of babies in foster care are children of color (39% Black and 21% Hispanic), compared to 46% for older age groups.
  4. More than half (54%) of children adopted through the child welfare system are adopted by their foster parents.
  5. Physical neglect/failure to thrive is the reason almost half (46%) of babies enter the foster care system.
  6. Parental drug or alcohol abuse is present in 61% of infants in foster care. Parents contemplating adoption a baby from foster care should assume that the infant has had prenatal exposure to drugs and/or alcohol.
  7. Over half of the families whose babies are in foster care report having difficulty paying for necessities. (57%)
  8. Many babies available for adoption from foster care are part of a sibling group.
  9. Since the early 2000s, there has been a steady decline in the number of children in foster care, with a similar decline in the number of children waiting to be adopted. (Update: 2017, the numbers are on the rise again, most likely due to the opioid crisis.)

Creating a Family Resources for Foster Care Adoption

If you are considering adopting a baby from foster care, you will need to decide whether to use a private adoption agency or adopt through your local child welfare agency. There are pros and cons to each option. This tip sheet will help you parse through them to choose what is right for your family: Differences Between Public and Private Foster Care Agencies.

Source for the 9 facts: Domestic and International Adoption: Strategies to Improve Behavioral Health Outcomes for Youth and Their Families by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. January 2015.

First published in 2015; Updated 2017 and 2019.