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Adoption and Guardianship: Facts and Figures


STATISTICS/OVERVIEW.  There are no comprehensive numbers on total adoptions in the U.S. each year or the number of specific types of adoptions other than child welfare and intercountry adoptions. Of the approximately 135,000 adoptions in the U.S. each year, close to 40% are adopted by stepparents and another 40% or so from the U.S. foster care system. Private infant and intercountry adoptions together make up the remainder and are much smaller numbers. According to the U.S. Census, 1 in 25 families with children have an adopted child – about half of these have both biological and adopted children.


Challenges in Tracking Adoption Statistics:


Who Cares about Adoption Data? We Do. National Center on State Courts. March 2014


How Many Children Were Adopted in 2007 and 2008? Child Welfare Information Gateway. Sept. 2011.


Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2010. Population Characteristics. U.S. Census Bureau. April 2014.


Knowing the Numbers: Accessing and Using Child Welfare Data. The First Focus State Policy Advocacy and Reform Center (SPARC), Sept. 2014.


Provides an overview of data sources that are useful to the child welfare community specifically and answers the following questions: What are the major data sources? What can I do with the data/what can they tell me? How do I access them?


Child welfare adoptions climbed after the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act in 1997, peaking at over 57,000 a year in 2009. They have remained above 50,000 each year since that time (AFCARS, 2014).


Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Data on Child Welfare Outcomes: In FFY2013, 101,840 foster children were waiting to be adopted, and 50,608 were adopted that year. In addition, 17,664 foster children exited care through guardianships (July 2014 estimates).


Intercountry adoptions peaked in 2004 at just under 23,000 and then began to decline—a pattern that exists worldwide. The most recent figure reported by the U.S. Department of State for 2013 was 7,092.


U.S. Department of State, Intercountry Adoption Statistics:


Global Statistics:

Key Tables for Intercountry Adoption: Receiving States 2003-2012; States of Origin 2003-2011. Peter Selman (2013).


Private infant adoptions of voluntarily relinquished newborns have declined nine-fold since the early 1970s (National Survey of Family Growth). These adoptions are not consistently tracked but are estimated to be approximately 14,000 a year (Donaldson Adoption Institute, 2010, p. 8).


Data from the National Survey of Family Growth: Who Adopts? Characteristics of Women and Men Who Have Adopted Children. Jan. 2009 (includes findings on voluntary relinquishments of newborns)

Intercountry Adoption Research


Best Interests of the Child in Intercountry Adoption, by Nigel Cantwell, UNICEF Office of Research, 2014.

Access to Birth Certificates for Adult Adoptees


American Adoption Congress site on state legislation related to adopted persons’ access to original birth certificates:

National Adoption Related Organizations


AdoptUSKids: National photo listing service for foster children awaiting adoption across the United States, also containing resources for families and professionals.


American Academy of Adoption Attorneys: A national association of approximately 340 attorneys who practice, or have otherwise distinguished themselves, in the field of adoption law.


American Adoption Congress: comprised of individuals, families, and organizations, AAC is committed to adoption reform.


Bastard Nation: An adoptee rights organization that advocates for the civil and human rights of adult citizens who were adopted as children, particularly in relation to their right to access their records.


Child Welfare League of America: A coalition of hundreds of private and public human service agencies serving children and families who are vulnerable since 1920.


Concerned United Birthparents: “The only national organization focused on birthparents – their experiences, healing, and wisdom – CUB serves all those affected by adoption and all who are concerned about adoption issues. Although our focus is on birthparents, long the forgotten people of the adoption community, we welcome adoptees, adoptive parents, and professionals. We find that we all have much to learn from each other and that sharing our feelings and experiences benefits all of us.”


Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute: a non-profit organization that works to raise awareness about the needs of children without families and to remove policy barriers that hinder children from knowing the love and support a family provides.


Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption: a foster care adoption organization that helps connect waiting children in foster care with prospective adoptive families through a range of programs and resources, including Wendy’s Wonderful Kids and the annual TV show, Home for the Holidays.


North American Council on Adoptable Children: founded in 1974 by adoptive parents, NACAC is committed to meeting the needs of waiting for children and the families who adopt them.


U.S. Children’s Bureau: a governmental agency within the Administration for Children and Families, the Children’s Bureau, created in 1912, partners with federal, state, tribal, and local agencies to improve the overall well-being of children and families.


Voice for Adoption: VFA works closely with federal and state legislators, as well as other child welfare organizations, to make a difference in the lives of the children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted and the families who adopt children from foster care.


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