How Many Children Are Adopted Each Year?

Susie McGee
Contributor: Michele Meleen
Two families with kids crossing road

How many children are adopted each year? These numbers can vary according to the source of the statistics used and the basis for the adoption statistics. Some statistics only refer to the amount of children adopted each year in the United States while other numbers refer to worldwide adoptions.

U.S. Adoptions

According to the National Council for Adoption (NCF) "Adoption: By the Numbers" report, approximately 110,000 children were adopted in the United States in 2014, about 20,000 less than in 2007. This number applies to varied circumstances regarding these adoptions, including private adoptions, open adoptions, international adoptions, family adoptions, and foster care adoptions. Some statistical analysis shows an increase in adoptions, and this is primarily due to the adoption of children with handicaps-children who once would have been deemed unadoptable.

Understanding the Numbers

For adoption statistic tracking purposes, the federal government typically reports those adoptions which have been handled through international adoption processes and through the U.S. foster care system. However, adoptions handled through private agencies and independent adoption facilitators may not be reported, and thus current adoption statistics and the exact number of adoptions processed each year is unknown. Before the year 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau did not include questions regarding the number of adopted children in a household. Today, each decennial census includes this information.

Adoption Facts and Figures

The following facts and figures pertain to annual adoptions in the United States.

  • According to the 2010 U.S. Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) about 2 percent of children under age 18 in the U.S. were living in adoptive households.
  • A little over one-third of all reported adoptions by U.S. citizens are family adoptions.
  • About one-fourth of unrelated domestic adoptions were for infants in 2014.
  • Nine-tenths of unrelated domestic adoptions in 2014 were special needs children.
  • Stepparents, who would fall into the family adoption category, make up the largest single group of adopters.
  • In 2017 about 10 percent of adults report having been adopted as a child according to the Harris Poll.
  • According to the Harris Poll in 2017 only about 8 percent of adults say they adopted a child.
  • Anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of adoptions fail or "disrupt" according to the 2012 report by the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
  • Approximately 60 to 70 percent of domestic adoptions are considered open adoptions.

Adoption Statistics by Race, Gender, and Age

When you break down the information about adopted children, you can see which age groups and types of children are adopted most.

  • More than half of adopted children in 2010 were under age 11.
  • Only about half a percent of all live births in the U.S. resulted in the adoption of a baby according to the NCFA.
  • Roughly 18,000 babies are adopted each year.
  • The 2010 Census ACS shows more girls are adopted annually than boys.
  • Just under half of adopted children are White, non-Hispanic making them the most adopted race or ethnic group.
  • About one-fifth of adopted children in 2010 were Hispanic or Latino and one-fifth were Black or African American.
  • Roughly 25 percent of adopted children in 2010 lived with a householder of a different race.

Adoption Trends

The following trends and statistics were taken from the Children's Bureau, an office of the U.S. Administration for Children & Familes based on the fiscal years of 2008 through 2017. These numbers take into account the number of children served from the first day of the fiscal year to the last day of the fiscal year.

  • Children Served-The number of children served through the foster care system in 2008 was 750,000 while in 20017 it was about 690,000.
  • Awaiting adoption-In 2008, there were approximately 125,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted. By 2017, that number only dropped to 123,000. This number dipped dramatically to around 100,000 from 2011 to 2013 then steadily rose. To determine how many children are waiting to be adopted annually, the term "waiting" refers to children under age 16 who are available for adoption and children whose parents' parental rights have been terminated.
  • Child welfare agency adoptions-In 2008, there were approximately 55,000 children adopted through child welfare agencies. By 2017, the number had risen slightly to 59,000.

International Adoptions

In addition to adoptions handled in the U.S., families often turn to international adoptions, also termed "intercountry" adoptions. International adoption is both rewarding and challenging, and because of the difficulties that surround some international adoptions, the numbers for children adopted from other countries are significantly lower than those adopted within the U.S.

Family with adoptive kid posing and smiling

International Adoption Facts and Statistics

According to the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Consular Affairs, approximately 4,700 children were adopted into the U.S. from other countries in 2017.

  • About 98 percent of all adoptions to the U.S. from China in 2017 were children with special needs.
  • In 2017 83 kids were adopted from the U.S. to other countries.
  • Roughly six times as many kids are adopted to the U.S. from China than any other country.
  • About 200 to 300 children per year are adopted to the U.S. from each of these countries: Ethiopia, Haiti, India, South Korea, and Ukraine.
  • People living in Texas adopted more children from other countries in 2017 than people in any other U.S. state.
  • Approximately one-third of all children adopted from the U.S. to other countries in 2017 were adopted by Canadians.

Worldwide Adoption Statistics

In recent decades, worldwide intercountry adoptions have declined because many countries have stopped allowing these types of adoptions or cut back on them.

  • Orphans are children who have lost one or both parents to death and there were about 140 million orphans worldwide in 2015 says UNICEF.
  • Asia and Africa are the continents with the most orphaned children.
  • The majority of orphans around the world live with a grandparent.
  • Intercountry adoptions are on a decline as there were three times fewer adoptions worldwide in 2013 as in 2003.
  • Between 2005 and 2015 international adoptions worldwide dropped 72 percent.

Adoption Information

Adopting a child offers a wonderful opportunity for parents to add to their family by providing a home to a child who desperately needs one. It is important to remember that the adoption process can take from several months to several years, and it can be quite expensive. If you are interested in adoption, you need to protect your rights and the rights of your prospective child. For more information, visit Adoption.com or Adopt.org.

How Many Children Are Adopted Each Year?