How Many Children Are Adopted Each Year?

Susie McGee
Mom and young daughter embracing

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 American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, approximately 120,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. 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 show 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 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, censuses typically include that question.

Adoption Facts and Figures

The following facts and figures pertain to annual adoptions:

  • Nearly half of all reported adoptions by U.S. citizens are family adoptions.
  • The other half comprises what's often referred to as "stranger adoptions," meaning the child is unrelated to his adoptive parents.
  • Stepparents, who would fall into the family adoption category, make up the largest single group of adopters.
  • According to the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Consular Affairs, over 21,000 children were adopted through international adoptions in 2003.
  • The U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Consular Affairs also states that approximately 51,000 children were adopted through the U.S. foster care system.

Adoption Trends

The following trends and statistics were taken from the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Consular Affairs based on the fiscal years of 2002 through 2009.

  • Awaiting adoption-In 2002, there were approximately 134,000 children waiting to be adopted. By 2009, that number had dropped to 115,000. The term "waiting" refers to children who are available for adoption and children whose parents' parental rights have been terminated. This term does not apply to children who are 16 years or older.
  • Child welfare agency adoptions-In 2002, there were approximately 51,000 children adopted through child welfare agencies. By 2009, the number had risen slightly to 57,000.

The above 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.

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. According to the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Consular Affairs, approximately 20,000 children have been adopted annually from other countries over the past 10 years.

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 or

How Many Children Are Adopted Each Year?