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November 21st is National Adoption Day


Each year on November 21st, adoption awareness advocates recognize and celebrate National Adoption Day. A group of national adoption organizations – including The Dave Thomas Foundation, The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights, and The Children’s Action Network – held the first National Adoption Day on November 18th, 2000.

That day, this group of adoption advocacy organizations lobbied the adoption courts in nine U.S. cities to open their doors on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to finalize pending adoptions from foster care, so that those children waiting for their permanent homes could celebrate Thanksgiving with their new families.

This creation of National Adoption day was directly inspired by the efforts of Michael Nash, a retired juvenile court judge from Los Angeles who opened his court on Saturdays in order to reduce the backlog on legal adoption proceedings in his district, one of the busiest in the country.

Though Judge Nash receives credit for National Adoption Day, the national adoption advocacy movement began in 1976, when Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts announced Massachusetts Adoption Week to promote adoption for kids in the foster care system. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan made Massachusetts initiated National Adoption Week. In 1995, President Bill Clinton expanded National Adoption Week to include the entire month of November.

During his tenure in office, President Clinton expanded initiatives to increase adoption in the U.S., including efforts to:

  • Expand the use of the internet to facilitate adoptions
  • Make adoption more affordable
  • Give states more flexibility and support to tailor adoption laws, rules, and regulations to meet state and local needs
  • Minimize racial and ethnic barriers to adoption
  • Legalize support and family leave for newly adoptive parents

Two and a half decades later, National Adoption Week and National Adoption Day are still going strong.

Adoption in the U.S.

Adoption is far more common than most people realize. In fact, about 31% of our total population has at least one adopted family member in their immediate family – that’s about one hundred million people in the U.S. with direct experience of adoption.

Before we report the latest prevalence statistics on adoption, we encourage you to read our four-part series on adoption from 2019. These articles take a deep dive on adoption in teens, the special issues they face, and how parents of adopted teens can best support their adopted kids – especially when they ask questions like, “Will I ever meet my birth parents?”

If the topic of adoption interests you, please take the time to read these articles:

November is Adoption Awareness Month: A Focus on Adopted Teens

Adoption Awareness Month: The Challenges for Adopted Teens

How to Help an Adopted Teen Navigate Adolescence

Adoption Awareness Month: Adoption and Early Trauma

To read about the current rates of adoption in the U.S. and learn how you can become an adoption advocate on National Adoption Day, read on.

The Latest Statistics on Adoption

You may know someone who was adopted or someone born into a family with an adopted family member. You may know someone who adopted a child or you may be an adopted person yourself. We compiled the following set of adoption statistics from The Adoption Network, The Adoption Council, The Children’s Action Network, The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare.

Adoption Stats: United States

  • About 7 million people in the U.S. are adopted.
  • Roughly 1.5 million of those people are children, accounting for around 1 in every 50 kids in the U.S.
  • 135,000 children are adopted in the U.S. every year
    • 59% come from foster homes or the child welfare system
    • 37% adopted by relatives
    • 26% adopted from other countries
    • 15% put up for adoption voluntarily by U.S. citizens
  • Over 18,000 infants were adopted in 2014
    • 62% of adopted infants were placed with adoptive parents within a month of birth
  • The average age at adoption is 5 years old.

We’ll now offer a related set of statistics – this time on foster care. Although many people arrange adoption while the birth mother is pregnant with the adoptive child, there are a large number of children in the foster care system awaiting adoption. Here are the latest statistic on children in the foster care system in the U.S.

Foster Facts 2019: United States

  • 424,000 kids in the U.S. live in foster care
    • The average age of a child in foster care is 7 years old
    • 52% are male
    • 48% are female
  • 251,000 kids entered foster care in 2019
    • 47,147 were infants
    • 147,623 were between age 1 and 12
    • 54,295 were age 13-18
  • Over 200,000 of the kids who entered foster care in 2019 entered because of:
    • Neglect
    • Physical abuse
    • Sexual abuse
    • Abandonment
  • 23,000 kids age out of foster care each year
  • 65% of foster kids experience more than (7) school changes between kindergarten and 12th grade
    • 70% of foster kids want to go to college
    • 15% go to college
    • 3% earn college degrees

We’ll finish this facts and figures section with two more statistics it’s important to know. Around 20% of adults (25-64) in the U.S. express interest in adopting kids from foster care. That’s over 30 million people. Last year, however, families adopted only 66,035 kids from foster care. Data shows that in addition to those kids adopted from foster care, families adopt around 70,000 kids from other sources every year, for a total of about 135,000 adoptions per year.

If 30 million adults each year show interest in adopting kids, that means less than one percent follow through on their interest.

Adopting in the U.S.

According to the Children’s Action Network, the large gap between those interested in adopting children and those who adopt children is caused by a lack of knowledge about the adoption process. Many families who inquire about adoption from foreign countries or adoption agencies find cost estimates ranging from $20,000 – 50,000.

That’s enough to put many families off the idea of adoption.

However, these families should also know about the option of adopting from foster care. The non-profit organization Creating a Family indicates the cost of adopting a child from foster care ranges from no cost at all – yes, $0.00 – to around $2,500.

That’s a huge difference.

Help for Adopting Families

To encourage the swift adoption of children from the foster system, the U.S. Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, with the mandate that children in foster care who cannot be reunited with their parents be placed with permanent families as quickly as possible.

In addition, various companies and government agencies now offer incentives to adopt, such as:

  • Adoption assistance as part of employee benefits packages
  • Time off for maternity/paternity leave for adopting families
  • $14,300 (2019) federal tax credit for adopting families

These programs enable families who want children to adopt children, and children awaiting adoption in the foster system to find a permanent place with a loving family. There are over a hundred thousand children in foster care in the U.S. right now ready for adoption. They range in age from infants under the age of one to school age kids to teenagers. All of them need loving homes, devoted parents, and the solid foundation of support and kindness that will prepare them to grow into healthy, thriving, and productive adults.

If you or anyone you know wants to adopt a child, please share what you learn in this article with them. There are kids out there waiting to meet them.

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