In a lot of categories, there were marked increases in adoption rates during the period beginning in 1996 and ending in 2002. According to adoption statistics, on the whole, both domestic and intercountry adoptions to the United States went up.
Meanwhile, some adoption statistics indicate no change or a decrease in the rate of incidence along certain variables. Interestingly enough, despite more children being born out of wedlock at the end of the specified period, the NCFA also reports that fewer children were put up for adoption than in years past.
Of course, these are bittersweet trends. While it may be good that some birth mothers are forgoing adoption, one may wonder if the spike in the rate of extramarital births is related to planned pregnancies of minors.
These overall adoption statistics may be bittersweet as well. While increases in adoptions are usually a positive thing, there is the concern with such a trend that people who are not well-suited to be adoptive parents may secure custody rights through an agency.
In instances where biological parents are unable to take care of their children based on substance abuse, absenteeism, or some other limiting factor, kinship adoption, also known as familial or family adoption, is a natural alternative sought out by relatives of disaffected children and public adoption agencies alike. Indeed, the reasons for domestic kinship adoption are numerous.
One of the more common justifications is that family adoption is a means of preservation of family, even if it does not involve immediate birth parents. If nothing else, family ties to children in some form are maintained, and perhaps better yet, this keeps them out of the child welfare system.
In addition, for more capable relatives, kinship adoption presents the opportunity for children to start fresh in a presumably safe environment where they are likewise legally and financially protected. With just these few considerations, it is thus considerably easy to understand why family adoption is so prevalent in the United States today.
Some statistical notes:
It should be emphasized that not all instances of kinship adoption are subsequent to a child previously living with one or more parents. Especially when a child is conceived out of wedlock and a birth mother decides to give up her rights to custody upon birth, a family member may intervene to provide the child with a home. According to the most recent statistics published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, out of all cases of family adoption since 2002, less than three-quarters of children had ever lived with their birth family.
Nonetheless, the rate of kinship adoption in the United States following a child’s life with one or more birth parents, even for a short time, is still high compared to that of non-relative adoptions on the domestic level. While percentages of family adoption across State and even international lines in this category consistently rank in the seventies, only about one-third of all non-relative adoptive families can claim their child once lived with his or her biological parents, and this plummets to one-sixth for non-relatives who adopt.
Out of all domestic adoptions, though, family adoption is still quite prevalent, especially in private adoptions. Whether through an agency, attorney or other agreement, over 40% of children adopted over the past decade or so have been adopted by relatives.
Many times, kinship adoption transpires with amicable intent to adopt from the relative who takes a child into his or her home. Nonetheless, it is not unrealistic that some biological relatives will raise children out of pity or guilt. In such a scenario, it is important for adoptive parents to try as hard as possible to not communicate this much to their adoptees, lest the children react adversely to such an attitude.
Building on its reputation of accepting people of all ages through legal immigration, in terms of international adoption of children, the United States is one of the foremost adopting countries, if not the top-ranked country. Annually, America is responsible for over 10,000 adoptions across international lines.
Though, as stated, the United States is not only the sponsor of intercountry adoption, as one of the biggest sponsors, we would be remiss if we did not consider how important it is to the practice of adopting the world’s children and vice-versa. According to 2007 U.S. Health and Human Services statistics, international adoption has been responsible for about a quarter of all domestic adoptions.
Despite downward slides in rates of international adoption in the United States compared to other English-speaking countries, it still is far and away a more probable conduit for foreign-born children to be adopted. For instance, in the whole period from 2002 to 2008, the United Kingdom reported less than 2,500 total cases of intercountry adoption. Australia, too, has been characterized by a low acceptance of non-native children into new families based on factors such as wait time and overall cost.
In particular recent years, less than 500 international adoptions have been reported. Even a country with as much land as Canada pales in comparison to the United States. International adoption between all provinces and territories does not even come close to 10,000 total claims.
On the other hand, residents of some countries actually look to intercountry adoption as a means of circumventing their nation’s more rigid adoption policies. In 2006, Italian nationals adopted some three times more foreign-born children than domestic-born minors.
The most recent surveys of domestic adoption may not reflect the most current information on the subject, as regulation of adoption practices is incumbent upon individual states, and in turn, figures on the adoption of children in America from each of those states takes time to collect. In evaluating trends of intercountry adoption to the United States, two main geographical considerations must be taken into mind: the destination of adoptees upon arrival and the country from which they came.
Regarding the former, the adoption of children from foreign countries was predominant in a handful of states. In the fiscal year 2004, only six states reported adoption totals of immigrant orphans over 1,000 children: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
In terms of individual states, California was the highest for foreign adoption. However, as a region, East North Central America (Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois) saw the greatest influx of foreign-born children who were adopted. These trends have remained largely unchanged as of late.
Another fairly static category in terms of rankings of the adoption of children born abroad is the country of origin. It is foreign adoption as a whole that has seen more ups and downs than consistency as of late. In the three decades leading up to 2004, adoption of children from foreign countries steadily rose in incidence.
Since 2004, though, intercountry adoptions have taken a nosedive with greater restrictions in place. In fact, total adoptions to the United States have been almost cut in half in that time span.
When many people conceptualize interracial adoption or at the very least get a mental picture of it, they envision Americans adopting children from impoverished African and Asian nations to fill voids in their lives.
Unfortunately for them, some prospective adoptive parents are not too keen on interracial adoption. Though most children do come to find out they were adopted, in the early going, adoptive parents might not be prepared to inform their children that they are not their birth parents.
The above is explained to a large extent by the populations of children in foster care. About half of children adopted from public sources are either Hispanic or non-Hispanic blacks, whereas less than 40% of private domestic adoptees are members of the same minority groups.
Though not our primary focus, but for the sake of perspective, the disparities between racial groups in interracial adoptions loom larger with regard to international adoption. In fact, whites, blacks and Hispanics together are a minority compared with the most frequent targets of interracial adoption: Asian children.
Perhaps the most striking numbers pertaining to transracial adoption are those of who are adopting. Whereas the majority of adoptees in foster care settings are blacks and Latinos, a majority of adopters (over 60%) are non-Hispanic whites. The divide grows with regard to private adoptions and intercountry, interracial adoptions. Respectively, adoptive parents are white some 71% and 92% of the time.
As perhaps the name implies, private adoption is pretty much the antithesis of public adoption. As one might expect, relatives are more likely to engage in private adoption than public adoption.
While child adoption may represent children of all ages, with private adoption, infant adoption is decidedly more likely. Of all of the private adoptions in the United States as of 2007, a remarkable 60% of them involved children who were one month of age or less upon placement.
As some people might argue makes it the better option, private adoption is more than twice as likely as public adoption to foster pre-adoption agreements on open adoption. In addition, as of 2007 private adoptions are almost 30 percentage points higher than public adoptions on the variable of maintaining that contact.
In terms of yet another difference for private adoption and public adoption in the United States, in the former, a child much more frequently is an only child. Therefore, in private adoptions, it is much less common to see multiple biological siblings adopted together.
In terms of what types of special needs affect children who are adopted in this country, they are numerous. Special needs adoptions have seen greater numbers and greater percentages of the whole over time. The National Council For Adoption viewed figures of adoptive parents choosing special needs children for adoption alongside all unrelated domestic adoptions.
Perhaps the most important statistic concerning special needs adoptions is how many potential adoptions may be yet to come. According to some estimates, over 150,000 children with special needs are still living in foster care and will continue to do so until they are given a permanent home.
Apparent rises in numbers of step-parent adoptions are perhaps more easily understandable than other forms of adoption, noting the concordant change in the face of the American family. With high rates of divorce and new attitudes on the traditional family taking shape, more and more, step-families are supplanting families helmed by two married, biological parents.
In fact, according to some estimators and theorists (e.g. the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse), step-parent adoption is the most common form of adoption in many countries. At least in Great Britain, step-parent adoptions over the past 15 years have seen rates as high as one-third to one-half of all adoptions counted.
In the United States, estimates tend to be much more conservative, perhaps poetic in a way because of more “conservative” attitudes toward marriage, specifically gay marriage. A recent study conducted at Iowa State University suggests that as little as 5% of children are adopted by a step-parent in a mixed birth parent/step-parent living arrangement, though small sample sizes and errors in reporting are understandable threats to the validity of the study.
Estimates on step-parent adoption are further limited by failures to dissect the different circumstances that cause step-parenthood. Though often a stepfather is the one to adopt, a non-biological mother may also realistically wish to secure legal rights to raise a child.