Numbers & Trends

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In 1992, there were 127,441 children adopted in the United States. (Flango and Flango, 1994)

In the 1990s, there are approximately 120,000 adoptions of children each year. This number has remained fairly constant in the 1990s, and is still relatively proportionate to population size in the U.S. (Flango and Flango, 1994)

104,000 children were adopted in 1986, 53,000 of whom were related adoptions and 51,000 of whom were unrelated. In addition, approximately 10,000 children were adopted from abroad, bringing the total number of unrelated adoptions to 61,000. (Bachrach, London, Maza, 1991)

The estimated total number of adoptions has ranged from a low of 50,000 in 1944 to a high of 175,000 in 1970. (Maza, 1994) The number of adoptions by unrelated petitioners declined from a high of 89,200 in 1970 to 47,700 in 1975, while the number of adoptions by related petitioners remained constant between 81,000 and 89,000 during this period. (Maza, 1984)

The National Center for State Courts, Court Statistics Project, has released detailed adoption statistics for the decade 1985 to 1995, and the years 1988 to 1997. The statistics are available for 29 states only and only include data collected from State courts, and are presented in these areas:

There are Several Types of Adoptions:

  1. Public:

    Children in the public child welfare system are placed in permanent homes by public, government-operated agencies, or by private agencies contracted by a public agency to place waiting children. In 1992, 15.5% of adoptions (19,753) were public agency adoptions. (Flango and Flango, 1994)

    Between 1951 and 1975 the percentage of adoptive placements by public agencies more than doubled from 18% in 1951 to 38% in 1975 (Maza, 1984), and has since fallen to approximately 15% to 20% of all adoptions. (Flango and Flango, 1994)

  2. Private:

    In a private agency adoption, children are placed in non-relative homes through the services of a non-profit or for-profit agency which may be licensed by the State in which it operates. In an independent or non-agency adoption, children are placed in non-relative homes directly by the birthparents or through the services of one of the following: a licensed or unlicensed facilitator, certified medical doctor, member of the clergy, or attorney. There were 47,627 adoptions (37.5%) of this type in 1992. (Flango and Flango, 1994)

    The highest percentage of adoptions completed by private agencies was 45% in 1970. Between 1951 and 1975, the percentage of adoptive placements not made under agency auspices declined substantially from 53% of all adoptions in 1951 to 23% of all adoptions in 1975. The lowest percentage was in 1971 and 1972 when independent adoptions constituted only 21% of all reported adoptions. (Maza, 1984)

  3. Kinship:

    Children are placed in relatives' homes, with or without the services of a public agency.

  4. Stepparent:

    Children are adopted by the spouse of one birth parent.

    Of adoptions in 1992, the plurality (53,525, or 42%) were either kinship or stepparent adoptions. (Flango and Flango, 1994)

    The proportion of adoptions by related individuals steadily increased from 1944 to 1975 until they constituted over 60% of all adoptions. Since almost all adoptions by related petitioners are handled independently, it is likely that by the 1970's a substantial proportion of independent adoptions were by related petitioners. (Maza, 1984) The late 1980s and 1990s showed dramatic increases in kinship placements in public agency adoptions as children entering foster care were placed in the homes of relatives, and these placements were finalized as kinship adoptions.

  5. Transracial:

    Children are placed with an adoptive family of another race. While these placements may be made by either a public or private agency, or may be independent, the term usually refers to the adoption of a child through the public child welfare system. The most recent estimates, which include intercountry adoptions, found that 8% of adoptions were transracial. (Stolley, 1993)

  6. Intercountry/International:

    Children who are citizens of a foreign nation are adopted by U.S. families and brought to the United States. This area of adoption has been practiced since the 1950's, but has shown a dramatic increased in the past decade. In 1992, there were 6,536(5%)international adoptees brought to the United States; in 1997, that number increased to 13,620. (United States Department of State)

States with the highest number of adoptions are states with greater populations. In 1992, California lead with 14,722 adoptions. New York was second with 9,570, Texas third with 8,235, Florida fourth with 6,839, and Illinois fifth with 6,599 adoptions. (Flango and Flango, 1994)

It is estimated that about 1 million children in the United States live with adoptive parents, and that between 2% to 4% of American families include an adopted child. (Stolley, 1993)

The majority of Americans are personally affected by adoption. In 1997, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute conducted a benchmark survey of 1,554 adults to examine public attitudes toward the institution of adoption and members of the adoption triad. The survey found that 6 in 10 Americans have had personal experience with adoption, meaning that they themselves, a family member, or a close friend was adopted, had adopted a child, or had placed a child for adoption. (Evan B. Donaldson Institute, 1997)

There are no statistics or estimates of the number of adults adopted each year.


Bachrach, C.A., London, K.A. and Maza, P. (1991). On the path to adoption: adoption seeking in the U.S., 1998. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53(3), 705-718.

Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. (1997). Benchmark adoption survey: report on the findings. New York: Evan B. Donaldson Institute.

Flango, V. and Flango, C. (1994). The flow of adoption information from the from the states. Williamsburg,VA: National Center for State Courts.

Maza, P.L. (1984). Adoption trends: 1944-1975. Child Welfare Research Notes #9.

Stolley, K.S. (1993). Statistics on adoption in the United States. The Future of Children: Adoption, 3(1),26-42.

This material may be reproduced and distributed without permission, however, appropriate citation must be given to the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.

Visitor Comments (4)
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Fernando - 3 years ago
0 0 3
quite informative, but it would be especially helpful if numbers of newborns adopted would also be available. #1
kess - 6 months ago
could the number of adoptions pre year world wide be there? #2
bberlin - 9 months ago
it would also b nice if the number of kids put up for adoption were there #3
bob - 2 years ago
0 1 0
hisdfsfuiebfjkewjfewhjfnejnfjnewfnkjefn #4

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