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Suggested resources and other information for beginning research on the topic of adoption.


Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting of another, usually a child, from that person's biological or legal parent or parents. Legal adoptions permanently transfer all rights and responsibilities, along with filiation, from the biological parent or parents.

Unlike guardianship or other systems designed for the care of the young, adoption is intended to effect a permanent change in status and as such requires societal recognition, either through legal or religious sanction.


Foster care adoption is the adoption of a child in foster care whose biological parents’ rights have been terminated by a court. The child may be adopted by either his or her foster parents or another adoptive family. Families who want to pursue a straight adoption from foster care don’t always have to become foster parents first; however, there are some states that list becoming an approved foster parent first as one of their elegibility requirements. Families who do become foster parents and then later end up adopting are also pursuing a form of foster parent adoption called foster-to-adopt.

Meanwhile, a permanent family will be sought for the child, usually beginning with relatives. If no relative is found for adoption, the foster family will often have the next opportunity to adopt the child (known as “foster to adopt”). At this point, if the foster family is not interested or able to adopt, the child becomes a “waiting child” until a permanent home is found for them. This is when the state will look for families who are interested in adopting from their state foster care system.

Considering Adoption

On any given day, over 437,000 children are living in the U.S. foster care system and the number has been rising. Over 125,000 of these children are eligible for adoption and they will wait, on average, four years for an adoptive family.

In 2018, 56% of the children who left foster care were reunited with their families or living with a relative; 25% were adopted.

Of the over 61,000 children and youth who were adopted in 2018:

  • 51% were adopted by their foster parent(s) and 35% by a relative. 
  • 26% were age 9 years or older. 
  • Of the families who adopted children from foster care, 68% were married couples, 25% single females, 3% single males, and 3% unmarried couples.

Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute

A Domestic Infant Adoption is the adoption of a baby born within the United States by a family that lives in the United States. Domestic infant adoptions occur when a birth parent legally consents to an adoptive placement and an adoptive family is prepared to care for the child as their legal parents.

Most of the domestic infant adoptions that occur today feature some degree of openness. This means the birth parents who agree to the adoption of the child have ongoing contact with the child and adoptive family as the child grows older. Open adoption relationships are negotiated through enforceable contracts known as post-placement contact agreements. The opposite of an open adoption is known as a “closed adoption”. Closed adoptions have fallen out of favor in recent decades because most behavioral experts agree that maintaining an open relationship between adoptive and birth families is best for adoptees and their first families.

Families from every background can adopt an infant in the United States.

Adoptions Together

International adoption (or intercountry adoption) is the placement of a child from another country with a family from the United States.  Countries throughout the world allow children to be adopted into the United States when they can’t be cared for in their home country.

The process of adopting a child from another country varies greatly, as it is governed by the laws of United States (both federal and state law) and the laws of the country where the child was born.  However, the United States requires that every intercountry adoption follow certain procedures. Most include the following steps:

1. Select an adoption service provider.

2. Gain approval to adopt.

3. Be matched with a child.

4. Adopt or gain legal custody of the child in their birth country.

5. Obtain a visa for the child moving to the United States.

6. Travel home with the child.

7. Re-adoption and finalization.

International adoptions can be a long and arduous process. But if you remain positive and patient, you will make it to the finish line and you will bring home your child.

American Adoptions

Of the 594,000 same-sex couple households in the United States, 115,000 have children. Some people say that children need both a mother and a father to raise them, but there are many others who believe that gender does not matter when parenting. Over the years, the number of children living with LGBT parents has risen tremendously. As the trend continues, that number will only increase, as same sex adoption and parenting becomes more and more widely accepted.

Here are some additional statistics supporting gay adoption in the United States:

  • Researchers estimate the total number of children nationwide living with at least one gay parent ranges from 6 to 14 million.
  • An estimated two million LGBT people are interested in adopting.
  • Gay and lesbian parents are raising four percent of all adopted children in the United States.
  • More than 16,000 same-sex couples are raising an estimated 22,000 adopted children in the United States.
  • More than 16,000 adopted children are living with lesbian and gay parents in California, the highest number in the United States.
  • Same-sex parents in the United States are four times more likely than different-sex parents to be raising an adopted child. Among couples with children under the age of 18 in the home, 13% of same-sex parents have an adopted child, compared to just 3% of different-sex parents.
  • The median age of same-sex adoptive parents is 42, as opposed to 44 for comparable opposite-sex parents.
  • Same-sex couples in all states can petition for joint adoption statewide. Couples may be required to be in a legally recognized relationship, such as a marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership.
  • States that explicitly allow same-sex couples to petition for a second parent adoption include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington D.C., Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

Lifelong Adoptions

Transracial (interracial) adoption is the adoption of a child into a family of a different race and can occur either internationally or domestically. Transracial adoptions make up the majority (85%) of international adoptions and 40% of all domestic adoptions and most transracial adoptive families consist of white American parents and an adoptee of color. 

In terms of intercountry adoption, the United States has been the largest recipient of adoptees from other countries since 1970. The majority of these children are from Eastern countries, with most coming from Asia, particularly from South Korea and China. South Korea remained the top “sending” country to the United States from the 1950s to the 1980s.The trend in adoption of Korean children by White American families stemmed from the United States’ engagement in the Korean War. Children were orphaned, and those who were biracial—the offspring of Korean women and U.S. servicemen—were highly stigmatized in Korea. Between 1999 and 2018, more than 20,000 Korean children were adopted into the United States. In the case of China, the One Child Policy, enforced beginning in 1979, led to the abandonment of tens of thousands of Chinese babies, primarily females. After allowing intercountry adoption beginning in 1992, China quickly became the main source of transracial adoptees to the United States. For nearly every year between 1995 and 2017, China remained the top sending country to the United States with a total of more than 80,000 Chinese children who have been adopted.

As a result of the increase in transracial adoptions, a growing number of transracial adoptees entered, and continue to enter, K–12 school systems. Once transracial adoptees enter the school system, they may face a variety of challenges to developing a sense of inclusion. For example, adoptees in middle childhood often must field unintentionally offensive remarks and invasive questions from their nonadopted peers regarding their differences in racial appearance and their adoptive status. Because most transracial adoptees are children of color, they experience discrimination based on their racial status, particularly in middle childhood when children have a heightened awareness of racial differences.

Transracial adoptees may experience a sense of racial isolation because many grow up as one of the few, or only, children of color within their school, neighborhood, or larger community. Lacking support from others who implicitly understand their racialized lived experience leaves transracial adoptees feeling extremely alone. Thus, when their children share the experiences of being teased, stigmatized, excluded, singled out, or somehow made to feel “other” because of their racial background, their status as adopted children, and/or their status as transracial adoptees, adoptive parents may be unprepared to effectively support them.

American School Counselor Association

If you are a parent wanting to adopt transracially there are questions you need to ask yourself. Can you see yourself parenting a child of another race? Will you be able to prepare your family to experience racism now that you are a transracial family? Will you be able to ask questions about culture, not be afraid of saying the wrong thing or embarrassed not knowing the answer? Do you have any ongoing relationships with people of different ethnicities? How will your family and friends feel? Will they accept your child?

There are many, highly successful transracial adoptions, but families who succeed will tell you that it took real effort to help their child know how to handle racism and develop a good self-concept including a positive racial identity.

Right Turn


Statistics reveal that nearly one-quarter of children are growing up in single-parent households, while almost 25% of adoptions are single-parent adoptions. It is not just the numbers that lend credence to domestic single parent adoption. Plenty of research studies have shown that children raised by single parents have experienced just as positive outcomes as children adopted by couples.

Single parents also have plenty of benefits to offer for children who need a home. Single parents invariably have had happy and fulfilling childhoods and they want to share that experience with their adopted child. Moreover, they have the same commitment and devotion as married couples when it comes to their approach towards adoption and are equally capable of providing a stable, loving and nurturing environment at home for a child. Adoptive single parents use family and friends for extended support and give their child full attention. They are secure with financial planning for the future and a vast majority of them are settled in their careers.

At present, adoption laws and regulations are favorable for single parent adoption across the United States (in all 50 states), be it a single mother or a single father who petitions a court to adopt a child.

In domestic private placement adoptions, birth parents select the adoptive parent(s) with whom they want to place the baby. This causes fear in the minds of some single parents that birth parents will more likely choose a couple to adopt. However, in reality, there is a lot of subjectivity in the birth parents’ choices, and a majority of birth parents do not express a preference and just want a wonderful home for their baby. They consider all family types without discrimination and make their choice based upon the connection they feel towards the adoptive parent(s).

Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn't establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder may develop if the child's basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren't met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established.

Adoptive children are at an increased risk for reactive attachment disorder, which results from the disruption of the attachment process by neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or frequent change in the primary caregivers in the first few years of the child's life.

Reactive attachment disorder can start in infancy. There's little research on signs and symptoms of reactive attachment disorder beyond early childhood, and it remains uncertain whether it occurs in children older than 5 years.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Unexplained withdrawal, fear, sadness or irritability
  • Sad and listless appearance
  • Not seeking comfort or showing no response when comfort is given
  • Failure to smile
  • Watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction
  • Failing to ask for support or assistance
  • Failure to reach out when picked up
  • No interest in playing peekaboo or other interactive games

Mayo Clinic

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Suggested Websites

American Adoption Congress

The American Adoption Congress (AAC) is an International organization devoted to family connections by providing the needed education for all members of the adoption constellation as well as those professionals within:

  • adoption
  • foster care
  • assisted reproduction

Child Welfare Information Gateway

Child Welfare Information Gateway promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families by connecting child welfare, adoption, and related professionals as well as the public to information, resources, and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more.

Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right to a family.

Considering Adoption

Gay adoption facts you need to know.

Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is the only public nonprofit charity in the United States that is focused exclusively on foster care adoption. 

National Council for Adoption

Meets the diverse needs of children, birth parents, adopted individuals, adoptive families, and all those touched by adoption through global advocacy, education, research, legislative action, and collaboration.



Every year, thousands of children are adopted by parents of a different race – what we call "transracial adoption." It can provide tremendous benefits, like a higher quality of living & a better education – but a significant psychological toll, too. In this courageous talk, American Indian adoptee Susan Devan Harness shares her own experience & some helpful lessons for prospective adoptive parents.