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Important Adoption Statistics to Know

Combatting Common Misconceptions About Adoption

There are many misconceptions about adoption that trouble both prospective birth parents and adoptive families. Adoptive parents may wonder if they will be able to love an adopted child as much as a biological child, and sometimes birth parents worry that their adopted child will have ill feelings toward them, to name a few.

Outside of some adoption professionals, adoption activists and adoptive families and birth parents themselves, little has been done to change these perceptions.

However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has posted the latest adoption statistics taken from the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP). This is the first empirical study with quantifiable evidence that can be used to combat common misconceptions that prospective birth parents and adoptive families have about adoption. These adoption statistics prove many of the more widespread misconceptions to be false.

General Adoption Misconceptions vs. Adoption Statistics in the U.S.

Misconception: “An adopted child won’t be loved as much as a biological child.”

This is a relatively common concern that some adoptive families and birth parents share before entering into an adoption. Any fears of the adoptive family not loving a child simply because he or she doesn’t have their genes are immediately eliminated as soon as the adoptive parents first lay eyes on their baby. This is true in nearly every single adoption.

Look no further than how adoptive parents interact with adopted children: According to the NSAP, nearly three out of every four adopted children ages 0-5 are read to or sang to every day, compared with only half of non-adopted children who receive the same attention from their biological parents.

Furthermore, well over half of all adopted children eat dinner with their families at least six days per week. 

At first glance, these statistics may not seem like much, but they give a glimpse into what adoptive parents are all about. Couples who struggle with infertility gain an astounding appreciation for the gift of parenthood. Adoption presents the couple with another chance to reclaim their dreams of raising a child, and it shows in the little things, such as reading to their child before bed.

It’s no surprise that the statistics on adoption show how much adoptive parents cherish the time they have with their children. They appreciate every day the opportunity to be a mom and a dad, and it shows.

Another national adoption statistic says that 9 out of every 10 adoptive couples said the relationship they share with their adopted child is “very close,” and nearly half said that their relationship is even “better than expected.” Also, more than 9 out of every 10 people said they would “definitely” make the same decision to adopt again.

These statistics are remarkable, especially considering the many complexities that may occur through the adoption process. These statistics prove that no matter how difficult the adoption process can be emotionally, the end result is what matters and that the family unequivocally loves the child.

Birth Mother Misconceptions vs. Statistics About Adoption

Misconception: My child will hate me because I placed her for adoption.”

This feeling was produced by the media and people that are inexperienced in adoption. An extended family member or a friend who may not agree with a pregnant woman’s desire to place her child for adoption may say that the child will hate her if she goes through with it. Similarly, some television shows and movies have unjustly portrayed adoptees in this way as well.

Child adoption statistics show that over 90 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older have positive feelings about their adoption. Most adopted children are raised in happy homes by loving adoptive parents, so why would an adopted child hate his birth parents, the ones who provided him with a great life and his mom and dad?

For more, read about how Scott and Jennifer feel about their birth parents.

Misconception: “Once I place my baby for adoption, I will never see her again.”

At one time, this misconception was not a misconception at all — it was reality. It was thought that the adoption process was easier for each member of the adoption triad if the birth mother went on with her life not knowing anything about her child. However, current adoption statistics reveal that much has changed in the past several decades regarding the amount of openness in adoption.

Today, most adoption professionals agree that at least a semi-open adoption — the post-placement sending of pictures and letters through agency mediation — is good for all parties because it creates healthy relationships between each. Keeping at least some contact with the adoptive family gives the birth mother the peace of mind that she made the right decision by placing the child in a loving, two-parent home. It reminds her that she can feel good about her decision, instead of bottling up her emotions and trying to forget about it.

In fact, 100 percent of all birth mothers have the right to choose the amount of openness in the adoptive relationship, and each birth mother will select the family that is open to her request. This has resulted in 67 percent of private adoptions having pre-adoption agreements of at least a semi-open adoption. The 33 percent that don’t have pre-adoption agreements are at the request of the birth mother.

An open adoption can be a truly beautiful thing.

Misconception: “My child won’t know that she was adopted.”

In the past, adoption was very “hush hush.” The birth mother wouldn’t tell anyone she was pregnant and, in some situations, she would even take a several-month-long vacation to have the baby and place him or her for adoption. Adoptive parents often wouldn’t tell their child that he or she was adopted, just because it was such a delicate topic back then.

As previously noted, the adoption world has changed: Today, 99 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older know that they were adopted.

This is proof that any sort of stigma that adoption may have once had has since lifted, and nearly all adopted children know the story of where they came from and who they are.

Misconception: “Only irresponsible/lazy/selfish mothers choose to place a baby for adoption.”

Sadly, there are some persistent stereotypes out there about the women who consider adoption for their babies, leading some expectant mothers to worry that choosing adoption is wrong or that it makes them a bad person. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, United States adoption statistics suggest that birth mothers are among some of the strongest, bravest and most successful members of society. Just take a look at these adoption facts and statistics about birth mothers:

  • Birth mothers have higher educational aspirations, are more likely to finish school, and less likely to live in poverty and receive public assistance than mothers who parent their children.
  • Birth mothers delay marriage longer, are more likely to eventually marry, and are less likely to divorce.
  • Birth mothers are more likely to be employed 12 months after the birth and less likely to repeat out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
  • Birth mothers are no more likely to suffer negative psychological consequences, such as depression, than are mothers who rear children as single parents.

Source: McLaughlin SD, Manninen DL, Winges LD, Do Adolescents Who Relinquish Their Children Fare Better or Worse Than Those Who Raise Them? Family Planning Perspectives, 20:1 (Jan. - Feb. 1998), pp. 25-32

Adoptive Family Misconceptions vs. Domestic Adoption Statistics

Misconception: “Adopted children are not as healthy as non-adopted children.”

This false misconception stems from the many inaccurate stereotypes about birth mothers. Some think that a prospective birth mother won’t take care of herself and the baby while she is pregnant if she is placing the baby for adoption. This is, quite simply, untrue. 

In fact, 85 percent of adopted children are rated to have “excellent” or “very good” health.  The national average for non-adopted children is 82 percent, according to The National Center for Health Statistics. While some adopted children do, of course, have certain special needs or medical conditions in their background, there is no evidence that they are more likely to experience medical issues than non-adopted children — and the vast majority of infants placed through American Adoptions are healthy newborns.

Misconception: “Adoption agencies withhold relevant information about the adoption, birth mother and child.”

As early as the 1960s, state adoption facilities thought it was better to withhold medical records from adoptive families until the child was 18 years old. They thought that by not disclosing his or her medical history, the child would have a better chance of being adopted. This practice obviously ended up doing more harm than good.

After many lawsuits and a general shift in perception, today state governments, private agencies, and many state laws and regulations mandate that all known medical information is disclosed to the adoptive family. This information is extremely important to have so the adoptive family knows any health concerns about the adopted child, and so the adopted child knows how to take care of him or herself.

Other General U.S. Adoption Statistics

  • 2007 breakdown of adopted children in the United States:
    • Private domestic: 677,000 (38 percent)
    • Foster care: 661,000 (37 percent)
    • International: 440,000 (25 percent).
  • 62 percent of children adopted privately are placed with the adoptive family when they are newborns or less than one year old.
  • 21 percent of private adoptions are transracial.
  • 88 percent of adoptive parents describe themselves as a “happy” couple, while 83 percent of non-adoptive parents describe themselves as a “happy” couple.

Education Adoption Statistics

  • At American Adoptions, more than 95 percent of adoptive families have a high school education, and more than 90 percent have a bachelor’s degree. Nationally, adoptive parents have at least a high school education in 79 percent of private domestic adoptions.
  • Adopted children ages 6-11 are just as likely to read leisurely as non-adopted children.
  • Children adopted privately are more likely to be engaged in school than are children adopted internationally and through foster care.
  • 85 percent of privately adopted children ages 6-17 engage in extracurricular activities.

Home/Neighborhood Adoption Statistics

  • Almost half of privately adopted children are the only child living in the home.
  • Adopted children are more likely to live in neighborhoods that are safe, that have amenities and are in good physical condition than are non-adopted children. 

To learn more about the statistics of adoption, or to start the adoption process, please contact American Adoptions at 1-800-ADOPTION.

Except where noted, all information is taken from the U.S. Department of Health’s 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP).

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is American Adoptions the right adoption agency choice for many birth mothers?

American Adoptions is one of the largest licensed adoption agencies in the United States. Each year, we work with thousands of women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy and offer assistance to these women. Our large, caring staff is able to assist you seven days a week and provide you with one-on-one counseling about your pregnancy and available options.

You should choose an adoption agency where you feel completely comfortable with their services and staff. With American Adoptions, you will work with an Adoption Specialist who is on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Adoption Specialist will be your advocate and will provide support and guidance as you create an adoption plan that is right for you.

How will the family tell my child about me and the adoption when my child is older?

Each family has their own style of introducing adoption to the child. When you are matched with an adoptive family, you can ask them this question. If you would like your Adoption Specialist to discuss it for you, just let her know. He or she can share your wishes or provide good ideas from other adoptive families.

You will also be able to share what you want your baby to know about you. You can complete a keepsake booklet to share hobbies, stories, photos of you and your family and a letter to your baby. The adoptive family can provide this to your child as he or she grows older. Be as creative as you like! Some birth mothers have even knitted a special blanket as a gift to their baby or given a similar symbol of their love.

The father of your baby can fill out the birth father's keepsake booklet or write a letter too. You may have other family members who would also like to share photos or a letter to the baby. This is your opportunity to pass on your and your family's love and to share your personality, history and reasons for choosing adoption. The adoptive family will treasure whatever information you provide and will share it with the baby at an appropriate age. In most adoptive homes, the word adoption is in the child's vocabulary early on, and adoption is celebrated in their lives.

Additional Resources

Teen Pregnancy - Information for Young Women

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Do adoption terms and phrases leave you feeling confused? Learn the meaning to key adoption words and phrases with our comprehensive adoption glossary.

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