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How Long Does Adoption Take?

Data from the 2006 Adoptive Families Timing Survey



The results of our annual poll are in! Good news: Most parents, whether they adopted domestically or internationally, brought their children home within a year. Here, you'll find breakdowns of referral and at-home times by the five major countries of origin.

U.S.A.: Surprise, Surprise!

The wait for a domestic newborn is shorter than you think. More than half of prospective parents (59%) were matched with a birthmother within six months. Nearly a third (29%) got "The Call" after birth, without a prematch. About one third (31%) of families experienced one or more failed adoptions before adopting.

Average time from preparation of portfolio to match with birthmother of adopted child (excludes time spent in failed adoption):

  • 6 months or less: 59%
  • 12 months or less: 82%

Time from birthmother match to birth of child:
  • less than 3 months: 51%
  • matched after birth: 29%

Time between birth and the day that baby came home:
  • less than 1 week: 57%
  • less than 2 weeks: 71%

Families that experienced one or more failed adoptions before successfully adopting: 31%
Of the 31% that experienced failed adoptions, proportion that failed after birth: 22%

Ethnicity of baby:
  • Caucasian: 50%
  • African-American: 16%
  • Asian/Bi-/Multiracial/Other: 28%
  • Latino: 6%

China: Consistency Is Key

This country's orderly process makes start-to-finish times most predictable. Although families may wait seven to 12 months for a referral, most (95%) met their children just there months after receiving it. No parents spent more than three weeks overseas.

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

  • 3 months or less: 6%
  • 6 months or less: 21%
  • 9 months or less: 60%

Time from referral until child came home:
  • 3 months or less: 95%
  • 6 months or less: 98%

Length of time spent in China:
  • 3 weeks or less: 95%

Made gender a requirement and specified a:
  • girl: 47%
  • boy: 1%

Russia: Travel Takes Time

The two visits required for adoption could add up. More than a third of parents' stays totaled three weeks or more. Most referrals (71%) came within six months of completing the paperwork. And, just three months after that, 72% took their child home.

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

  • 1 months or less: 26%
  • 3 months or less: 48%
  • 6 months or less: 71%

Time from referral until child came home:
  • 3 months or less: 72%
  • 6 months or less: 90%

Length of time spent in Russia, including both trips:
  • 3 weeks or less: 63%

Made gender a requirement and specified a:
  • girl: 37%
  • boy: 19%

Guatemala: A Later Wait

Quick referrals delight parents-to-be, but then comes the wait. Although most (83%) learned their baby's identity within three months, another four to six passed before their travel date.

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

  • 1 months or less: 54%
  • 3 months or less: 83%
  • 6 months or less: 91%

Time from referral until child came home:
  • 3 months or less: 8%
  • 6 months or less: 58%
  • 9 months or less: 82%

Length of time spent in Guatemala:
  • 3 weeks or less: 98%

Made gender a requirement and specified a:
  • girl: 37%
  • boy: 10%

Korea: Home Delivery
Wait times are about average. Although adopters don't need to travel, a third of the parents we surveyed made the trip. Of these travelers, most stayed less than a week. Almost three-fourths (71%) had their referral six months after completing their paperwork.

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

  • 1 months or less: 13%
  • 3 months or less: 41%
  • 6 months or less: 71%

Time from referral until child came home:
  • 3 months or less: 41%
  • 6 months or less: 84%

Of those who traveled, length of time spent in Korea:
  • 3 weeks or less: 96%

Made gender a requirement and specified a:
  • girl: 12%
  • boy: 4%


Source: AF online survey of about 2,000 adoptive parents, conducted February through April 2006.

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