Timing of Adoption Update: 2012-2013

Our survey data on the average length of time it takes to complete an adoption from the 2012-2013 Adoptive Families Cost and Timing of Adoption Survey .

Each year Adoptive Families turns to our readers to help us tell the real story about the average cost and length of time it takes to complete an adoption. We’re grateful to every one of you who pitched in and took our 2012-2013 survey.

Here’s what you shared about the waiting period to adopt a newborn or foster child in the U.S., or to adopt from one of the five most active sending countries.

Please feel free to cite these results, but be sure to link back and credit Adoptive Families magazine as the source.

 U.S. Newborn Adoption

AGENCY (79% of U.S. newborn respondents)

Average time from preparation of profile to match with expectant mother (includes time spent in false starts):

24% – Less than 3 months
16% – 4 to 6 months
26% – 7 to 12 months
21% – 13 to 24 months
13% – Longer than 24 months

Time between birth and legal finalization:

61% – Less than 6 months
33% – 7 to 12 months
6% – Longer than 12 months

ATTORNEY (21% of U.S. newborn respondents)

Average time from preparation of profile to match with expectant mother (includes time spent in false starts):

34% – Less than 3 months
17% – 4 to 6 months
17% – 7 to 12 months
20% – 13 to 24 months
12% – Longer than 24 months

Time between birth and legal finalization:

62% – Less than 6 months
30% – 7 to 12 months
8% – Longer than 12 months

  • 38% of respondents experienced at least one false start. Of these families, 34% worked with the expectant mother one month or less.
  • 35% of respondents were matched less than one month before their child was born. 12% were matched after the child had already been born.
  • 61% finalized within six months.

What readers say about the time it takes to adopt a newborn in the U.S.:

“We were matched before our agency approval letter got to our house.”

“We had to wait 10 months BEFORE we could even start paperwork/application/homestudy because our agency liked to have a small pool of parents.”

“We started with one agency and then, after two years, we switched to a different agency. Then we were matched in eight months.”

“The birth mom voluntarily signed termination papers; however, the birth father did not. His rights were terminated by the court. This is the reason it took 10 months to finalize.”

“We received ‘The Call’ four days after our profiles were sent out. Our son was due three months later, but arrived in two. From application to placement was four months for us. Whew!”

“Our 2012 adoption was an ICWA adoption, which required additional time for court appearances and communication with the tribe. It added an additional six weeks to the process.”

U.S. Foster Adoption

Adoptions in FY 2012: 52,039

Adoptions in FY 2013: 50,608

Average time from foster certification to placement of child ultimately adopted:

20% – Less than 1 month
18% – 2 to 3 months
15% – 4 to 6 months
20% – 7 to 12 months
27% – Longer than 12 months

Time from placement to finalization:

18% – Less than 6 months
29% – 7 to 12 months
13% – 13 to 18 months
18% – 19 to 24 months
22% – Longer than 2 years

  •  32% had placements that did not end in adoption. For 31% of these families, the placement lasted for longer than one year.

What readers say about the time it takes to adopt from U.S. foster care:

“I was the first foster placement for my children so they had to go through the whole process of trying for reunification and then TPR and then a ‘maybe’ relative and then us!”

“We found out about the child from the agency, and just two weeks later we had custody. The child had to wait just under three months for finalization because of our state’s law.”

“In month five, the birth mother, who had been absent until then, came back and said she wanted custody. She showed up at two court dates, but nothing else. After six months, the court ruled to terminate her rights. That took six more months. Then our adoption paper work took the court six months to move forward (we think it may have gotten lost?). Then took a few more months to get on their schedule.”

“We successfully petitioned to waive the six-month waiting period.”

China Adoption

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2012: 2,696

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2013: 2,306

including traditional and waiting child programs

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

Longer than 5 years 100%

Time from referral until child came home:

67% – Less than 3 months
0% – 4 to 9 months
33% – Longer than 9 months

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

58% –Less than 1 month
18% – 2 to 6 months
24% – Longer than 6 months

Time from referral until child came home:

8% – Less than 3 months
38% – 4 to 6 months
24% – 7 to 9 months
30% – Longer than 9 months

  •  97% spent three weeks or less in China.

What readers say about the time it takes to adopt from China:

“It went quickly as we did a special needs adoption and were able to pick our child from the photolisting on our agency’s website before we even completed our paperwork.”

“It was 10.5 months from the time we applied to our agency and started the process from the very beginning until we picked up our boys in China. It was very fast! We worked hard at every step of the way to move quickly through the paperwork.”

“China, need I say more… We were told it would be about 18 months [for non-special-needs] and it took six-plus years.”

Ethiopia Adoption

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2012: 1,567

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2013: 993

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

16% – Less than 6 months
22% – 7 to 12 months
16% – 13 to 18 months
23% – 19 to 24 months
23% – Longer than 2 years

Time from referral until child came home:

10% – Less than 3 months
48% – 4 to 6 months
26% – 7 to 9 months
16% – Longer than 9 months

  • 90% took two trips to Ethiopia to complete their adoptions. For 45%, two or more months passed between the trips.
  • 48% spent two weeks or less in Ethiopia; 23% spent two to three weeks.

What readers say about the time it takes to adopt from Ethiopia:

“Our process was lengthy because it took us 20 months from when we applied to our agency to even complete our dossier.”

“One of the children we adopted was extremely ill. All parties involved–foster home, adoption agency, U.S. embassy–did everything possible to expedite both children’s visas. We flew directly to a major U.S. children hospital and stayed there for five weeks. This made our timeline abnormally short.”

“We had a bio pregnancy in the middle of our adoption process, so then we had to wait until our bio baby was six months old before we could receive a referral–but, because referrals were taking so long, it really didn’t affect our wait time.”

“Our wait was fairly short because we adopted siblings who were waiting children.”

“Our child had to wait three months before her file could be submitted to court due to a regional law. Once her file was eligible for submission, our agency did not travel to obtain the needed orphanage signatures for court submission and we experienced a six-week delay. Our agency did not advise us that a new power of attorney was needed due to a change in directors until after we passed court, resulting in a three-week delay. Subsequently, the agency misplaced one of our documents needed for the embassy, resulting in another two-week delay. Once submitted to embassy, the processing times were longer than normal and the embassy requested new documentation that had to be obtained from the orphanage. This all contributed to a 14-week wait between court and embassy appointment.”

South Korea Adoption

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2012: 627

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2013: 138

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

18% – Less than 3 months
32% – 4 to 6 months
27% – 7 to 12 months
5% – 13 to 18 months
18% – Longer than 18 months

Time from referral until child came home:

9% – Less than 6 months
14% – 7 to 9 months
54% – 10 to 12 months
23% – Longer than 1 year

  • Of the 95% who traveled to adopt, 75% spent two weeks or less in South Korea.

What readers say about the time it takes to adopt from South Korea:

“Changing South Korean policies about international adoption changed our wait time between referral and homecoming from an initial estimate of six to eight months to 12 months.”

“We inquired about a specific waiting child and did not wait on a referral, so the question about referral time did not apply to us.”

“We were required to make two trips to South Korea, one for a court hearing, the other to bring our daughter home. We spent 10 days touring the country on our first trip, along with going to court, and almost a week for transition and embassy paperwork on the second trip.”

Ukraine Adoption

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2012: 395

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2013: 438

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

50% – Less than 3 months
29% – 4 to 6 months
21% – Longer than 7 months

14% – Less than 1 month
65% – 2 to 3 months
21% – Longer than 3 months

  • 36% took two or more trips to the Ukraine to complete their adoptions.
  • 86% spent four or more weeks in the Ukraine, total.

What readers say about the time it takes to adopt from the Ukraine:

“We adopted from one of the most difficult orphanages in the country to adopt from.”

“We decided that it was impertive that we show our commitment to our child, and so we visted with her for 42 days straight while the court date and paperwork went through.”

“We had to ‘separate’ my son from a much older half-sibling who was at a different orphanage. Legally, that was the law, but at the local level they are more reluctant. A hearing was required, and those happen at set times during the month. Also, there are holidays when things are closed.”

Giving Back

To gather as much data as possible, we once again posed a challenge: If more than 1,000 people who adopted in 2013 or 2012 completed our Cost & Timing of Adoption Survey, we’d select one at random and donate $300 to the adoption charity of his or her choice. We’re thrilled to report that more than 1,100 adoptive parents completed the 2013-2012 survey! The winner of our giveaway was Evelyn Hedden, of Georgia, and we were honored to contribute to Love Without Boundaries in her name. The organization funds education and medical care, arranges for foster homes, and more for orphaned and impoverished children in China.

More Results from the 2012-2013 AF Survey:

How much did it cost to adopt in 2012-2013? Find the latest cost data.

Adoption Agencies

Family Life Services Adoption Agency
Lynchburg, VA
U.S. Newborn
Building Blocks Adoption Service
Medina, OH
U.S. Newborn, Special Needs/Waiting Child
Adoption by Shepherd Care
Hollywood, FL
U.S. Newborn, International
Wynnewood, PA
U.S. Newborn
Caring for Kids, Inc.
Cuyahoga Falls, OH
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Foster
A Love Beyond Borders
Denver, CO
International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
Cradle of Hope Adoption Center
Silver Spring, MD
U.S. Newborn, International
Evanston, IL
U.S. Newborn, International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
The Barker Adoption Foundation
Bethesda, MD
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Foster, International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
Adoptions of Indiana
Carmel, IN
U.S. Newborn

See all adoption agencies >


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