News Brief: Domestic Adoptions Rise Slightly, Despite Overall Decrease in Adoption

Adoption: By the Numbers, the latest report from the National Council For Adoption, shows a slight increase in U.S. infant adoptions from 2007 to 2014.

the overall number of adoptions peaked in 2004, and has been falling since

The National Council for Adoption (NCFA) has released Adoption: By the Numbers, which reported a very slight increase in U.S. infant adoptions in 2014. This publication reports on foster, international, and kinship adoptions, as well.

Since data was last collected in 2007 and reported in 2011 in Adoption Factbook V, the total number of adoptions within the U.S. has fallen from 133,737 in 2007 to 110,373 in 2014, owing to decreases both in international adoptions and kinship placements. International adoptions have been declining for the last decade, falling from a peak of 22,989 in 2004 to 11,058 in 2010, and down to 5,647 in 2015. Related adoptions decreased from 57,248 in 2007 to 41,023 in 2014.

U.S. foster adoptions have fluctuated in recent years, with an increase from 50,625 in FY 2014 to 53,549 in FY 2015 reported in the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report #23—though the number of children in care has been increasing, as well. The rate of special needs adoptions, however, has doubled since the last report, from 42.4% in 2007 to 88.5% in 2014. The NCFA follows the foster system’s definition of “special needs”—a definition that is “not necessarily the customary societal understanding of special needs”—which includes older children, sibling groups, children of minority backgrounds, and children with physical, mental, or emotional conditions.

U.S. infant adoptions increased very slightly since the last report, however, from 18,078 in 2007 to 18,329 in 2014. (Both recent figures are significantly lower than the 26,672 adoptions in the peak year of 1992.) This works out to 4.6 domestic infant adoptions per 1,000 live births in the U.S. in 2014, or less than one-half of 1%. The ratio of adoptions to live births to unmarried mothers was 11.4 per 1,000, or about 1%. This correlates with data from the National Survey of Family Growth, which tracked relinquishments by never-married women from 1996 through 2002, and found a rate of less than 1%. In their report, the NCFA considers any child placed for adoption before age two an infant adoption, because “children are not necessarily always placed for adoption from the hospital, but may be several months old,” says Chuck Johnson, President and CEO of the NCFA.

The U.S. government used to require states to report on the number of domestic adoptions, but ceased this requirement in 1975. Since then, the NCFA has been the only organization to track domestic adoption data. Researchers and authors Jo Jones, Ph.D., and Paul Placek, Ph.D., collected the data by calling, emailing, and mailing public health, social service, and vital statistics offices in each state. The NCFA was careful to note that they are confident that the total numbers are correct, as births are tracked by each state’s office of vital statistics, but are “less confident in reporting who actually facilitated the adoption of each child—a public or private entity.” As Johnson explains, “More and more private agencies are actually partnering with states, doing all the training and recruiting, so who actually did the placement? Forty years after states stopped reporting, there’s no single way to track private adoptions in our country. Even counties within a state seem to report this information differently.” The NCFA recommends that the U.S. government and states “work together to improve data collection systems to ensure more standardized definitions.”

Adoption: By the Numbers is the seventh edition of the National Adoption Data study. This data used to be included in NCFA’s Adoption Factbook, but the Council decided to cease regular publication of the Factbook after Volume V.

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