Timing of Adoption Update: 2010-2011

Our survey data on the average length of time it takes to complete an adoption from the 2010-2011 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 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

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

33% — Less than 3 months
17% — 4 to 6 months
23% — 7 to 12 months
18% — 13 to 24 months
9% — Longer than 24 months

Time between birth and legal finalization:

53% — Less than 6 months
40% — 7 to 12 months
7% — Longer than 12 months

  • 39% of respondents experienced at least one false start. Of these families, 39% worked with the expectant mother one month or less.
  • 13% were matched after the child had already been born.

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

“We were open to any gender and any race so we were able to be matched quickly.”

“The adoption was contested by the birth father, so that made the process take longer. There were also delays from the birth mother’s being hospitalized for an illness.”

“Our domestic adoption progressed VERY quickly. We submitted our dossier to our attorney on December 17, were matched to a birth mom on December 20, our son was born on December 27, and we brought him ‘home’ to our hotel on December 29. It was a 12-day process from paperwork submission to holding our new son.”

“We waited almost two years. The agency had an in-depth educational process which broadened our understanding of adoption and open adoption. They had many services available to us while we waited. I can’t imagine not having that support and education.”

“Our baby was placed with us at four days old, but he was premature, so he was in the NICU for almost five weeks before he could come home.”

“We experienced four failed attempts, including one in which the baby was with us for seven days. We took several months ‘off’ after each false start, and then it took several months each time to find the new match.”

“Our child was relinquished by his birth mother at six months of age, then placed in foster care for three months while legal paperwork was completed. So, our timeline is a bit unique.”

U.S. Foster Adoption

Adoptions in FY 2009: 55,684

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

22% — Less than 1 month
18% — 2 to 3 months
17% — 4 to 6 months
16% — 7 to 12 months
27% — Longer than 12 months

Time from placement to finalization:

15% — Less than 6 months
32% — 7 to 12 months
14% — 13 to 18 months
17% — 19 to 24 months
22% — Longer than 2 years

  • 33% had placements that did not end in adoption. For 22% 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:

“We had our foster daughter for the six months they require you to have them in your home before you are allowed to adopt. As soon as we were allowed and approved by DCFS to apply for an adoption date, we did.”

“Working with government agencies take a very long time. They forgot our completed homestudy and adoption contact on someone’s desk and it expired. Then it had to be completed again. Frustrating, to say the least!”

“My son was in the system as legally free for adoption — so things moved quickly.”

“You have to go through the legal process of terminating parental rights. In our case, we had to also serve notice to unknown fathers in the newspaper. Once all that is completed, adoption usually goes pretty fast.”

“We had to try to reunify the child with his parents. This is the goal of foster parenting. If you go into it with the thought of adoption you will be disappointed. You have to go through all the steps with the social worker and the parents knowing that, if they are not successful, parental rights can be terminated. You also have to have the right judge who drives his/her own schedule, the social worker, and the parents. Our judge held everyone accountable, called them to court when he wanted the paperwork done, and just did not let the clock tick.”

China Adoption

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2011: 2,587

including traditional and waiting child programs

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

20% — Less than 36 months
60% — 37 to 60 months
20% — Longer than 5 years

Time from referral until child came home:

60% — Less than 3 months
14% — 4 to 6 months
23% — 7 to 9 months
3% — Longer than 9 months

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

36% — Less than 1 month
35% — 2 to 12 months
7% — 13 to 24 months
22% — Longer than 2 years

Time from referral until child came home:

14% — Less than 3 months
43% — 4 to 6 months
24% — 7 to 9 months
19% — Longer than 9 months

  • 93% spent three weeks or less in China.

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

“China slowed down a lot after our dossier was logged in.”

“Once we switched to the special needs program it was much faster than we expected. Our agency told us seven to eight months to referral. We waited less than two months from our switch to referral.”

“We identified our child from a waiting child list before our homestudy was complete. There were complications getting the homestudy completed within our state, so that lengthened our wait from referral to bringing our son home.”

“We spent longer than two weeks in country because we wanted to visit the foster home that our son had spent two years of his life in.”

Ethiopia Adoption

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2011: 1,732

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

40% — Less than 3 months
12% — 4 to 6 months
13% — 7 to 9 months
13% — 10 to 12 months
11% — 13 to 18 months
11% — Longer than 18 months

Time from referral until child came home:

12% — Less than 3 months
41% — 4 to 6 months
33% — 7 to 9 months
14% — Longer than 9 months

  • 68% took two trips to Ethiopia to complete their adoptions. For 34%, three or more months passed between the trips.
  • 55% spent two weeks or less in Ethiopia; 29% spent two to three weeks.

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

“Our process got ‘stuck’ in the requirement changes that were taking place in Ethiopia in 2010 and 2011.”

“We chose to stay between court and embassy in country. It was supposed to be six to eight weeks, but it ended up being five months.”

“We adopted an older ‘waiting child,’ so we did not have to wait for a referral.”

“Our agency forged a relationship with a new orphanage while we were in process. Because our agency had access to a new population of children who were waiting for parents, our wait was much shorter than expected. The wait has increased dramatically since.”

“Our adoption went relatively quickly because we adopted when Ethiopia required only one trip and before the wait time for approval letters began to increase.”

“We were caught in the rainy season!”

Russia Adoption

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2011: 962

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

22% — Less than 1 month
16% — 2 to 3 months
33% — 4 to 6 months
12% — 7 to 12 months
5% — 13 to 18 months
12% — Longer than 18 months

Time from referral until child came home:

22% — Less than 3 months
50% — 4 to 6 months
11% — 7 to 9 months
17% — Longer than 9 months

  • 59% took three or more trips to Russia to complete their adoptions.
  • 47% spent four or more weeks in Russia, total.

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

“I adopted from a Russian region known for its unsympathetic judge. Delays were due to international scandal, local elections (which seemed frequent), hypercritical dossier requirements, and the judge’s frequent absences due to vacation and holidays.”

“Great agency with long track record = fast, healthy referral and quick process.”

“Our dossier was submitted to Russia in June of 2009. In April of 2010, the Tory Hansen ‘scandal’ broke (a woman who adopted a boy from Russia sent him back on a plane by himself), and this, of course, damaged U.S./Russian relations and showed down our process. This was an extremely stressful time, but, thankfully, while adoptions slowed in the Vladivostok region, they did not cease.”

“We requested a boy age zero to three. Our agency said that they love people who want boys and that we would wait about four to six weeks. We received our referral before our dossier was even complete! Our court date came just after they had changed the law to increase the waiting period from 10 to 30 days. Other than that, everything was pretty quick.”

South Korea Adoption

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2011: 736

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

18% — Less than 3 months
32% — 4 to 6 months
11% — 7 to 9 months
7% — 10 to 12 months
27% — 13 to 18 months
9% — Longer than 18 months

Time from referral until child came home:

22% — Less than 3 months
36% — 4 to 6 months
20% — 7 to 9 months
22% — Longer than 9 months

  • Of the 82% who traveled to adopt, 35% spent one week or less in South Korea.

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

“South Korea is decreasing the number of emigration permits (EPs) that are approved each year — we got caught up in that wait.”

“We worked with very experienced agencies both here in the U.S. and in South Korea. They processed everything as efficiently as possible.”

“We were waiting for the referral of a female, so it took longer than average. Also, the quota lengthened our wait, and has now extended the wait even longer than ours was.”

Ukraine Adoption

Adoptions to the U.S. in 2011: 640

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

36% — Less than 1 month
27% — 2 to 3 months
18% — 4 to 6 months
14% — 7 to 12 months
5% — Longer than 12 months

Time from referral until child came home:

27% — Less than 1 month
64% — 2 to 3 months
9% — Longer than 3 months

  • 36% took two trips to the Ukraine to complete their adoptions.
  • 82% spent four or more weeks in the Ukraine, total.

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

“You receive your referral in country. Then you need to request your court date. After court, there is a 10-day waiting period before the adoption is final.”

“Our adoption was fairly quick for Ukraine. We knew it would be about six weeks from beginning to end. We are very pleased with the process and the outcome of our adoption.”

“We had a failed adoption attempt and were matched with another child. I stayed in country for eight weeks. My husband went home, returned for court, and then went home again. If we hadn’t faced this wrinkle I would have been there for about five weeks and my husband would have gone home after three.”

Giving Back

To gather as much data as possible, we once again posed a challenge: If more than 1,000 people who adopted in 2011 or 2010 completed our Cost & Timing of Adoption Survey, we’d select one at random and donate $500 to the adoption charity of his or her choice. We’re thrilled to report that more than 1,500 adoptive parents completed the 2011-2010 survey! The winner of our giveaway was Amy Kolker. of Illinois, and we were honored to contribute to Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, an organization that offers a range of services, including adoption and pregnancy counseling.

More Results from the 2010-2011 AF Survey:

How much did it cost to adopt in 2010-2011? Find the latest cost data here.

Adoption Agencies

Adoption by Shepherd Care
Hollywood, FL
U.S. Newborn, International
Family Life Services Adoption Agency
Lynchburg, VA
U.S. Newborn
Building Blocks Adoption Service
Medina, OH
U.S. Newborn, Special Needs/Waiting Child
The Barker Adoption Foundation
Bethesda, MD
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Foster, International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
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
Forever Families Through Adoption
Rye Brook, NY
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Foster, International
Cradle of Hope Adoption Center
Silver Spring, MD
U.S. Newborn, International
Adoptions of Indiana
Carmel, IN
U.S. Newborn

See all adoption agencies >


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