Timing of Adoption Update: 2009-2010

Data on the average length of time it takes to complete an adoption from the 2009-2010 Adoptive Families Cost and Timing of Adoption Survey .

Average wait time for adoption from survey data.

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 families that adopted in 2009 and 2010 shared about the waiting period to adopt a newborn or foster child in the U.S., or to adopt from one of the four largest, active sending countries.

U.S. Newborn Adoptions

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

34%–Less than 3 months

19%–4 to 6 months

20%–7 to 12 months

17%–13 to 24 months

10%–Longer than 24 months

Time between birth and legal finalization:

54%–Less than 6 months

38%–7 to 12 months

8%–Longer than 12 months

  • 35% of respondents experienced at least one false start.
  • 15% were matched after the child had already been born.

What readers say about adopting a newborn in the U.S.:

“Our adoption was very quick. Our paperwork wasn’t even finished when we were matched with a birth mother who had already given birth. We had less than 24 hours to get our house ready, finish our paperwork, and get to the hospital to meet our son.”

“We had been told the wait might be two years, but we waited exactly nine months between signing up with our agency and the baby’s birth!”

“We were open to any race and some drug and alcohol exposure.”

“Our wait was on the longer side because the birth father was unknown, so we had to publish for him in a newspaper. Then you have to wait for a response.”

“I think our non-profit agency took more time than needed because they are slow and understaffed.”

“We experienced three false starts. But our daughter was meant to be with us.”

U.S. Foster Adoptions

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

48%–Less than 6 months

18%–7 to 12 months

9%–13 to 18 months

25%–Longer than 18 months

Time from placement to finalization:

15%–Less than 6 months

33%–7 to 12 months

19%–13 to 18 months

15%–19 to 24 months

18%–Longer than 2 years

  • 48% finalized the child’s adoption within one year.
  • Another 33% finalized within two years.
  • 34% had placements that did not end in adoption.

What readers say about adopting from U.S. foster care:

“In our county children who are younger than six have what is called an ‘Expedited Permanency Plan.’ This means that they try to have the child adopted within one year.”

“Our placement was very quick because we specified we only wanted to take a pre-adoptive placement. This made a huge difference and resulted in our son coming to us with parental rights already terminated.”

“It takes time for the child’s case to go through the legal process and get to the point where parental rights can be terminated.”

“Our process was slow because the birth family received the full amount of reunification services before termination of parental rights, and they contested most of the recommendations.”

“There were unnecessary delays in paperwork. We had nine different social workers, because the case was complicated. Each new worker had to be gotten up to speed on what the previous worker did or did not do.”

China Adoptions

Average time from completion of dossier to referral*:

53%–Less than 12 months

4%–13 to 24 months

15%–25 to 36 months

20%–37 to 48 months

8%–Longer than 4 years
* Shorter wait times generally reflect special-needs program.

Time from referral until child came home:
42%–Less than 3 months

25%–4 to 6 months

20%–7 to 9 months

13%–Longer than 9 months

  • 94% spent three weeks or less in China.

What readers say about adopting from China:

“We chose special needs adoption. We were also open to either gender child. Both of these resulted in a referral just nine months after we submitted our medical checklist, and before we had finished our dossier.”

“After waiting for three-and-a-half years in the regular program, we switched to special needs and received a referral four days later.”

“We waited longer than four years. International adoptions slowed down tremendously when the Hague convention was enacted. There has also been an increased interest and demand in international adoptions, so the process became backlogged. We were waiting to adopt a healthy, young child and there is a long waiting list to do so from China.”

Ethiopia Adoptions

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

26%–Less than 3 months

15%–4 to 6 months

18%–7 to 9 months

13%–10 to 12 months

17%–13 to 18 months

11%–Longer than 18 months

Time from referral until child came home:

32%–Less than 3 months

52%–4 to 6 months

16%–Longer than 6 months

  • Of the 98% who traveled to adopt, 85% spent two weeks or less in Ethiopia.

What readers say about adopting from Ethiopia:

“We adopted a special-needs child, so our wait to referral was shorter than it would have been for a healthy infant. We waited four months, but other families from our agency who requested healthy infants were waiting 12 months or longer.”

“Ethiopia has really slowed down. When we began the process, it was presented as affordable, fast, and the least stressful. It ended up being expensive, long, and difficult for us.”

“Unfortunately, we got stuck in the switch over from 1 to 2 trips in Ethiopia, as well as the annual summer court closure. So we were delayed more than we should have been in bringing our son home.”

Russia Adoptions

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

40%–Less than 3 months

11%–4 to 6 months

22%–7 to 12 months

9%–13 to 18 months

18%–Longer than 18 months

Time from referral until child came home:

18%–Less than 3 months

40%–4 to 6 months

24%–7 to 9 months

18%–Longer than 9 months

  • 44% took three or more trips to Russia to complete their adoptions.
  • 36% spent three or more weeks in Russia, total.

What readers say about adopting from Russia:

“I think it went quickly because it was at the end of the calendar year. People wanted to close cases before the winter holidays.”

“We moved to a new home during the process, so we had to redo our homestudy and many other papers.”

“We would have waited only three months between trips, but the [Torry] Hansen case caused our agency to lose their license and we had to switch to a different agency. Then, it took a while to transfer everything over.”

“I think my wait was short because I requested an older child. It turned out perfectly — she is my daughter in every single way!”

“Our dossier was placed in a region of Russia that was known for taking extra time to schedule the court date. This added a good six months to our process. The region you adopt from in Russia does make a difference!”

South Korea Adoptions

Average time from completion of dossier to referral:

24%–Less than 3 months

25%–4 to 6 months

24%–7 to 9 months

14%–10 to 12 months

13%–Longer than 12 months

Time from referral until child came home:

49%–Less than 3 months

35%–4 to 6 months

16%–Longer than 6 months<

  • Of the 71% who traveled to adopt, 50% spent one week or less in South Korea.

What readers say about adopting from South Korea:

“Since we found our son on a list of waiting children with special needs, there was no wait for referral.”

“Referrals slow down at certain times of the year, and the South Korean government puts quotas on the number of children who can be adopted internationally.”

“We wanted to spend time in Korea and learn as much as we could while we were there. I wish we had stayed even longer.”

Giving Back

To gather as much data as possible this year, we posed a challenge: If more than 1,600 people 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 1,800 adoptive parents completed this year’s survey! The winner of our giveaway was Janeé Pedersen, and we were honored to donate to From HIV to Home.

 More Results from the 2009-2010 AF Survey:

How much did it cost to adopt in 2009 or 2010? Find the latest cost data here.

Find strategies on financing adoption, lowering travel costs, and more, from experts and other parents who did it. Read about affording adoption now.

Everything you need to know about the adoption process, delivered monthly to your inbox.

Adoption Agencies

Family & Children’s Agency
Adoption Routes/Programs
U.S. Newborn, International
Adoption Routes/Programs
U.S. Newborn, International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
La Crosse
Adoption Routes/Programs
U.S. Newborn, International
Agape Adoptions
Adoption Routes/Programs
International, Special Needs/Waiting Child
Adoption Routes/Programs
U.S. Newborn
Adoption Choice Inc.
Green Bay
Adoption Routes/Programs
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Foster, International

See all adoption agencies >


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