Adoptions From Foster Care

Updated November 13, 2023 | Posted November 18, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Update nationaladoptionday 2021

As nation­al atten­tion turns to the impor­tance of pro­vid­ing per­ma­nent, lov­ing adop­tive fam­i­lies for fos­ter chil­dren and youth who can­not return to their fam­i­lies, the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter pro­vides the lat­est sta­tis­tics about this vul­ner­a­ble population.

Stats on Kids Wait­ing to Be Adopted

In 2021, 113,754 chil­dren were wait­ing in fos­ter care for adop­tion in the Unit­ed States. Among sev­er­al pos­i­tive trends, the share of kids wait­ing 5 years or more to be adopt­ed was about 1 in 10 kids in 2021, a drop from about 1 in 4 in the ear­ly 2000s. In 2021, near­ly 40% of kids had been wait­ing 1 to 2 years and, in less pos­i­tive news, half had been wait­ing 2 to 4 years.

Addi­tion­al sta­tis­tics on chil­dren await­ing adop­tion in 2021:

At the nation­al lev­el, Black and Amer­i­can Indi­an or Alas­ka Native chil­dren con­tin­ue to be over­rep­re­sent­ed among chil­dren await­ing adop­tion — and chil­dren in fos­ter care, gen­er­al­ly — com­pared to their share of the total child population.

Stats on Kids in Child Wel­fare Who Get Adopted

Adop­tions from fos­ter care have increased over the last two decades in the Unit­ed States. In 2021, 1 in 4 (25%) chil­dren who left fos­ter care were adopt­ed by a fam­i­ly, up from 17% in 2000. How­ev­er, the share of kids leav­ing fos­ter care to live with fam­i­lies over­all, adopt­ed or not, has declined. That is, the per­cent­age of chil­dren who exit­ed fos­ter care to live with a fam­i­ly — whether an adop­tive fam­i­ly, liv­ing with a rel­a­tive or through reuni­fi­ca­tion with a parent/​primary care­giv­er — decreased from 84% in 2000 to 78% in 2021.

In a broad­er mea­sure* of adop­tions, just over 54,200 chil­dren and youth in the child wel­fare sys­tem were adopt­ed in 2021, a con­sid­er­able decrease from about 66,100 in 2019 but still above fig­ures around 50,000 a decade earlier.

Oth­er find­ings about chil­dren who were adopt­ed from the child wel­fare system: 

  • In pat­terns that have been rel­a­tive­ly sta­ble for more than a decade, the major­i­ty (54% in 2021) of these adoptees are from birth to age 5, just over 1 in 4 is age 6 to 10, 1 in 6 is 11 to 15 and 4% are old­er youth ages 16 to 20.
  • Over the last two decades, white kids have com­prised a grow­ing share of adopt­ed chil­dren — from 38% in 2000 to 50% in 2021 — while the share for Black chil­dren has decreased from 38% to 17%. Per­cent­ages for Lati­no kids also grew from 15% to 20% in this time peri­od, as did the shares for mul­ti­ple race groups (2% to 9%) and Amer­i­can Indi­an or Alas­ka Native chil­dren (1% to 2%). while shares for oth­er groups remained much small­er and sta­ble. The share for Asian Amer­i­can and Native Hawai­ian kids remained sta­ble at 1%.
  • In 2021, close to two-thirds (63%) of these adop­tions were by the fos­ter par­ents (either rel­a­tives or non­-rel­a­­tives) who cared for the chil­dren while they were in fos­ter care, a slight decrease from the past two years. But, in a heart­en­ing trend, the share of kids adopt­ed by rel­a­tives near­ly dou­bled from 18% to 32% between 2000 and 2021.

Adop­tion Sta­tis­tics in the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter, Includ­ing Data by State and Territory

More Data and Resources on Adop­tions and Fos­ter Care

See all reg­u­lar­ly updat­ed sta­tis­tics on adop­tions, fos­ter care and more in the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter, and explore the Foundation’s many pub­li­ca­tions, blog posts, webi­na­rs and oth­er resources relat­ed to child wel­fare and adop­tions, includ­ing:

Stay up to date on the lat­est news and infor­ma­tion by sign­ing up for our child wel­fare newsletter

* Note: Chil­dren in the child wel­fare sys­tem who were adopt­ed includes the fol­low­ing broad­er group of adop­tions, includ­ing chil­dren who may not be in fos­ter care:

  1. Chil­dren placed for adop­tion by a pub­lic child wel­fare agency;
  2. Chil­dren who have been in the pub­lic fos­ter care sys­tem and were placed for adop­tion by a pri­vate agency under con­tract with the pub­lic child wel­fare agency; and
  3. Chil­dren in whose adop­tion the pub­lic child wel­fare agency was involved but who had not been in the pub­lic fos­ter care sys­tem (e.g., chil­dren who received Title IV‑E funds for non­re­cur­ring costs of adoption).

This post is part of the series:

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