Adoptions From Foster Care
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:
- More than 30% were in California, Texas and Florida, up slightly from prior years.
- Forty percent were ages 1 to 5, the largest share, and 3% were infants, figures that have been fairly stable for a decade. Among older kids, one quarter were ages 6 to 10, while nearly a quarter were 11 to 15, and older youth 16 to 20 made up 8%, similar to past years.
- Trends by race and ethnicity also have been steady in recent years, with white children making up 44% of this group, Latino and Black children each comprising more than one-fifth (23% and 21%, respectively), followed by multiple race groups (9%), American Indian or Alaska Native children (2%) and Asian American and Native Hawaiian kids (1%).
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:
- Blog post: Child Welfare and Foster Care Statistics
- Blog post: What Is Permanence?
- Blog post: Helping Mental Health Clinicians Better Support Adoptive Families
- Report: Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success
- Report: Achieving Permanency Through Adoption: The Permanency Continuum Series
* 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:
- Children placed for adoption by a public child welfare agency;
- 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
- 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).