Parents Wanting to Adopt

Although growing numbers of children need adoption, there are more than enough families to meet the demand. The National Council for Adoption estimates that at least one million infertile couples and an additional one million fertile couples would like to adopt.1) According to the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, one-third of women (aged 18-44 years) has ever considered adopting a child, and one in seven of those has taken steps to adopt.2)

1. Adopting Children with Special Needs

Couples who want to adopt are not looking just for healthy, Caucasian infants, despite assumptions to the contrary. The National Down's Syndrome Adoption Exchange reports a waiting list of over 100 couples who would like to adopt a child with Down's syndrome—more than enough to accommodate parents who want Down's children given up for adoption. Nor is it difficult to find families for children with spina bifida and children who are HIV positive. For example, the National Council for Adoption is identifying children who will be orphaned when their parents die of AIDS, so that appropriate plans can be made before the parents' death. The response by individuals and families willing to adopt such children has been overwhelming.

2. Adopting Children from Overseas

Americans are also willing to help with children from overseas, especially because of the anti-adoption bias in the United States. When the communist regime in Romania fell, ABC-TV's “20/20” reported that thousands of children were warehoused in government orphanages. Pictures showed many children with health and developmental problems. ABC received over 25,000 self-addressed, stamped envelopes from people who wanted more information, and within six months 2,000 Romanian children were adopted by Americans,3) many of whom had not considered adoption until this need became known. This suggests that the pool of parents willing to adopt could be expanded significantly.

In recent years, foreign adoptions have dropped to their lowest level in over three decades. In 2004, there were around 23,000 foreign adoptions to American parents;4) by 2014, there was a total of 6,441 foreign adoptions.5)

3. Why More Parents Don’t Adopt

Despite the evident readiness and desire to adopt, many families report a lack of support or encouragement from the social services establishment. They report such things as unanswered phone calls, inadequate networking with other agencies which may have children ready for adoption, a disinclination to identify children with needs that correspond to the gifts of the family, and a general lack of support to bring couples successfully through the adoption process.6)

1) National Committee for Adoption, Unmarried Parents Today, June 25, 1985.
2) National Center for Health Statistics, Adoption Experiences of Women and Men and Demand for Children to Adopt by Women 18-44 Years of Age in the United States,Jo Jone, Vital Health Statistics 23, 2008. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_027.pdf.
3) U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service data from National Council for Adoption, 1994.
4) Miriam Jordan, Foreign Adoptions by Americans Drop to Lowest Level Since 1982, April 1, 2015
5) Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, FY 2014 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption, March 31, 2015
6) Personal communication from Mary Beth Styles, Vice President for Professional Practice, National Council for Adoption, summing up the complaints of parents to NCFA.


This entry draws heavily from Promoting Adoption Reform: Congress Can Give Children Another Chance.