Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

September 2003Vol. 4, No. 7Foster Parents, Relatives Adopt Majority of Children with Special Needs

A June 2003 research brief from the Urban Institute outlines characteristics of parents who adopt children from the foster care system. The report, Who Will Adopt the Foster Care Children Left Behind?, found foster parents and relatives were more likely than the general population to adopt waiting children. The information in the brief may offer clues to help States further hone their recruitment efforts.

Some of the other findings include:

  • Foster parent adoptions accounted for 56 percent of the children adopted from foster care in fiscal year (FY) 1999.
  • Relative adoptions accounted for 20 percent of foster care adoptions in FY 1999. Relatives were also caring for an additional 24,000 children in the foster care system.
  • Foster parents were found to be similar to general applicants in terms of age, marital status, and race. Relative adopters, however, were found to be significantly older and less likely to be married than foster parents or general applicants.
  • Relatives (not surprisingly) were more similar in race and ethnicity to the children they adopted than were foster parents or general applicants.
  • Adoptions by general applicants were more likely to be transracial than foster-parent adoptions.
  • The children in foster care waiting for adoptive families tend to be closest in characteristics to the children adopted by relatives (older, male, and Black). Children who are adopted from foster care are younger and more likely to be female, Caucasian, and Hispanic.

The author notes that because Black parents already adopt foster children at a rate double their proportion in the population, it might be unrealistic to expect to identify enough Black families for the children still waiting for homes. He suggests agencies may be able to increase the number of children adopted from foster care by dismantling barriers to relative adoption, encouraging foster parenting as a precursor to adoption, and helping families overcome challenges involved in transracial and special needs adoptions.

The full report is available on the Urban Institute website at

Related Items

Read about Federal support for State efforts to find families for waiting children in previous issues of Children's Bureau Express:

  • "Better Futures for Waiting Children" (December 2002/January 2003)
  • "HHS Selects Adoption Exchange Association to Administer AdoptUSKids Initiative" (November 2002)