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.

April 2011Vol. 12, No. 3Trends in Adoption From Foster Care

The impact of Federal legislation on the number of children in foster care awaiting adoption is the focus of a new issue brief from Fostering Connections, Number of Children Adopted From Foster Care Increases in 2009. In this brief, authors Kerry DeVooght, Karin Malm, Sharon Vandivere, and Marci McCoy-Roth use data from the Children's Bureau's Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) to examine trends in adoptions from foster care following the passage of two significant pieces of child welfare legislation, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) and the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.

ASFA was enacted in response to growing concerns about the length of time children were waiting in foster care for permanent families. Reforms included new judicial time limits to manage decision-making on foster care cases and move children to permanency in a more timely manner. ASFA also created the Adoption Incentive Program to reward States for increasing the number of children adopted from foster care. In particular, since the passage of ASFA:

  • The number of children adopted through the public foster care system each year has risen sharply, reaching a high of 57,000 in 2009.
  • The number of children waiting to be adopted peaked at 135,000 in 2006 and declined to nearly 115,000 in 2009.
  • The average time adopted children spent in foster care has decreased from nearly 48 months for children adopted in 1998 to approximately 35 months for children adopted in 2009.
  • The percentages both of waiting and adopted children who are Black have declined, but the likelihood of adoption among Black children awaiting adoption has remained consistently lower than the likelihood for White and Hispanic children.
  • The proportion of children adopted each year who are under age 4 has increased, while the share of adoptions of 4- to 12-year-olds has declined over time.
  • The number of older youth aging out of foster care without having been placed with a safe, permanent family through adoption, reunification, or guardianship has continued to rise.
  • The majority of foster care adoptions have been by the children’s foster parents or relatives, with around 20 percent or fewer adoptions each year by persons with whom the child had no prior relationship.

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (FCA) included several provisions to promote adoption for children in foster care, particularly for older children, those who have been waiting the longest, and children with special needs. Specifically, the FCA made three significant policy changes:

  1. De-linking a child’s eligibility for Federal title IV-E Adoption Assistance from 1996 Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) eligibility criteria to provide more children with Federal assistance
  2. Extending and expanding the Adoption Incentive Program, which rewards States financially for increasing the number of adoptions over a baseline
  3. Requiring States to inform prospective adoptive parents of the Federal adoption tax credit available to them for adopting children with special needs

This issue brief is the fourth in the series Trends in Adoptions From Foster Care in the Wake of Child Welfare Reforms. The brief is available on the Fostering Connections website: (387 KB)