American children spend an average of just over three years in foster care after they become eligible for adoption.
Children in foster care with a case goal of adoption may wait years for adoptive placement, and some may never be adopted:
- More than 60 percent spend between two to five years in foster care before being adopted.
- Nearly 20 percent are trapped in foster care for five years or more before being adopted.
Of the more than 400,000 children living in foster care, 114,556 cannot return to their families and are waiting to be adopted. Among these children:
- Males outnumber females
- African American children are disproportionally represented.
- Over half are age six or older.
American children spend an average of three years in foster care after they become eligible for adoption.
The majority (42 percent) of children currently in foster care waiting to be adopted were removed from their parents or caretakers before two years old. Research shows children who enter foster care at a young age remain in the system longer.
The age distribution of the children in foster care waiting for adoption is:
- <1 year — 4 percent
- 1-3 years — 26 percent
- 4-6 years — 19 percent
- 7-9 years — 15 percent
- 10-14 years — 20 percent
- 15+ years — 12 percent
The race and ethnic distribution of children adopted from the foster care system is different from that of children in the general population. Adopted children are less likely to be white or of Hispanic origin than children in the general U.S. population, and are more likely to be black.
One of three children adopted from foster care have been adopted by parents of a different race. Whereas a majority of adopted children are non-white, the majority of these children’s adoptive parents are white (73 percent).
Children adopted from foster care tend to have more complex family structures than other adopted children. Forty percent of children adopted from foster care live in families with three or more adopted and birth children.
- Learn about the role of child welfare systems in finding children permanent homes.
- Find out how Children’s Rights confronts issues related to adoption through our child welfare reform campaigns and policy advocacy.