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American families adopted 1,517 children from abroad in fiscal year 2022, the lowest annual total in the 21st century. Nearly 40% of them were born in one of three countries: Colombia (235), India (223), and South Korea (141).

How many children are adopted each year in the United States?

Government data on adoptions is limited because many domestic adoptions happen privately (including stepparents adopting their stepchildren). These private adoptions don’t follow the same bureaucratic process, so government agencies are unable to track them.

For adoptions that are trackable, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports 54,240 public domestic adoptions through the child welfare system in fiscal year 2021. Internationally, the State Department reported 2,971 adoptions from overseas in 2019 and 1,622 in 2020.

International adoptions fell 93% from 2004 to 2022

International adoption numbers rose around the turn of the millennium, peaking at nearly 23,000 in 2004. They have decreased in nearly every year since, to a low of 1,517 in 2022 — a 93% drop.

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Which countries have America’s international adoptees historically come from?

Of the 282,921 foreign-born children adopted into US families between 1999 and 2022, 82,658 (or 29.2%) came from China. That’s more than the next two countries combined — Russia with 46,113 and Guatemala with 29,807.

Guatemala has a population of 18.3 million — smaller than the population of New York state — meaning a larger proportion of its children were adopted. That has now changed; the Guatemalan government suspended its adoption program after passing legislation in 2007 to establish new processes amid concerns of corruption.

The most common countries for international adoptions are changing

Geopolitical shifts are changing international adoptions — sometimes for reasons that have nothing to do with children. China suspended international adoptions altogether at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and has yet to restart them, with hundreds of cases paused mid-process remaining in limbo. Russia banned adoptions from US citizens in 2013 for political reasons not related to adoption. Guatemala, meanwhile, has yet to resume adoptions to any country post-2007.

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As adoptions from these three countries slowed to a halt, other countries emerged as the most common for American families adopting internationally. By 2022, children adopted by US families were coming mainly from Colombia (235) and India (223), which have seen increases in recent years, and South Korea (141), which continues to decrease in line with the global trend. Bulgaria (84) and Ukraine (82) now round out the top five.

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Who monitors international adoptions?

The international community has systems safeguarding the international adoption process. A treaty called the Hague Adoption Convention, drafted in 1993 by the Hague Conference on Private International Law to prevent abduction and trafficking, established standards that partner countries must follow for international adoptions, including processes for determining eligibility for both adopters and adoptees and accrediting adoption service providers. As of August 2023, 104 countries have signed the convention including the US, where it went into effect in 2008.

Since then, international adoptions by US families have decreased more than tenfold, from 17,437 in 2008 to 1,517 in 2022. The State Department attributed the decline to a range of factors, including improved economic conditions in countries with previously high international adoption numbers (which then enables more domestic adoptions) and political motivations.

Adoptions from non-convention countries are still permitted, and the US has processes in place to determine the eligibility of adopting families and children. In 2022, 64.2% of international adoptees to the US were adopted from Hague Convention partner countries.

Six of the 10 countries that adopted the most children to the US in 2022 have also enacted the Hague Convention.

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Do families in other countries adopt American children?

There were 25 instances of a foreign family adopting an American child in FY 2022, by people in Canada (11), the Netherlands (10), Ireland (2), New Zealand (1), and Switzerland (1). This is down from a recent high of 99 in FY 2012.

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Adoption Statistics
Last updated
July 2023