HHS/ASPE. U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.Background

PART 1: THE POPULATION

Photo of peoplePart 1 presents some key population characteristics of adopted children and their families. Information presented includes children’s prior relationship to their parents, socio-economic and demographic characteristics, and child and family well-being. Child well-being measures include physical health, social and emotional well-being, and cognitive development and educational achievement. Parenting and family well-being includes findings on family and community activities, parent well-being, adoption satisfaction, and parent involvement and advocacy. Because many of the indicators in Part 1 draw heavily on data from the NSCH, we are able to present many comparisons between adopted children and children in the general population.

 

  KEY FINDINGS

  • More than four out of ten adopted children (43 percent) lived with their birth families at some time prior to their adoption. Thirty-two percent were adopted at birth or were not yet one month old when placed with their adoptive parents; 24 percent were adopted by relatives.
  • Overall, about half of adopted children (49 percent) are male. However, 33 percent of internationally adopted children are male, whereas 57 percent of children adopted from foster care are male.
  • The distribution of race and Hispanic origin differs between adopted children and adoptive parents. A minority of adopted children are non-Hispanic white (37 percent), compared with a majority of children’s parents (73 percent). Overall, 40 percent of adopted children are of a different race, culture, or ethnicity than both of their adoptive parents (or their sole parent if there is only one parent in the household).
  • Adopted children tend to be somewhat older than children in the general population. For example, 14 percent of adopted children are under 5 years old, compared with 27 percent of children in the general population.
  • Adopted children are less likely than are children in the general population to live in households with incomes below the poverty threshold (12 compared with 18 percent). However, nearly half (46 percent) of children adopted from foster care live in households with incomes no higher than two times the poverty threshold.
  • Over two-thirds of adopted children—69 percent—live with two married parents, and they are just as likely to do so as children in the general population.
  • Like children in the general population, most adopted children are in excellent or very good health (85 percent). However, while a minority of adopted children have special health care needs (39 percent) or moderate or severe health difficulties (26 percent), or have ever been diagnosed with asthma (19 percent), they are more likely to have experienced these health issues than are children in the general population (19 percent, 10 percent and 13 percent, respectively). However, the majority of adopted children have adequate health insurance (78 percent) and have been consistently insured over the prior 12 months (91 percent).
  • The majority of adopted children fare well on six measures of socio-emotional well-being. For example, only a small minority of adopted children have ever been diagnosed with disorders such as attachment disorder, depression, attention deficit disorder or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or behavior or conduct disorder. Furthermore, 88 percent of adopted children ages 6 and older exhibit positive social behaviors. However, adopted children tend to have somewhat lower levels of socio-emotional well-being across a variety of measures, compared with children in the general population. See Appendix Table 8 for specific figures.
  • More than half of school-age adopted children have excellent or very good performance in reading and language arts and the same is true for math, according to their parents. Furthermore, 69 percent are engaged in school (i.e., they care about doing well in school and regularly do homework), but they are somewhat less likely to be engaged in school than are children in the general population (81 percent).
  • The majority of adopted children have enriching experiences in their families, and they are more likely to have certain of these positive experiences than are children in the general population. For example, they are more likely to be read to every day as young children (68 compared with 48 percent), to be sung to or told stories every day as young children (73 compared with 59 percent), or to participate in extracurricular activities as school-age children (85 compared with 81 percent).
  • Overall, 81 percent of adopted children have parents who reported their relationship with their child as very warm and close. In addition, 42 percent had parents report the relationship as “better than ever expected,” with only 15 percent reporting the relationship as “more difficult” than they ever expected.
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