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National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP)


The National Survey of Adoptive Parents (NSAP) is the first large, nationally representative survey of adoptive families across adoption types.  A secondary sample focuses on adopted children with special health care needs.  The survey about families adoption experiences was sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and conducted in collaboration with the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).  Data collection was conducted as a telephone survey during 2007-2008.  A chartbook on adoptive families based on the surveys data is available, along with other publications. Public Use Files for the data are available from the National Center for Health Statistics.  Additional federal publications using the data will be forthcoming during 2009 and 2010.  In addition, the journal Adoption Quarterly will publish a special issue in 2010 comprised of analyses using NSAP data.

The surveys main sample (N about 2,000) is nationally representative of adopted children in the U.S. ages 0-17, excluding step-parent adoptions.  A second sample (N about 1,000 and titled the National Survey of Adoptive Parents of Children with Special Health Care Needs or NSAP-SN)) is nationally representative of adopted children with special health care needs.  Foster care adoptions, international adoptions, and domestic adoptions from sources other than foster care can be distinguished in the data.  These data provide information on the health and well-being of adopted children in the U.S., as well as information about their familys well-being and adoption-related experiences, including parents reasons for adoption and decisions about adoption type, adoption preparation, openness, post-adoption financial and nonfinancial service utilization, and more.  Detailed information about the surveys content, including the survey instruments and procedures for accessing the data, is available online at for the general sample and for the special needs sample.

The NSAP was intended to gather information on the characteristics of adopted children and their families and to gain insights into their adoption-related experiences and post-adoption service utilization and needs.  Much of the social services literature uses adoption as an end point to the search for a family for the child and gives relatively little attention to childrens needs and well-being after the adoption has been finalized, or to families potential ongoing challenges.  As the number of children adopted both from foster care and international sources has grown in recent years, there has been increased interest in understanding childrens long-term well-being following the adoption.  For government agencies involved in adoption, however, contact with families tends to be extremely limited following finalization.  In addition, because childrens names, Social Security numbers, and other potentially identifying information may change at the time of adoption, it is not usually possible to use administrative data to track childrens use of government assistance or services from the pre-adoption to the post-adoption periods.

We expect that information on the experiences of families who have adopted can provide insights into the factors that facilitate or hinder the success of adoptions and the post-adoption supports that may be helpful to assure the continued well-being of adopted children and their families.  In addition, with respect to children adopted from foster care, a better understanding of how families use adoption subsidy funds for their childrens well-being may be important to demonstrating their value to families.  The information obtained through the NSAP will be used to help recruit adoptive parents for children in the U.S. foster care system by describing the reasons why families adopt and the characteristics of adoptive families and the children they adopt.  The information will also improve our understanding of the supports adoptive families find most helpful.  In addition, the NSAP provides data on openness in adoptions, transracial and transcultural aspects of adoption, and adoption satisfaction across adoption types.

Adoption USA: A Chartbook Based on the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents

The chartbook presents findings from the first nationally representative survey of adoptive parents in the U.S. About 2 percent of U.S. children joined their families through adoption. The chartbook describes the characteristics, adoption experiences, and well-being of these children and their families, making comparisons between adopted children and the general population of children in the U.S. and between children adopted through different adoption types. Highlights include:

  • Types of Adoption.  Of the 1.8 million adopted children in the U.S., 37 percent were adopted from foster care, 38 percent joined their families through private domestic adoptions, and 25 percent were adopted internationally. (The survey excluded stepparent adoptions.)
  • Adoption by Relatives.  Nearly one-quarter of adopted children (24 percent) were adopted by relatives, including 17 percent of children adopted from foster care, 37 percent of those adopted privately in the U.S. but very few of those adopted internationally.
  • Contact with Birth Families.  Just over one-third of children in non-relative adoptions (36 percent) have had any post-adoption contact with their birth families. Contact was most likely for children in private domestic adoptions (68 percent, compared with 39 percent for children adopted from foster care and 6 percent for children adopted internationally).
  • Physical Health.  Most adopted children (85 percent) are in excellent or very good health. However, they are twice as likely as children in the general population to have special health care needs (39 percent compared with 19 percent).
  • Social and Emotional Well-Being.  The majority of adopted children also fare well according to measures of social and emotional well-being. However, 26 percent of adopted children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD) at some point during childhood, and 15 percent have been diagnosed with behavior or conduct problems. Rates of these problems were especially high among children adopted from foster care.
  • Parenting.  Overall, parents of 86 percent of adopted children report that their relationship with their child met or exceeded their expectations. However, 11 percent of adoptive parents report high levels of parental aggravation, compared with 6 percent in the general population.

The chartbook contains information on a variety of additional topics including parents motivation for adopting and receipt of post-adoption services.


Research Briefs