Adoption USA. A Chartbook Based on the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents. Children’s history, prior relationship with parents

11/01/2009

In this section, the Chartbook reports on whether or not adopted children had ever lived with their birth family and where they lived immediately prior to living with their adoptive parents. It also includes information on children’s relationships to their parents prior to the adoption. (Prior relationships could include that they were already related to the child, that they had known the child previously, and—for adoptions from foster care—that they were foster parents to the child.) See Appendix Table 2 on page 58 for detailed data on each indicator.

Figure 2. Percentage of adopted children who have ever lived with birth family members, by adoption type

Figure 2. Percentage of adopted children who have ever lived with birth family members, by adoption type

Forty-three percent of adopted children lived with their birth families at some time prior to their adoption; see Figure 2. Of these, about half lived with their birth families immediately before the adoptive placement (22 percent of all adopted children). The proportion of children who have ever lived with their birth families varies across adoption types; it is highest for those adopted from foster care (59 percent) and lowest for children adopted internationally (25 percent). For children adopted by relatives, these figures are considerably higher. Seventy-three percent of children adopted by relatives had ever lived with their birth family. In contrast, among children adopted by non-relatives, 53 percent of those adopted from foster care ever lived with their birth family, as did 17 percent of those adopted privately from the United States; see Figure 3.

Figure 3. Percentage of children adopted from foster care and from other domestic sources who have ever lived with birth family members, by pre-adoptive relationship to parents

Figure 3. Percentage of children adopted from foster care and from other domestic sources who have ever lived with birth family members, by pre-adoptive relationship to parents

Children’s pre-adoptive placement differs depending on adoption type. The majority of children adopted privately in the United States were placed with their adoptive family as newborns or when they were younger than one month old (62 percent). In contrast, children adopted internationally overwhelming lived in congregate care facilities prior to the adoptive placement (70 percent) or with a foster family (24 percent). Seventy-eight percent of children adopted from foster care lived with a foster family or in some other foster care setting away from their birth family prior to their adoptive placement. Among children adopted from foster care, 44 percent lived with a foster family other than their adoptive family immediately prior to their adoptive placement, and 11 percent lived in congregate care.

For many children adopted from foster care, their adoptive family was likely their only foster placement. Although more than half of children adopted from foster care were living with another foster family or in congregate care prior to living with their adoptive families, a substantial proportion were not previously in foster care settings. Specifically, 22 percent lived with their birth family, and an additional 22 percent were placed with their adoptive families in their first month of life. These figures suggest that for more than four out of ten children adopted from foster care, their adoptive parents may have been their only foster placement setting.

Among children adopted from foster care and from other domestic sources, adoption by relatives or by adults who knew the child prior to the adoptive match is common. More than two out of ten children adopted from foster care (23 percent) were adopted by relatives, and an additional 22 percent were adopted by nonrelatives who knew the child prior to the adoptive match. For other domestic adoptions, relative adoption is even more common. Of privatelyadopted U.S. children, 41 percent were adopted by relatives and an additional 7 percent were adopted by non-relatives who previously knew the child. Reports of internationally adopted children adopted by relatives were too rare to yield a reliable percentage estimate.

ADOPTION TERMINOLOGY

Placement: The setting in which a foster child or adopted child lives. When the Chartbook refers to the placement of adopted children with their parents, it refers to the time at which children began living with their adoptive parents, which often occurs before the legal finalization of the adoption.

Congregate care: Congregate care settings include residential group foster homes, orphanages, residential group treatment facilities, or other settings such as juvenile detention centers or hospitals. Children no longer living with their birth families may reside in congregate care prior to adoption. In some other countries, many infants and young children available for adoption live in orphanages, whereas children waiting for adoption in the United States tend to live with foster families.

Foster family: A family (who may or may not be related to the child) who provides care during the time in which the child is under the legal guardianship of a public child welfare agency.

Birth parents: A child’s biological parents. The term “birth family” is also used to refer to members of a child’s biological family, or individuals related by marriage to the child’s biological family (for example, step-siblings and aunts and uncles).

Adoptive match: A match occurs when an agency identifies and approves a plan for specific adults to adopt a specific child or children. In international adoption, this is sometimes called a “referral.”

 

MEASURES RELATED TO CHILDREN’S HISTORY AND PRIOR RELATIONSHIP TO THEIR PARENTS

Ever lived with birth family: Parents reported whether their child “has…ever lived with his/her birth family.”

Where child lived before living with parent: Parents were asked, “Just before being placed with you, where did [your child] live?” We identified several types of placements, including 1) birth parent(s) or birth family members other than parents, 2) a foster family, and 3) congregate care. Congregate care includes group homes in the U.S. foster care system (that is, a group home with four foster children or more), residential treatment facilities in the U.S. (that is, a facility where large numbers of children and youth live), institutions or orphanages, or hospitals or health clinics. Additionally, we reported a fourth category that includes children who had been adopted at birth or placed with the adoptive parents prior to one month of age. In some of these cases, parents said children lived at a hospital prior to their adoptive placement; due to their young age, we assumed such hospital stays were related to the births. Finally, we grouped all other children, including those whose parents reported that their prior placement had been another adoptive family, or someplace else not mentioned, into a separate “other” category.

Parent and child were relatives prior to adoption: For this item, parents reported whether they or their spouse or partner were previously related to their child, for example, as a grandparent, aunt, or uncle.

Parent and child knew each other prior to adoption: Parents also reported whether they or their spouse or partnerknew their child before they considered adopting him or her, or before being matched with the child for adoption.

Parent was a foster parent to the child: We defined parents as having previously been foster parents to their child if they reported either that they or their spouse or partner had been the child’s foster parent at any time before the adoption was finalized, or at the time they began the adoption process.

 

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