Understanding Adoption Subsidies: An Analysis of AFCARS Data. Characteristics of Adopted Children

01/01/2005

Males comprised one-half of the 50,703 children under 18 years of age who were adopted in the 2001 reporting period (Table 3-1). Less than 2 percent were under one year, about 45 percent were between 1 and 5 years, 24 percent were between 6 and 8, 21 percent were between 9 and 12, and about 9 percent were older children, aged 13 to 17. These proportions have remained relatively steady from 1999 to 2001.

There was a marked increase over a 3-year period of the proportion of adopted children who were white (44 percent to 54 percent), an increase of 6,700 children. The number of adopted children who were African-American remained somewhat steady over the past 3 years, the number of American Indian/Alaskan Native children increased from 553 in 1999 to 1,177 in 2001, and the number of Asian/Pacific Islanders increased from 477 to 658. There was a slight increase in the number of adopted children who were Hispanic over the 3-year period (6,552 to 8,253). For the most recent reporting period, white children comprised 54 percent of the adopted children followed by African-Americans at 38 percent. American Indian/Alaskan Natives and Asian/Pacific Islanders, combined, comprised almost 4 percent of adopted children.

Table 3-1.
Characteristics of Adopted Children, Overall, FY 1999-2001
  1999 2000 2001
n % N % n %
Number of adopted children 46,391   50,472   50,703  
Gender
Female 23,236 50.1 25,250 50.0 25,192 49.7
Male 23,149 49.9 25,216 50.0 25,501 50.3
Age at adoption
<1 year 833 1.8 921 1.8 1,018 2.0
1-5 years 20,951 45.2 22,974 45.5 23,397 46.2
6-8 years 10,969 23.6 11,383 22.6 10,864 21.4
9-12 years 9,698 20.9 10,729 21.3 10,705 21.1
13-17 years 3,940 8.5 4,465 8.9 4,719 9.3
Race
White 20,620 44.5 24,941 49.4 27,320 54.3
African-American 19,576 42.2 20,588 40.8 19,226 38.3
American Indian/Alaskan Native 553 1.2 926 1.8 1,177 2.4
Asian/Pacific Islander 477 1.0 602 1.2 658 1.3
Unknown 5,165 11.1 4,386 8.7 4,004 8.0
Ethnicity
Hispanic 6,552 14.2 7,184 14.2 8,253 16.3
Non-Hispanic 39,755 85.9 43,287 85.8 42,450 83.7
Notes:
  1. Numbers in categories may not add to the total number of adopted children due to missing data.
  2. Beginning in FY 2000, more than one race designation could be reported for a child; therefore, the total race category percentages for 2000 and 2001 may exceed 100 percent.

Source: AFCARS 1999-2001, adoption data.

Table 3-2 shows that while African-American children comprise only 15 percent of the population under 18 years of age, they represent a disproportionate number of children in foster care (39 percent). And while approximately the same number of white and African-American children were in foster care as of the end of the AFCARS 2001 reporting period, more African-American children were waiting for an adoptive home and fewer were adopted compared to white children. Hispanic children are the 2nd largest group, comprising nearly 16 percent of the population of children less than 18 years of age. Hispanic children represented 17 percent of the foster care population, 13 percent of those waiting for adoption and 16 percent who were adopted.

Table 3-2.
Comparison of Children in the General Population, in Foster Care, Waiting for Adoption, and Adopted, by Race/Ethnicitys
Race/Ethnicity General Population
of Children
Children in
Foster Care
Waiting
Children
Adopted
Children
  2001 2001 2001 2001
White, non-Hispanic 60.7 38.7 35.6 38.4
African-American, non-Hispanic 14.9 39.1 46.8 34.8
Hispanic 17.6 17.1 12.7 16.3
Other 6.9 5.1 4.9 5.3
Notes:
  1. The general population and adopted children data only includes children less than 18 years of age; whereas the data on children in foster care and waiting children include some children ages 18 and older.
  2. Foster care and waiting children data includes all children in foster care, regardless of age and excludes cases where the race/ethnicity was unknown or unable to be determined. Waiting children included children who have a goal of adoption and/or had parental rights terminated, excluding those aged 16 and older with a goal of emancipation.
  3. Other category includes American Indians, Asians, Native Hawaiians, and children with more than one race designation.

Sources: General Population of Children data: Table NA-EST2002-ASRO-03National Population EstimatesCharacteristics. Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau. Released June 18, 2003.

Foster Care and Waiting Children data: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/publications/afcars/report8.htm; accessed September 10, 2004.

Adopted Children data: AFCARS 2001, adoption data.

Table 3-3 shows the race and ethnicity variables combined to present the proportion of white non-Hispanics, African-American non-Hispanics, and Hispanics who were adopted, stratified by their age at the time of adoption. Children classified as American Indian, Asian, Native Hawaiians and those with more than one race designation are included in the other category. The proportion who were white was steady or increased with each successive age group (whites comprised 40 percent of adopted children less than 5 years old, 40 percent of children between 6 and 12 years of age, and 45 percent of those aged 13 to 17). In contrast, African-Americans comprised 35 percent of adopted children less than 5 years old, 39 percent of those aged 6 to 12, and 37 percent of those aged 13 to 17. An almost equal number of adopted children aged 6 to 12 years of age were white and African-American. The proportion of adopted children who were Hispanic was 18 percent for children less than 5 years of age and decreased by 2 percent for each of the successively higher age groups.

 

Table 3-3.
Race/Ethnicity of Adopted Children by Age, Overall, FY 2001
  Age at Adoption Total
0 to 5 Years 6 to 12 Years 13 to 17 Years
n % n % n % n %
Number of adopted children 24,415 48.2 21,569 42.5 4,719 9.3 50,703 100.0
Race/ethnicity
White, Non-Hispanic 9,330 40.4 8,136 39.7 2,002 44.8 19,468 38.4
African-American, Non-Hispanic 8,055 34.9 7,950 38.8 1,660 37.2 17,665 34.8
Hispanic 4,232 18.3 3,385 16.5 636 14.2 8,253 16.3
Other 1,468 6.4 1,038 5.1 168 3.8 2674 5.3
Notes:
  1. Numbers in categories may not add to the total number of adopted children due to missing data.
  2. Other category includes American Indians, Asians, Native Hawaiians, and children with more than one race designation.

Source: AFCARS 2001, adoption data.

Table 3-4 shows the number of months from TPR to legalized adoption stratified by the child's age at TPR, race/ethnicity, and special needs status. Children 6 to 12 years old comprise the second largest group of adopted children and generally wait longer from TPR to adoption compared to younger and older children. Generally, the youngest children have better prospects for quicker placements with an adoptive family; therefore, they experience shorter wait times until they are adopted. Because finding families for children over the age of 12 is often particularly challenging, some agencies delay TPR for these children until an adoptive family is identified (Gibbs et al., 2004). This practice would shorten the time from TPR to adoption for older children. TPR for children in out-of-home care for only a short time could indicate also that these children had been placed in care by abandoning parents (most likely for younger children), that this was not their first or second spell in care, or that the courts had acted expeditiously based on one of the aggravated circumstances, under which ASFA and states' laws allow child welfare agencies to forego reunification efforts and proceed to TPR, although there is little evidence that states routinely invoke this last option.

Table 3-4.
Months from TPR to Adoption, by Adopted Children's Characteristics, Overall, FY 2001
  Adopted Children 25th Percentile Median 75th Percentile 95th Percentile
Total 49,673 6.9 12.5 20.9 42.8
Age at TPR
0-5 years 29,705 6.5 11.6 19.7 40.3
6-12 years 17,754 7.9 14.4 23.3 47.2
13-17 years 2,214 5.3 10.4 17.7 32.2
Race/ethnicity
White, non-Hispanic 19,186 6.3 11.2 18.7 37.8
African-American, non-Hispanic 17,194 7.3 13.9 23.7 47.9
Hispanic 8,105 7.2 12.6 20.5 37.5
Other 2,627 7.4 12.3 19.7 38.8
Special needs
No 5,952 5.9 10.6 18.2 37.4
Yes 42,410 7.1 12.8 21.3 43.8
Notes:
  1. Numbers in categories may not add to the total number of adopted children due to missing data.
  2. TPR = Termination of Parental Rights.
  3. Other category includes American Indians, Asians, Native Hawaiians, and children with more than one race designation.
  4. Special needs is defined per each state's eligibility criteria for an adoption subsidy under Title IV-E.
  5. The percentile columns show the maximum number of months that 25 percent of the adopted children waited from TPR to adoption. For example, 25 percent of adopted children aged 6 to 12 waited up to 7.9 months from TPR to adoption.

Source: AFCARS 2001, adoption data.

The median number of months from TPR to adoption is lowest for whites (11.2), slightly higher for Hispanics (12.6) and even higher for African-Americans (13.9). Most children in this population are classified as having special needs with respect to adoption, such as age, race or membership in a sibling group. These children wait slightly longer for adoption after their parental rights have been terminated compared to children without special needs (12.8 vs. 10.6 months, respectively). This delay is perhaps indicative of the challenge of finding families for these hard to place children, as well as negotiating financial agreements that cover needed services for these special needs children.

Examining the time from TPR to adoption only tells part of the story since the time from entry to TPR varies greatly among states. States with a short time from TPR to adoption may reflect a practice pattern in which parental rights are not terminated until an adoptive home is identified, after which TPR is executed and the child is adopted in a relatively short time period. However, these same children may have spent a prolonged amount of time in out-of-home care prior to TPR. AFCARS adoption data does not include the date of entry into out-of-home care. Therefore, to present the larger picture to show the time children spent in out-of-home care until adoption, we analyzed data from the foster care data file. This file includes information on entry and exit dates and the population is theoretically identical to the population in the adoption file.(2)

Table A-1 in the appendix presents the median months that children wait from their most recent entry into out-of-home care to the date their adoption was finalized, by age at adoption(3) for each state. The national median number of months from the most recent entry into out-of-home care was 38.1. The youngest children are adopted the most quickly (29.7 months for children less than 6), children aged 6 to 12 wait a median of about 20 months longer (49.3 months), and the oldest children wait about 10 months longer than those 6 to 12 (59.0 months).

Most states followed a similar pattern of older children waiting longer for adoption compared to their younger counterparts; however there was much variation in their ability to move children quickly to adoption. Among the largest states the median months in out-of-home care ranged from 23.9 (Texas) up to 59.2 (New York).

Characteristics of the child's adoptive family are presented in Table 3-5, stratified by the child's age at adoption. Two-thirds of these children were adopted by married couples. Among children less than 5 years of age, almost 72 percent were adopted by married couples. This proportion dropped with each successive age group to 62 percent for children aged 6 to 12 and 60 percent for children 13 to 17. Single females comprised the next largest proportion of adoptive parents (30 percent). Only one-quarter of younger children (aged 0 to 5) were adopted by single females, which increased to more than one-third of the older children adoptions (aged 13 to 17). Single males adopted just over 1,000 children (2 percent of all adoptions) while unmarried couples adopted 636 children (1 percent).

Table 3-5.
Characteristics of Adoptive Family, Overall, FY 2001
  Age at Adoption Total
0 to 5 6 to 12 13 to 17
n % n % n % n %
Number of adopted children 24,415 48.2 21,569 42.5 4,719 9.3 50,703 100.0
Adoptive family structure
Married couple 16,289 71.7 12,041 62.4 2,446 59.8 30,776 66.8
Unmarried couple 354 1.6 245 1.3 37 0.9 636 1.4
Single female 5,794 25.5 6,460 33.5 1,405 34.3 13,659 29.6
Single male 275 1.2 546 2.8 205 5.0 1,026 2.2
Total 22,712 100.0 19,292 100.0 4,093 100.0 46,097 100.0
Preadoptive parent-child relationship
Foster parent 13,730 56.3 10,534 48.9 2,237 47.4 26,501 52.3
Stepparent 57 0.2 47 0.2 13 0.3 117 0.2
Other relative 4,579 18.8 5,034 23.4 1,100 23.3 10,713 21.1
Nonrelative 3,847 15.8 3,248 15.1 655 13.9 7,750 15.3
Adoptive mother's age
18-29 10,626 51.6 4,592 26.5 82 2.3 15,300 36.8
30-39 8,024 38.9 9,678 55.8 2,231 61.5 19,933 47.9
40 and over 1,954 9.5 3,078 17.7 1,314 36.2 6,346 15.3
Total 20,604 100.0 17,348 100.0 3,627 100.0 41,579 100.0
Adoptive father's age
18-29 5,309 34.1 1,750 13.1 32 1.2 7,091 22.3
30-39 6,058 38.9 6,850 51.2 1,083 39.2 13,991 44.1
40 and over 4,225 27.1 4,784 35.7 1,646 59.6 10,655 33.6
Total 15,592 100.0 13,384 100.0 2,761 100.0 31,737 100.0
Child same race/ethnicity as adoptive parents
Yes 14,483 91.3 11,710 93.9 2,595 96.0 28,788 92.8
No 1,378 8.7 758 6.1 107 4.0 2,243 7.2
Total 15,861 100.0 12,468 100.0 2,702 100.0 31,031 100.0
Notes:
  1. Numbers in categories may not add to the total number of adopted children due to missing data.
  2. More than one preadoptive parent-child relationship could be specified for a child, therefore the denominator for each category is based on the number of responses for that category. These results vary from those reported by ACF due to differences in how this variable was analyzed.
  3. A child was considered the same race as adoptive parents if the child was classified as white, African-American, Hispanic, or other and at least one parent was classified the same. Other includes American Indians, Asians, Native Hawaiians, and children with more than one race designation. The percentage of transracial adoptions reported here may be lower than that reported elsewhere due to differences in how this variable is calculated.

Source: AFCARS 2001, adoption data.

Table 3-5 also shows the relationship between the child and the adoptive parent prior to the adoption. Slightly more than one-half (52 percent) of the children were adopted by a foster parent, 21 percent were adopted by a nonstepparent relative, 15 percent were adopted by a nonrelative, and the remaining were stepparent adoptions (less than 1 percent). The proportion of children less than 6 years old adopted by a foster parent was higher (56 percent) compared to the proportion adopted by foster parents among the oldest age group (47 percent). A higher proportion of older children aged 13 to 17 were adopted by relatives other than stepparents compared to the proportion of younger children (less than 6 years) adopted by these other relatives (23 percent and 19 percent, respectively).

Slightly fewer than one-half of the children were adopted by women aged 30 to 39, followed by 37 percent adopted by women aged 18 to 29 and 15 percent aged 40 and over. Generally, younger women tended to adopt younger children. Among children less than 6 years old, 56 percent of their adoptive mothers were less than 30 years old, while these younger women comprised only 2 percent of the women who adopted a child older than 12.

About 44 percent of children were adopted by men aged 30 to 39, 33 percent were adopted by men 40 and older, and 22 percent were adopted by men less than 30 years of age. While younger women (less than 30) comprised the highest proportion of women adopting children younger than 6; men between 30 and 39 comprised the highest proportion of men adopting the youngest children. Similar to the trend for mothers, the older men tended to adopt older children. Similar percentages of children aged 13 to 17 were adopted by women 30 to 30 and men 40 and over, likely reflecting the marriages of slightly older men to younger women.

We examined whether the child was the same race/ethnicity as at least one of his adoptive parents and found that overall, 93 percent of children were of the same race/ethnicity as at least one of his or her adoptive parents. Slightly fewer same race adoptions occurred among younger children (91 percent) compared to each of the successively older age groups (94 percent and 96 percent). The percentage of transracial adoptions reported here may be lower than that reported elsewhere due to differences in how this variable is calculated.

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