The National Council for Adoption recently released, in their words, “the largest survey ever conducted of adoptive parents.” You can read the results here: “Profiles in Adoption: A Survey of Adoptive Parents and Secondary Data Analysis of Federal Adoption Files.”
Here are a few of my observations, and, as an adoptive parent, I hope that adoptees and birth parents (and adoptee- and birth parent-researchers) will weigh in.
Responses were from 4,212 adoptive parents—representing 4,135 households and parents to 6,608 adopted individuals—residing in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. These adoptions occurred between 1966 and August 2021, with 74.9% completed since 2010, including 55.9% since 2015.
90% of the respondent adoptive parents were white. (Latine/x 3%; Black 2%; Asian/Asian Pacific Islander 2%, American Indian/Alaskan Native 1%; Multiracial 1%, with 0.6% reporting “other.”)
Whether private infant adoption, intercountry adoption, or adoption from foster care, around 80% of the adoptive parents are Christian/Catholic.
In terms of income, 72% of adoptive parents in private domestic adoption had an income over $75,000. The percentage was 62% for intercountry adoptive parents and 54% for parents who adopted from foster care.
In terms of education, 81% of adoptive parents in private domestic adoption had a bachelor’s degree or higher. The percentage was 84% for intercountry adoptive parents and 63% for parents who adopted from foster care.
The survey looks at Special Needs in adoption, and, astonishingly to me, on page 40 has a category titled “Mental Retardation.” Since Congress passed Rosa’s Law in 2010, the preferred designation is “intellectual disability.”
The survey does not note the ages of adopted children at the time of adoption, nor of the current ages of the adoptees. I believe that information would have been useful to the analysis.
The survey did not shy from using what some in the adoption community see as language of commodification: “Adoptive parents were asked five questions related to their satisfaction with adoption. Overall, adoptive parents expressed very significant satisfaction.” (Some in the adoption community see this phrasing as akin to “product or purchase satisfaction.”)
Indeed, here are the “Key Takeaways for Adoptive Parents’ Satisfaction:
• A large majority of adoptive parents find their role to be rewarding and satisfying.
• With the perspective of lived experience, adoptive parents report they would still make the same decision to adopt their child.”
Adoptive parents of International adoptions were also asked about their satisfaction with Intercountry Adoption Service Providers. Adoptive parents through private domestic adoption and through foster care were not asked (or results were not included) about their satisfaction with their attorneys or other service providers.
There is much to be parsed from the survey answers regarding race. As previously noted, 90% of the respondent parents are white. In the case of transracial adoptions, the survey says “A large majority of adoptive parents who have a child of a different race/ethnicity seek to participate in activities to incorporate elements of the child’s race, ethnicity, and culture.” While that may be a basic first step, it’s hardly a strong example of much needed anti-racist education. The words “racism,” “colorblindness,” and “anti-racism” do not appear in the report. (Here is one example of the perspective of Black and brown adoptees on how their white adoptive parents handled race: “I know my parents love me, but they don’t love my people.”)
From the section in the survey on Future Research: “The National Council For Adoption views this report as just Part One of a three-part series examining profiles in adoption. There is no single survey, focus group, or data set that can tell us everything we would like to know about adoption. In Part One, we heard from adoptive parents. We also intend to hear from birth parents and adopted individuals in upcoming research reports. Taken together, the three reports in this series will give us a fuller picture of adoption.”
I find it striking and not surprising that the first report is on adoptive parents, the people who hold and have held the most power in adoption policy. (One could argue that white, financially secure, well educated Christians have long held the most power in our society overall.)
The two authors of the report are Ryan Hanlon, the executive director of NCFA, and Matthew Quade, associate professor of business management at Baylor University. Both men are adoptive parents, and both hold PhDs.
I look forward to reading the NCFA reports on birth parents and adoptees, as to the numbers of respondents, the demographics (race, age, education, income, etc.), their perspective on “satisfaction,” whether they would still make the same decisions (adoptees of course rarely have agency in the adoption decision), and noting who funds the surveys of adoptees and birth parents. I hope the authors of the next two reports are themselves adopted persons and birth parents. I also hope the survey-takers contact the birth/first parents of international adoptees, and I look forward to reading those results.
I look forward to a time when all children have safe, loving families, and when children are not removed from their families of origin due to poverty, economic imbalance, or systemic racism. I also look forward to the equitable distribution of funding and of pre- and post-adoption services to all birth parents (including International birth families). I especially look forward to deeper, well funded, accessible, and equitable advocacy for family preservation.