Survey: In Past Decade, Foster Care-Adoption Gains Popularity While Private Adoption’s Rep Takes Hit

In the five years between 2007 and 2012, American attitudes about adoption, and the systems that supply adoptable children, significantly dimmed. Their attitudes about the main domestic systems for adoption – private industry and foster care – dimmed by an even greater margin.

One possible driver in this shift was the collapse of the American and global economies, which made the prospect of taking on children scary for more single and married adults. This was not limited to adoption; births went way down in the wake of the recession.

Ten years later, in the midst of a strong economy, general consideration of adoption is somewhat stagnant, according to a recent installment of a periodic national survey by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. A quarter of respondents said they had considered adoption, which is down from 28 percent in 2007 but up from 24 percent in 2012.

But Americans’ views of the vehicles for adoption seem to have swung in the favor of children in foster care, while more remain somewhat wary of the private industry.

In 2007, 68 percent of respondents reported favorable or very favorable views of the private adoption industry. That declined to 42 percent in 2012, and has only slightly ticked up to 43 percent this year.

The view of the foster-care-to-adoption pipeline stood at 62 percent in 2007, and plummeted to 44 percent. But foster care’s favorables are up to 49 percent in 2017.

Seventy-nine percent of potential adoptive parents interviewed by Harris Poll for the survey said they are considering adopting a foster child. That is up from 70 percent in 2007.

There are also some noteworthy increases in which Americans are considering adoption. Trends in education and income demographics suggest a “donut-hole” effect.

Among those who haven’t adopted, one-quarter have ever considered it, on par with 2012 numbers. Among potential adopters, consideration of foster care adoption has increased significantly since 2012. Source: The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 2017 U.S. Adoption Attitudes Survey.

Education: The percentage of people with a high school degree or less who are considering adoption went from 22 percent in 2012 to 29 percent this year, and the percentage with a post-graduate degree and adoption interest went up from 23 percent to 28 percent. The portion of college grads with adoption interest stayed level, while potential parents with some college or an associate’s degree dropped five percentage points.

Income:  There has been an increase in possible adoptive parents among those making less than $25,000 per year (up from 23 to 27 percent) and among those making between $50,000 and $100,000 (up from 23 percent to 28 percent).

The 2017 survey was conducted in January by Harris Poll and included 1,448 American adults. Dave Thomas Foundation, which commissioned the survey series, is currently embarking on a massive national expansion of its flagship program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.

The program helps child welfare systems hire and train case workers to specialize in finding permanency for older youth in foster care, who are statistically the least likely of foster youth to be adopted.

“These children are just like any other child. They’ve simply had a rough start in life,” said Dave Thomas Foundation CEO Rita Soronen, in a statement released with today’s survey. “But they are available for adoption, and they deserve to find a permanent family and a safe home.”

Click here to read the survey.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at