Fact Sheets
Policy Reports

Fact Sheets


In 2021, according the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [1]:

  • On any given day, over 391,000 children are living in the U.S. foster care system and the number has been rising. Over 113,000 of these children are eligible for adoption and they will wait, on average, almost three years for an adoptive family.
  • 53% of the children and youth who left foster care were reunited with their families or living with a relative; 25% were adopted.
  • More than 48,000 youth in U.S. foster care live in institutions, group homes, and other environments, instead of with a family.
  • Of the 53,500 children and youth who were adopted in 2021:
    • 55% were adopted by their foster parent(s) and 34% by a relative.
    • 29% were age nine years or older and the average age of adoption is six years old.
    • Of the families who adopted children from foster care, 68% were married couples, 25% single females, 3% single males, and 4% unmarried couples.
    • 93% of the parents rely on adoption subsidies and/or vital post-adoption services to help meet the children's varied, and often costly, needs.
  • In 2021, 19,130 (9%) aged out of the U.S. foster care system, and a majority left without the emotional and financial support necessary to succeed in life that other children can receive within a family.
    • Without these vital supports, they will fare poorer as a group in postsecondary educational attainment, employment, housing stability, public assistance receipt and criminal justice system involvement.
    • 70% of all youth in foster care have the desire to attend college, yet nearly 25% of youth aging out did not have a high school diploma or GED and only a mere 6% had finished a two- or four-year degree after aging out of foster care.[2]
  • All children who left foster care in 2021 had spent an average of nearly 22 months (1.8 years) in care.

For additional information, see these resources:

[1] AFCARS Report, #29

[2] Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth (Chapin Hall, 2011)



Intercountry Adoption

  • Between 1999 and 2014, 256,135 children were adopted by U.S. families via intercountry adoption.[1]
  • According to the U.S. Department of State, U.S. families adopted 4,059 children in 2018, a 7% decline from 2017, and a 82% decline since 2004.
  • In 2020, Americans adopted the highest number of children from Ukraine (211), followed by China (202), South Korea (188), Columbia (137), India (103), Bulgaria (99), and Haiti (96).[2]

For additional information, see these resources:

Global Child Welfare

  • According to UNICEF, there are an estimated 132 million orphans who have lost one parent, and of these 13 million have lost both parents. The majority of these children live with their surviving parent, grandparent, or other family member.
  • Research suggests that single orphans—especially those who’ve lost their mother—are much more vulnerable than non-orphans to a wide range of dangers, including HIV, teen pregnancy, depression, suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, institutionalization, malnutrition and death.[3]
  • At least 2 million children live in residential care settings, but the actual number is much higher. The vast majority have at least one living parent.[4] Families often feel that placing their children into care is the only way to ensure they get an education and enough food and other essentials.[5]
  • The cost of supporting a child in an orphanage is 5-10x higher than supporting a child in a family.[6]
  • Studies [7] show that growing up in institutional care is not supportive of children’s development; and institutional care has been shown to produce long-term and sometimes permanent effects on children’s brains and their physical, intellectual and social-emotional development.[8]
  • Children raised in orphanages have an IQ 20 points lower than their peers in foster care, according to a meta-analysis of 75 studies.[9]
  • According to research from 32 European countries, which considered the “risk of harm in terms of attachment disorder, developmental delay and neural atrophy in the developing brain," [10] no child under three years of age should be placed in institutional care without a parent or primary caregiver.
  • Children raised in biological, foster and adoptive families[11] demonstrate better physical, intellectual and developmental outcomes compared to children living within poor quality residential care.[12]

For additional information, see these resources:

[1] National Council for Adoption

[2] FY 2020 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoption (U.S. Department of State, 2021)

[3] On Understanding Orphan Statistics

[4] Families, Not Orphanages

[5] Keeping Children Out of Harmful Institutions, Why We Should Be Investing in Family Care

[6] Faith to Action Initiative Start Here Infographic

[7] The Development and Care of Institutionally Reared Children

[8] Growth Failure in Institutionalized Children

[9] IQ of Children Growing Up in Children's Homes A Meta-Analysis on IQ Delays in Orphanages

[10] Families, Not Orphanages

[11] Plasticity of Growth in Height, Weight, and Head Circumference: Meta-analytic Evidence of Massive Catch-Up of Children’s Physical Growth After Adoption

[12] The Caregiving Context in Institution-Reared and Family-Reared Infants and Toddlers in Romania