Your Health

Most Adopted Children Are Happy, Healthy

The kids are alright. At least, the adopted kids are doing OK.

Young child walks with his parents. i i

hide captionNational data says adopted children in America are doing well.

iStockphoto.com
Young child walks with his parents.

National data says adopted children in America are doing well.

iStockphoto.com

According to the most extensive national data ever collected on adopted children and their families in the United States, the vast majority of adopted children are in good health and fare well on measures of social and emotional well being. Eighty-five percent of them are reported, by their parents, to be in excellent or very good health. And 88 percent of adopted children age 6 and older show positive social behaviors.

That's contrary to the "negative stories that capture media attention," about adoption, says the study's co-author, Sharon Vandivere, a researcher for Child Trends, a nonpartisan Washington research group.

Called "Adoption USA," the report was written by researchers at Child Trends and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It was based on questions in the first-ever National Survey of Adoptive Parents, a federal survey of 2,000 families that had adopted children through foster care, private domestic adoption or international adoption.

Vandivere says while there's been lots of data kept on children coming out of foster care, and some on children adopted from overseas, there's been little on domestic adoptions.

The researchers say the new survey shows that some of the lines that were thought to exist between the different kinds of adoptions are, in reality, pretty blurry. For example, says co-author Karin Malm, also of Child Trends, "the general feeling about the private domestic adoptions is the image of an infant being adopted. But quite a large number are older."

It turns out that 44 percent of children in private domestic adoptions were adopted by family or someone who knew them prior to the adoption. That's more than the 40 percent of kids adopted after being in foster care—a group that is more commonly thought to end up with family members.

"We thought the three types of adoption were more distinct," says Malm, "and now we have data that shows there's a lot of overlap."

Another blurring of the lines comes in the reasons people adopt, says Vandivere. Among motivations cited for choosing adoption, infertility was cited by 72 percent of parents who adopt internationally and 52 percent of those who do private domestic adoptions. That was not a surprise says Vandivere. But a "substantial number who adopted from foster care, 39 percent," cited infertility as a motivation.

Among other points in the survey:

  • Parents of adopted children show them lots of attention. They are more likely to be read to every day as young children (68 percent vs. 48 person in the general population). And 87 percent of adopted children have parents who say they would "definitely" make the same decision to adopt their children.
  • Adopted children are more likely to have been diagnosed with depression, ADD/ADHD or some sort of behavior disorder. Although adopted children are for the most part in good health and show positive social behaviors, 54 percent of children adopted from foster care have some sort of special health care need. Thirty-two percent of children in domestic adoptions and 29 percent of those in international adoptions also have special health needs.
  • Adopted children do well in school. More than half perform at excellent or very good levels in reading and math, according to their parents.
  • Four out of ten adopted children are in transracial adoptions. These are most common for children who have been adopted from another country. In most cases the children have non-Hispanic white parents.
  • About equal numbers of children come from the three kinds of adoption. About 37 percent were adopted from foster care; 38 percent were adopted through domestic private adoptions and 25 percent were adopted from another country. Overall, 49 percent of adopted children are boys. They make up 57 percent of foster care adoptions but only 33 percent of those adopted internationally.
  • Almost all adopted children, 97 percent, five and older know they were adopted. This was true no matter how the child was adopted.
  • Over two-thirds of adopted children—69 percent—live in a household with married parents. That's almost identical to the number of other children who live with married parents.

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