Survey commissioned by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption shows an increase in the belief that all children are adoptable
For five years, siblings Lexi and Nick lingered in foster care, frightened they might never be adopted, or worse, separated from each other. After being found alone in a hotel, they bounced from house to house. Lexi, now 18, said, “It was confusing. I was scared. We didn’t know where we were going. I felt alone.” Nick had major health issues — made worse by years of neglect — and no access to medical care. At age 16, he weighed 79 pounds.
Lexi and Nick were fortunate to be adopted by Laurene and Matt Sweet in 2018 and today are thriving. Nick is in college, and Lexi will graduate high school this year. The Sweets are among the growing number of Americans considering foster care adoption when building a family.
According to a new national survey conducted by The Harris Poll every five years on behalf of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 37% of adults in the United States who have not adopted have considered adoption (a significant increase from 25% in 2017). Of those individuals, 82% have considered foster care adoption — up 3% from 2017 and at an all-time high since the Foundation first commissioned the survey in 2007.
“These findings are very encouraging — more families are open to adoption in general and considering foster care adoption at higher rates than we’ve ever seen,” said Rita Soronen, President & CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “We fervently believe that unadoptable is unacceptable and are excited that more and more Americans are joining us in that belief.”
The survey also revealed that 67% of adults believe that every child is adoptable, which is an increase from 58% in 2017. And 75% of adults say that society should be doing more to encourage foster care adoption, up significantly from 64% in 2017.
While a growing number of Americans believe more should be done to help youth in care, unfortunately, more than half (51%) mistakenly believe that children are placed in foster care because they are juvenile delinquents. “The idea that these children have done something wrong, causing them to be placed in foster care, continues to permeate society,” Soronen said. “It is a misconception that we must continue to fight.”
Among the other findings remains a hesitancy to adopt teenagers. Thirty percent of Americans feel youth not adopted by the time they are adults will be fine on their own. And only 3% of adults would consider adopting a teenager as their first choice.
“We need to do more to help young people who are still waiting to be adopted,” said Soronen. “You are never too old to need the support of a permanent family, and teenagers need and want parents just as much as younger children. Research shows that if a child ages out of foster care, they are at a much higher risk of experiencing homelessness, unemployment and other negative outcomes.”
Laurene, Lexi and Nick’s mom, says she couldn’t imagine not adopting her two teenagers. “I love teenagers. They are so fun. We didn’t have the first steps or first words, but we have experienced so many other milestones with our kids.”
“I think being adopted is the most beautiful thing you could ask for because you get to start a new life,” Lexi says. “Now, I feel as if I can be whoever I want to be.”
Through its national programs, such as Wendy’s Wonderful Kids®, Adoption-Friendly Workplace™ and National Adoption Day, the Foundation is dedicated to achieving the vision that every child will have a permanent home and a loving family. The Foundation’s awareness campaigns highlight the urgent need for foster care adoption and work to dispel the myth that children are placed in foster care because they have done something wrong. These young people enter the system through no fault of their own because of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, many are freed for adoption because it is unsafe for them to return to their biological families.
Through Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, the Foundation supports the hiring of adoption professionals, known as recruiters, who serve children and youth who have been waiting in foster care the longest. A rigorous, five-year national evaluation revealed that a child referred to the program is up to three times more likely to be adopted.
Right now, more than 115,000 children are waiting to be adopted from foster care in the United States, and more than 20,000 youth age out of care without a family every year.
About the U.S. Adoption and Foster Care Attitudes Survey
The survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, from November 1–18, 2021 among 1,411 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, including an oversample of 204 African Americans and 202 Hispanics. Data are weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, age, region, race/ethnicity, income, education, household size and marital status. Data are also weighted to reflect respondents’ propensity to be online.