Issues in Child Adoption

November 16, 1984

Report Outline
Overwhelming Demand
‘Special Needs’ Children
Issues for the Future
Special Focus

Overwhelming Demand

Frustrating Search for Healthy Babies

President Reagan posed a difficult question during the Oct. 7 presidential debate with former Vice President Walter F. Mondale. “Wouldn't it make a lot more sense in this gentle and kind society of ours if we had a program that made it possible for when incidents come along in which someone feels they must do away with that unborn child, that instead we make it available for adoption?” the president asked. “There are a million and a half people out there standing in line waiting to adopt children who can't have them any other way.”

The president's query underscores the troubled state of adoption in the United States today. Adoption experts estimate that two million American couples want to adopt children, preferably healthy infants or toddlers. But only about 50,000 healthy babies are available for adoption each year. This means that many prospective parents must wait five to seven years for a child. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of “special needs” children—those who have physical, emotional or mental handicaps, older children and minority youngsters—are available for adoption. Although about 10,000 of these children are adopted annually, at least five times that many wait in foster homes or institutions.

The frustrations involved in trying to find a healthy adoptable infant have led many couples to bypass public and private adoption agencies. More and more Americans are adopting children from foreign countries. Others arrange for adoption directly from pregnant women, usually through the services of a doctor, lawyer or minister, in what are known as independent or private adoptions. These adoptions are controversial primarily because they often are hastily arranged without providing adequate counseling to the prospective parents or the pregnant woman. Private adoptions, which are legal in 39 states and the District of Columbia, also can be very expensive—although they are rarely as costly as the $50,000 reportedly charged on the illegal black market for a healthy white infant.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Adoption and Foster Care
Dec. 06, 2011  International Adoption
Apr. 22, 2005  Child Welfare Reform
Sep. 10, 1999  Adoption Controversies
Jan. 09, 1998  Foster Care Reform
Nov. 26, 1993  Adoption
Sep. 27, 1991  Foster Care Crisis
Dec. 11, 1987  Independent Adoptions
Nov. 16, 1984  Issues in Child Adoption
Jun. 27, 1973  Child Adoption
Nov. 09, 1951  Child Adoption Safeguards
Juvenile Justice
People with Disabilities