- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 21, 2003

Adopted children are more likely to have parents who are older, married, wealthier and more educated than children raised by biological parents, the Census Bureau said today in its first report on adopted children and stepchildren.

More than 2 million adopted children lived in homes with family members in 2000, says the report, “Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2000.”

The data come from the long form of the Census 2000, which for the first time asked householders to identify children in the home as adopted, natural-born or stepchildren, said Rose M. Kreider, the report’s author.

The report shows that “we are finally starting to pay serious attention to adoption and families,” said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York.

“You don’t do research on secrets, and adoption’s history of secrecy, shame and stigma did not bode well for doing careful analysis,” he said. The report is “a good start and a solid sign that adoption is coming out of the shadows.”

The census found that, of children living at home, about 77.2 million, or 92.3 percent, had been born to the parents.

About 4.3 million, or 5.2 percent, were stepchildren, and about 2 million, or 2.5 percent, had been adopted.

Most of the adopted children — 1.8 million — were born in the United States.

This shows that “adoption is alive and well in America today,” said Thomas C. Atwood, president of the National Council for Adoption (NCFA). “No one who is adopted into his or her family should feel alone in America in 2003. There are a lot of adopted people and a lot of adoptive families.”

Census data also portrayed adoptive households as beneficial to children:

• Seventy-eight percent of adopted children under age 18 lived with married parents, compared with 74 percent of natural-born children. More stepchildren — 88 percent — had married parents, but that was predictable because children become stepchildren when one of their biological parents remarries, the bureau said.

• The median average household income for adoptive households was $56,138, higher than the $50,900 median income for families with stepchildren and $48,200 for families with natural-born children.

• Adoptive parents were more likely to have bachelor’s and graduate and professional school degrees than biological parents or stepparents.

• Nearly 78 percent of adoptive families owned homes, compared with 67 percent of biological families as well as stepfamilies.

Natural-born children and stepchildren, however, were more likely to have younger parents: The average age of parents in both these groups was 38, while adoptive parents averaged 43 years.

The census data is limited in that it doesn’t indicate whether the child had been adopted by relatives or nonrelatives, or whether the adoption was done using public, private or independent sources.

One of its more important statistics is that 41,795 of the adopted children were less than 1 year old, Mr. Atwood said. The last available data on infant adoption was in the NCFA’s 1996 Adoption Factbook III, which reported 23,537 domestic infant adoptions, he said.

The census counts international as well as domestic infant adoptions, but it still implies a huge increase in domestic infant adoptions, he said.

Other highlights:

• Of the 257,792 foreign-born adopted children, almost half came from Asia. Korea provided the most children, with 56,825, followed by China, with 22,410.

• Almost 12 percent of adopted children ages 5 to 17 had a disability.

• More girls than boys are adopted, presumably because more girls are available in international adoptions.

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