Resource Guide


Resource Guide

Because adoption is a legal process that establishes a parent/child relationship between individuals who are not related by blood, courts are involved in the decision to grant adoptions, as well as many of the collateral issues relating to consent for adoption that may exist.  The federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) sets conditions under which states should terminate parental rights, which is a necessary prerequisite for adoptions, while also allowing the court the discretion to waive this requirement when it determines that this is not in the child’s best interest.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.

Featured Resources

Trends in U.S. adoptions: 2008–12. (2016).

Child Welfare Information Gateway. This report presents data on the total number of adoptions in the United States as well as the number of public, inter-country, and other adoptions.

Who Cares About Adoption Data? We Do.

This archived webinar provides the latest estimates on adoption data, sources for existing data, and difficulties in collecting and tracking the data.  Presenters:  Matt Shuman, M.S.W., Child Welfare Information Gateway; Gene Flango, Ph.D., National Center for State Courts (NCSC) (retired).

National Adoption Month. Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is pleased to announce that the National Adoption Month website, created in partnership with AdoptUSKids, is now online.
Shuman, Matthew D. and Victor E. Flango Trends in U.S. Adoptions: 2000 to 2009. (July 2013). Journal of Public Child Welfare. Because there is no single source for adoption statistics, this study examined data from the state courts, state child welfare agencies, state bureaus of vital records, and the U.S. Department of State to develop national and state adoption estimates for 2000 to 2009.  

Abstract available online:    

Adoption Agencies and Organizations

Child Welfare League of America. CWLA is the oldest and largest nonprofit association assisting abused and neglected children and their families.
Children`s Bureau. The Children’s Bureau (CB) is the oldest federal agency for children and is located within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families. It is responsible for assisting states in the delivery of child welfare services to protect children and strengthen families.  It also provides fact sheets and information on laws, policies, programs, and initiatives concerning adoptions.
Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute (Archived material after January 2018). The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has archived resources up to January 2018.The Adoption Institute provides information for journalists, researchers, and professionals. 

Adoption Law

Responding to Rehoming: Protecting Children & Strengthening Adoptive Families. (2015). Children’s Bureau Express. This publication examines policy changes that may prevent unregulated custody transfers.
Steps Have Been Taken to Address Unregulated Custody Transfers of Adopted Children. (September 2015).

This GAO report focuses on the practice of unregulated custody transfers that have been referred to in the news media as “rehoming.”  

Golden, Olivia et al. Intentions and Results: A Look Back at the Adoption and Safe Families Act. (December 2009). Urban Institute The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) in partnership with the Urban Institute co-sponsored this series of papers to examine effects of the ASFA law and its implementation.
Bregel, Emily The nation`s first embryo adoption bill passed Georgia Senate. (April 2009). Times Free Press The Option of Adoption Act ( HB388 ) is the first statute in the United States to provide a legal framework for the “adoption” of embryos by providing the option to obtain a court approval for the procedure as well as clarifying the rights of genetic donors and adoptive parents.
Flango, Carol and Ann Keith. Expediting Dependency Appeals: Strategies to Reduce Delay. (July 2002).

This book examines the effectiveness of expediting appeals for dependency cases in state courts.

Adoption Laws.

The Child Welfare Information Gateway provides state-specific information for child abuse and neglect, child welfare, and adoption.


The National Center for Adoption Law and Policy at Capital University Law School. The National Center for Adoption Law and Policy seeks to improve the law, policies, and practices associated with child protection and adoption systems.  Their goal is that all children—especially those who have been abused or neglected or are dependent on the state for their care—have safe, healthy, permanent homes.

Information and Statistics on Adoption

Jo Jones, Ph.D., and Paul Placek, Ph.D. Adoption: By the Numbers. (February 2017).

This report provides U.S. adoption data and found that the total number has fallen from a count of 133,737 adoptions in 2007 to 110,373 (41,023 related adoptions and 69,350 unrelated adoptions) in 2014.

AFCARS Report #23. (June 2016).

Children's Bureau.This report reflects all AFCARS data received as of June 8, 2016 related to AFCARS reporting periods through September 30, 2015.

Trends in Foster Care and Adoptions: FY2002-FY2012 .

This report is based on data submitted to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) by States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico by July 19, 2013.

Cortes, Susann A. Birth Parents in the Adoption Process: Experiences with Voluntary Relinquishment . (May 2012). National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections This paper reviews existing research on birth parents that voluntarily relinquish parental rights.
Zill, Nicholas Adoption from Foster Care: Aiding Children While Saving Public Money . (May 2011). Brookings Institute This report concludes that adoption of children from the foster care system can save the public money while improving the life prospects for these children.
America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being. (2011). Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics This special feature provides data on adopted children, focusing on their number, their geographic distribution, and several indicators relevant to their well-being. The data for this section come from three nationally representative surveys.
Child Welfare Information Gateway How Many Children Were Adopted in 2007 and 2008?. (2011). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. This report gives best estimates of the numbers of children adopted in each of the States for 2007 and 2008 and uses these numbers to estimate the composition and trends of all adoptions in the United States.
Adoption Incentives Earning History by State FY 1998-FY 2010. (2010). Administration of Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists 38 states receiving adoption incentive awards for increasing the number of children adopted from foster care. States receive $4,000 for every adoption over its baseline in 2007, with additional payments for children over age 9 or who have special needs.
Vandivere, Sharon, Karin Malm and Laura Radel Adoption USA: A Chartbook Based on the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents . (2009). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services This report summarizes the first-ever survey to provide representative information about the characteristics, adoption experiences, and well-being of adopted children and their families in the United States.
Flango, Victor , Carol Flango, and Mary McFarland. How Many Children Were Adopted in 2000 and 2001?. (August 2004).

This report verifies adoption numbers for the courts, bureaus of vital records, Native American Tribes, and private adoption agencies for 2000 and 2001. These are the latest available adoption statistics. The Children's Bureau and its National Adoption Clearinghouse sponsored the data verification done by the National Center for State Courts.

Testa, Mark F. When Children Cannot Return Home: Adoption and Guardianship. (Winter 2004). Children, Families, and Foster Care 14, no. 1
Macomber, Jennifer Ehrle et al. Foster Care Adoption in the United States: A State-by State Analysis of Barriers & Promising Approaches. (2004). Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute This report summarizes information gathered from states' Child and Family Services Reviews and provides a national overview of the barriers and promising approaches to the adoption process.
Steelman, David, Honorable Jeffrey Arnold and Karen Gottieb. New Orleans Collaborative on Timely Adoptions: Removing Barriers to Prompt Completion of Child Protection Cases. (1998). Court Services Division.

Analyzes the New Orleans Collaborative for Timely Adoptions Initiative, which proposes to remove barriers to promptly complete child protection cases.

Flango, Victor and Carol Flango How Many Children Were Adopted in 1992?. (1995). Child Welfare vol. 74

This article presents the most recent and most accurate information available on the total number of adoptions in the United States in 1992. 

Let’s Adopt Reform Report: Adoption in America Today. (2016).

The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI). This report summarizes DAIs research on surveys of the American public and adoption professionals, as well as recommendations for needed changes and curriculum.

Flango, Victor and Carol Flango. Flow of Adoption information from the States. (1994).

Documents the results of years of National Center contacts with courts, bureaus of vital records and social service departments in each state in order to emphasize the need for adoption information.

Flango, Victor. National Adoption Information System: Assessment of the Sources of Adoption Data and Data Elements Reported in 52 Jurisdictions. (1989).

This report outlines the creation of the National Adoption Information System. Information was gathered to help create the System through a Technical Advisory Committee, a pilot site, and regional meetings of representatives from the courts in all 50 states.

Flango, Victor. Transmitting Adoption Data. (September 1989).

This report presents the results of a test of the ability of states to transmit adoption data to a national repository. The primary purpose of obtaining the test data is to determine the capability of adoption sources in each state and to demonstrate the ability to transmit electronically currently available adoption data.

Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System . The Children's Bureau provides access to recent data from AFCARS, which collects information on all children in foster care or adopted children for whom the state child welfare agency has responsibility.
California Child and Family Services. Provides detailed information and statistics on adoptions in California.
Annie E. Casey Adoption Data. This resource provides data on children adopted from the child welfare system.
Child Welfare Information Gateway Adoption Statistics. These resources provide state, national, and international data and statistics on private, public foster care, and intercountry adoption. Research findings present trends and analyses in the field of adoption.
Child Welfare Information Gateway`s Filing Trends. Factsheets focusing on statistical research
National Data Analysis System (NDAS). The Child Welfare League of America's National Data Analysis System provides information on child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and fiscal and administrative data.  Includes the number of children legally adopted through public agencies and the number waiting for adoption.  Users should use guest as the name and password for access to the site.
New York State Citizens` Coalition for Children, Inc. Provides detailed information on adoption, foster care, child advocacy, and children's rights.
Oregon Department of Human Services-Adoption. Provides detailed information and statistics about adoption in Oregon.

International Adoptions

State Agencies Administering or Supervising the Administration of Titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act. (May 2014).

Children’s Bureau. This memorandum provides an overview of the practice of re-homing of adopted children and encourages state title IV-B and title IV-E agencies to develop and promote the provision of post-adoption services and resources to adopted children and youth including those adopted internationally.

U.S. Embassy in Guatemala Uses DNA Testing to Protect Its Adopted Children. (August 2007). U.S. Department of State To protect Guatemalan children from being put up for adoption by people other than their parents, the U.S. Department of State has implemented a DNA-testing program.  The adults placing the children up for adoption will be tested see if their DNA matches that of the children. 
U.S. State Department, Office of Children`s Issues--Intercountry Adoptions. The process of adopting a foreign child and bringing that child into the United States involves several steps. Information regarding the process can be obtained directly from this site.

Safe Haven Laws

Pergamit, Michael and Michelle Ernst Running Away from Foster Care: Youths' Knowledge and Access of Services. (April 2011).

This report constitutes the third part of a study on runaway youths and their knowledge and access of services. This report is based on Interviews with a sample of youth who ran away from foster care placements in Chicago and Los Angeles. The information provided by these youths will help us to understand better why they run away and what can be done to prevent youth from running away from foster care.

Infant Abandonment. (February 2010). Guttmacher Institute This policy brief reviews safe haven laws in the fifty states and the District of Columbia.
Alaska, Nebraska Become 49th and 50th States to Enact Safe Haven Laws. (February 2008). National Council For Adoption (NCFA) This NCFA media advisory on safe haven laws notes that Alaska and Nebraska are the 49th & 50th states to adopt safe haven laws.
Gov. Heineman Signs Safe Haven Update into Law. (November 2008). Communications Office of Governor Dave Heineman This updated version of Nebraska’s safe haven law sets an age limit of 30 days for legally surrendering a child.
Safe Haven Law. (2008). Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) This Nebraska DHSS site provides information on the original safe haven legislation which led to 36 children being surrendered to the department between September and November of 2008.  A list of cases with the ages of the children (most of whom were over age 10 and 6 of whom were from other states) is provided.
Infant Safe Haven Laws. (July 2007). Child Welfare Information Gateway This site provides information on state statutes on safe haven laws as of July 2007.  (Note several states have added or changed safe haven laws since that time).
The Child Welfare Leagues` Baby Abandonment Page. This page provides information on baby abandonment, including state-specific information on legislation and a summary and monograph concerning baby abandonment and safe haven laws.

Special Needs Children Family Assistance

Solchany, JoAnne. Psychotropic Medication and Children in Foster Care: Tips for Advocates and Judges. (October 2011). American Bar Association, Center on Children and Law.

To adequately and successfully represent and speak for a child or teen in foster care, the child’s advocate must be able to communicate with the child and discuss the child’s experiences. This publication provides information for advocates and judges on potential mental illnesses that may occur in children who are placed within foster care.

Military Families and Adoption: A Fact Sheet for Families. (2003). Fact Sheet, Child Welfare Information Gateway, Washington, D.C. Common questions about adoption of children by military personnel and their families are addressed in this fact sheet.
National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Protecting children and families by fighting the leading known cause of mental retardation and birth defects.
National Resource Center for Special Needs Adoptions. The National Resource Center's Grant ended on September 30, 2014. However, the site remains active and includes a list of the documents published by the center. 
Spaulding for Children. A National Resource Center (NRC) for special needs adoption, Spaulding's NRC provides training, consultation, and information for professionals, organizations, and parents.

Termination of Parental Rights

Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and Their Children. (September 2012). National Council on Disability

This report examines the disparate treatment encountered by parents with disabilities and their children within the child welfare system.

New Mexico Child Welfare Handbook. (2011). New Mexico Judicial Education Center

The purpose of the Handbook is to provide the judiciary and other members of the child welfare community with a comprehensive resource guide to New Mexico’s child abuse and neglect process.

Ellis, Raquel, Karin Malm, and Erin Biship The Timing of Terminations of Parental Rights: A Balancing Act for Children`s Best Interests. (September 2009). Child Trends A sample of 20 judges representing 18 different states participated in telephone interviews to explore their perspectives and experiences around termination of parental rights proceedings and the challeges faced when making decisions in these cases.
Szymanski, Linda A. Jury Trial in Termination of Parental Rights Cases. (2008). National Center for Juvenile Justice This NCJJ Snapshot provides an overview of how states address the issue of jury trials in termination of parental rights cases.
Maryland CINA, related TPR and Adoption Matters. Best Practices Manual. (January 2007). Foster Care Improvement Project This document provides standards for child welfare hearings for the Maryland courts.
National Project to Improve Representation for Parents Involved in the Child Welfare System. ABA Center on Children and the Law This collaborative project provides resources and training to improve parent representation in child welfare cases.
Table of Appeals of Termination of Parental Rights Cases. Virginia Court Improvement Program, Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court of Virginia This table provides a list of termination of parental rights cases appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia and the Court of Appeals of Virginia since January 1, 1996 that were decided by opinion. The editors of this document arranged the cases into fourteen categories based on their characterization of the legal and factual issues involved.
Grounds for Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights.. (2013). Child Welfare Information Gateway, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families

Discusses State laws that provide the legal basis for terminating the rights of parents who have been found unfit to parent their children. The circumstances under which the court may find that termination may not serve the child's best interests and under which a parent's rights may be reinstated also are addressed. Summaries of laws for all States and U.S. territories are included.