Child Adoptions Worldwide

Adoptions are increasingly in the global headlines these days. On the one hand, some Hollywood celebrities have been in the media spotlight recently for adopting children abroad. On the other hand, there has been a renewed interest in the plight of orphaned children. We wonder: What is the annual number of child adoptions worldwide?

A. One million
B. 250,000
C. 125,000
D. 40,000

A. One million is not correct.

The global population of children under age 18 is nearly 2.2 billion. There are about 16 million orphans in the world, that is, children who have lost both parents. One million adoptions would account for about 6% of these children. The real number, however, is much smaller.

Africa has an estimated 7.7 million orphans — with 60% of them orphaned as a result of AIDS. In Asia, there are an additional 7.9 million orphans. One million is about the number of adoptions that would be necessary in order to place every orphan in Nigeria alone with a family.

B. 250,000 is correct.

Of the nearly one billion women aged 40 years or older, 71 million, or 8%, are estimated to be childless. In comparison, the estimated number of children adopted worldwide annually is approximately 250,000. About 85% of these adoptions are domestic, or undertaken within the same country.

In relative terms, the number of child adoptions is small — with only 1.5% out of the 16 million orphans worldwide finding a family each year.

C. 125,000 is not correct.

The number of adoptions that take place each year in the United States is 125,000. The United States thus accounts for about one-half of the total number of child adoptions worldwide, with most of them being domestic adoptions.

According to the UN Population Division, comparatively large numbers of adoptions also take place in China and in the Russian Federation — with 46,000 and 23,000 adoptions, respectively, occurring each year (data as of 2001).

D. 40,000 is not correct.

Because the demand for child adoption far outstrips the supply in most developed countries, many potential parents are looking abroad to adopt a child. As a result, the number of inter-country adoptions has climbed from 20,000 a year in the 1980s to about 40,000 today.

Americans account for half of all inter-country adoptions, followed by France and Spain — with about 4,000 each.

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