The International Adoption Project: Population-based Surveillance of Minnesota Parents Who Adopted Children Internationally

Wendy L. Hellerstedt, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Nikki J. Madsen, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Megan R. Gunnar, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Harold D. Grotevant, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Richard M. Lee, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Dana E. Johnson, University of Minnesota


Objectives—To conduct the first population-based surveillance in the United States of parents who adopted children from countries outside of the United States.
Methods—A 556-item survey was mailed to 2,977 parents who finalized an international adoption in Minnesota between January 1990 and December 1998; 1,834 (62%) parents returned a survey.
Results—Eighty-eight percent of the parents reported transracial adoptions (97% of the parents were white); 57% of the adopted children were Asian; 60% were female; and on average, the children were 18 months-old at the time of placement. Only 15% of the parents reported household annual incomes less than $50,000 and 71% reported they had college educations. Sixty-one percent traveled to their child’s country of birth prior to the adoption. Almost three-quarters involved their children in experiences related to their birth countries and 98% would recommend international adoption. Three-quarters of the parents believe that parental leave was an issue for them as they adopted.
Conclusions—This is the first population-based survey of U.S. parents who have adopted internationally. The adoptive parents were socioeconomically different than birth parents in Minnesota and their families are most likely to be transracial. Because international adoption has become more prevalent, it is important to understand the strengths and needs of families that are created through this unique form of migration.