The international adoption project: Population-based surveillance of minnesota parents who adopted children internationally

Wendy L. Hellerstedt, Nikki J. Madsen, Megan R. Gunnar, Harold D. Grotevant, Richard M. Lee, Dana E. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-171
Number of pages10
JournalMaternal and child health journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a National Institute of Mental Health grant (MH59848, Gunnar PI). The authors thank the parents and children who helped with this research. Dr. Lee’s effort was supported by an NIMH K01 award (NIMH K-01 MH070740). We would also like to thank the Minnesota International Adoption Project Team, which included M. Bale, R. DeNardo, K. Dole, and S. Iverson; members of the International Adoption Project parent advisory board, and personnel at the adoption unit at the Minnesota Department of Human Services for their contributions to this work.


  • Adoption
  • Child health
  • Families
  • International
  • Surveillance


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