By Joanna Miller, Senior Director of Development

Those of us working for The Adoption Exchange are asked this question quite a bit! We’d like to take this time to provide an overview of what we do, who we serve, and why the programs and services of The Adoption Exchange are so important.

The Adoption Exchange is a non-profit child welfare organization that was founded in 1983 to help establish safety and permanence in the lives of foster children. Although the Exchange was initially an exchange point for caseworkers to discuss placement of children with families seeking to adopt in the Rocky Mountain region, the organization has grown considerably over the years and now engenders a powerful impact on national trends in child welfare, employs over 40 paid staff, and counts on scores of volunteers to carry out its mission. In addition to the headquarters in Aurora, Colorado, The Adoption Exchange now has offices in Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, and also serves children in Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Today, The Adoption Exchange continues to bring new and innovative ideas to the adoption world and is working towards creating a world where every waiting child will find a permanent family. Through rigorous collaboration with state, federal, and other relevant agencies, we focus on innovative child-specific strategies that provide vibrant pre- and post-adoption services that speed waiting children to caring and loving relationships that last.

Who we Serve
The children served by The Adoption Exchange are in foster care through no fault of their own. They are survivors of traumatic abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Many children face barriers because they are older (76% of the children served last fiscal year were over the age of 9), members of sibling groups who don’t want to be separated, are coping with physical disabilities, and/or struggling with emotional challenges as a result of their painful pasts. The Adoption Exchange’s goal is to identify, cultivate, recruit, and support families who will provide a loving and permanent adoptive home for these children before they age out of foster care.

Our Approach – What we do to help these children
The Adoption Exchange takes a holistic approach to adoption and provides expertise and support before, during, and after the adoption process.


  • Finding families for children who have survived abuse and neglect.
  • Providing web, email, social media, television, and other media-based recruitment efforts.
  • Producing intensive, personalized recruitment for individual children who have been waiting for long periods of time.
  • Holding adoption events where kids and families can get to know each other.
  • Creating hands-on, personal connections between The Adoption Exchange staff and case managers.


  • Guiding adoptive families through every phase of the adoption process. There are several free resources on our website that families can use to help progress through the adoption process.
  • Educating families on the critical steps necessary to start the adoption process. Families can participate in free monthly webinars to learn about the adoption process, or attend an in-person information class.
  • Reviewing the steps to take while the family waits and answering any and all questions that may arise.
  • Supporting families after adoption through individualized case management, information and referral services, peer-to-peer support with other adoptive families, and training sessions.


  • Training child welfare professionals, and foster and adoptive families. The Adoption Exchange offers classes for adoptive parents that cover topics such as supporting children who have experienced trauma, transracial adoption, parenting children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and much more.
  • Providing technical assistance to promote capacity building and systemic changes in state and tribal child welfare programs.

Why this work is so important
If children are not adopted, they age out of foster care at either 18 or 21 years old, and face a difficult and often dangerous future. They exit foster care without any supportive adult connections, facing isolation and are often utterly alone. These youth become far more susceptible to crime, poverty, and even human trafficking. Below are some examples of the ways children who emancipate from foster care struggle later in life:

  • Education: Only 48 percent of youth who age out of care will graduate from high school, compared to 85 percent of the general population (Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, 2013). Only 1 in 100 youth will pursue higher education (Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 2011).
  • Crime: Both males and females who spent time in foster care are over ten times more likely to be arrested after they turn 18 years old than youth in general (Gretchen Cuscik and Mary E Courtney, 2007).
  • Income and Employment: One in five will be homeless within two years of aging out of foster care, only 45 percent will be employed by their mid-20s, and 40 percent of women will receive public assistance (Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 2011).

The costs to our community are steep because of the issues emancipated children face. Each child who ages out will cost society over $300,000 in his or her lifetime in lost wages, public assistance, and incarceration (Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, 2013).

In comparison, children who are adopted from foster care exhibit significantly improved educational, health, behavioral, and social outcomes than those who age out of care. National research shows that children who are adopted have 75 percent higher incomes, are 110 percent more likely to attend college, and are 200 percent more likely to have access to healthcare than those who age out of foster care (Hanson, 2006).  Moreover, adoption has been proven to break the cycle of domestic violence that too many children endure, and lead to healthier and happier families. A family is the best preventive service a child in foster care can receive to avoid a life of poverty and hardship, and to become a productive member of the community.

When a child is adopted, the entire community benefits!

Our Results
Each year, The Adoption Exchange serves more than 1,000 waiting children and 4,000 prospective families. Our programs are growing each year thanks to new and innovative techniques, dedicated and creative staff, and the generosity of our donors. While it may take months or even years to match the right family for a child, we understand that each adoption is worth all the efforts. All children deserve a loving, permanent family and a place to call home.

As a result of The Adoption Exchange’s efforts to recruit, support, and train families, more than 8,000 placements have been made since 1983! We will continually work to connect children and families until every child experiences the unconditional love and support of a permanent family.


4 thoughts on “An Overview – What is The Adoption Exchange, and what do we do?

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