AbstractAn INED survey was conducted in ten French départements on 1,856 personal files of individuals who ended adoption procedures in 2001 or 2002. It was supplemented by a postal questionnaire. The survey results shed new light on the organization, duration and outcome of adoption procedures in France, on the demographic and social characteristics of adoption candidates, and the influence of these characteristics on the adoption outcome. One candidate in two finally adopted at the end of a procedure that lasted on average three years. The others did not obtain mandatory prior approval, sometimes because their application were rejected (8%), but more often because they gave up along the way (16%). One candidate in four obtained approval but did not adopt a child, either because there was no match for them or because they abandoned the project, discouraged by the long wait and difficult procedure. The candidates were mostly childless couples, sterile, and socially and economically privileged. The social services tend to favour these categories in the approval procedure, which contributes to a self-exclusion process among candidates who anticipate a negative result. There are sharp differences between départements but, contrary to popular opinion, they tend to concern the dropout rate or ease of access to international adoption rather than the approval decision itself.