DECEMBER 20 2016
Only 278 adoptions were finalised in the past year – the lowest number on record – according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
It was a fall of 5 per cent from the 292 adoptions in 2014-15 and of 74 per cent from the 1052 adoptions 25 years earlier, in 1991-92.
The decline over the past decade was driven primarily by intercountry adoptions, which fell to 82 in the past financial year, from 406 in 2006-07.
The patterns of adoptions have changed within Australia over the past few decades, the Adoptions Australia report says.
“These changing patterns are due to a complex interplay of factors, including, among others, contraception and legalised abortion, the availability of financial support for unwed mothers, a reduction in stigma around children born outside marriage, the end of forced adoption practices, the increasing labour force participation of women, and reproductive innovations,” the report reads.
“When combined with parents postponing having children, and the consequent reduction in fertility rates, these factors have led to fewer children being in need of adoption at the same time as more families are seeking to adopt.”
The number of finalised adoptions fell or remained the same as the previous year in most states and territories, except Queensland, which rose from 38 to 48 and the Northern Territory, which rose from two to nine.
AIHW child welfare and prisoner health unit head David Braddock said the main headline change in the report was the drop in adoption numbers down to record low levels over the past 25 years.
Mr Braddock said that was seen across adoptions within Australia and also decreases in overseas adoptions.
“We’ve seen a fairly big drop in the number of adoptions from children from overseas,” he said.
“And that reflects the arrangements in those countries in terms of their thinking in terms of making children available for adoption, trying to make arrangements where they can adopt within their own countries, and increasing social services and wealth.”
It has been taking longer to complete intercountry adoptions, although it peaked at five years and four months in 2014-15 and then fell to three years and five months in 2015-16.
The wait varied across countries, ranging from more than two-and-a-half years for South Korea and almost seven years for Thailand.
The main country of origin has also been changing. From 2006-07 to 2010-11, the main country of origin for intercountry adoptions was China or the Philippines.
In the past year, the top countries were the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and South Korea.
There were more boys than girls adopted in the past year – 61 per cent compared to 39 per cent – and the most frequently adopted age group was 1 to 4-year-olds.
All adoptive parents of a finalised intercountry adoption were aged at least 30 in the past year, and more than 80 per cent were aged 40 and over.
This was due to various reasons which may include postponed child bearing, unsuccessful fertility treatments, and often lengthy processing times.
In 2015-16, 151 known child adoptions were finalised, which was similar to the previous year, with half by a step-parent and 46 per cent by carers, such as foster parents.