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While the overall number of children adopted in Australia is at the lowest point on record, the number of Australian children adopted by carers (for example, a foster parent) has continued to rise, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Adoptions Australia 2014-15, shows that 292 adoptions were finalised in 2014-15, the lowest annual number of adoptions on record―a fall of 8% from the 317 adoptions in 2013-14, and a fall of 74% from the 1,142 adoptions 25 years earlier.

'While adoption numbers overall have declined over time, 'known child' adoptions by carers are increasing,' said AIHW spokesperson David Braddock.

'In 2014-15, carers adopted 94 children, the highest number at any point in the previous decade-more than 4 times the 21 adoptions in 2005-06.'

Carer adoptions comprised almost one-third (32%) of all finalised adoptions in 2014-15.

'The rise in carer adoptions has been driven by New South Wales, where recent reforms have facilitated adoptions by known carers,' Mr Braddock said.

In addition to carer adoptions, there were 59 'known child' adoptions of Australian children by step-parents and other relatives, representing 20% of all adoptions.

The adoption of Australian children not known to their adoptive parents is called a 'local' adoption. In 2014-15, 56 local adoptions were finalised, representing 19% of all adoptions. Another 83 adoptions (28% of all adoptions finalised in 2014-15) involved children from outside Australia.

Local adoptees were generally younger than intercountry adoptees. Almost all local adoptees were aged under 5 (98%), with 41% aged under 1. Only 10% of intercountry adoptees were aged under 1, reflecting the trend that children in need of intercountry adoption are increasingly older children.

The report also shows that the main country of origin for intercountry adoptions has changed over the last decade.  

'Between 2005-06 and 2008-09, the main country of origin was China; between 2009-10 and 2011-12 it varied between China, the Philippines and Taiwan; and, since 2012-13, it has been Taiwan,' Mr Braddock said.

In 2014-15, 36% of intercountry adoptions were from Taiwan followed by 27% from the Philippines.

Today's report is accompanied by a dynamic data display, which allows users to explore data to find out more about trends and patterns of intercountry adoption in Australia.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 17 December

Full publication: Adoptions Australia 2014-15