Adoptions continue to fall

There was a 16% fall in adoptions in Australia in 2002-03 compared with the previous year, according to the latest figures released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Adoptions Australia 2002-03 shows that there were 472 adoptions of children in Australia in 2002-03, a decrease of 16% from the 561 adoptions in 2001-02.

This decrease was mainly due to a fall in both local placement (adoptions of children who are residents of Australia) and 'known' (adoptions of children who are Australian residents where the adoptive parents have a pre-existing relationship) child adoptions.

Report author Susan Kelly said factors contributing to this overall fall in adoptions of children are all positive ones which include:

  • effective birth control leading to a decrease in the number of unplanned pregnancies
  • the provision of income support for single parents and changed community attitudes to single parenthood, resulting in an alternative to adoption
  • changes to legislation and practices in relation to adoptions by step-parents within states and territories whereby step-parents are encouraged to use arrangements other than adoption
  • the introduction of alternative legal orders which transfer permanent guardianship and custody of a child to a person other than the parent.

Of the 116 'known' child adoptions, 70% were adoptions by step-parents, 28% by carers and 2% by other relatives.

The number of intercountry adoptions has remained stable for the past five years, with most children adopted from South Korea, China, India, and Thailand.

When looking at the number of adoptions in each state and territory, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory had around 3 times the number of adoptions expected relative to the size of their population.

Another trend identified was the increase by over 50% of contact and identifying information vetoes. There were 137 contact and identifying information vetoes in 2002-03, compared to the 88 lodged in 2001-02.

There were 3,744 applications for information about past adoptions in 2002-03, a fall of 10%, compared to 4,159 in 2001-02. As in previous years, the number of applications for information far exceeded the number of vetoes lodged against contact or the release of identifying information.

9 December 2003

Further information: Susan Kelly, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1182, or tel. 0407 915 851
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.