The number of adoptions from overseas countries has reached a 10-year high, with 370 adoptions recorded in 2003-04 compared with 222 10 years ago, says a new report released today from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The AIHW report, Adoptions Australia 2003-04, also shows that the rise in overseas adoptions boosted overall adoption numbers in Australia by 6% over the previous year to a total of 502 in 2003-04.
Report author Debbie Noble-Carr says that the main influence on the rise in numbers has been a substantial increase in adoptions from China, from 46 in 2002-03 to 112 in 2003-04.
Adoptions from China made up 30% of the total inter-country adoptions.
'Adoptions from South Korea and Ethiopia have also increased considerably over the last 10 years, while adoptions from Fiji and Romania have now all but ceased,' Ms Noble-Carr said.
Adoptions of children born in Australia continued the general downward trend of the last 30 years - the number of placement adoptions fell to 73 (14% of total number adopted) in 2003-04, while 'known' child adoptions - adoptions of a child to a relative or known person to that child - fell by almost half to a record low of 59.
'The cause of this decline,' says Ms Noble-Carr, 'can be attributed to changes in community attitudes to issues surrounding unplanned pregnancies and single parents, and legislative changes introduced by state and territory departments around Australia over the last two decades.'
'These legislative changes allow the transfer of permanent guardianship and custody of a child to a person other than a parent as a legal alternative to adoption.'
Almost half of all children adopted were under one year of age, with a slight variation in age between overseas and locally placed adoption.
Children adopted from overseas tended to be older, with only 41% of children aged under one year, and a further 30% aged between 1 and 2 years of age.
'This may reflect the longer time it takes to adopt a child from another country, compared to from within Australia, where 88% of adopted children were under 1 year of age,' Ms Noble-Carr said.
For all placement adoptions, 82% of the adoptive mothers and 87% of the adoptive fathers were aged 35 years and over, and most were married, with over half of the children being adopted by people who had no other children in their family.
Available figures also indicate that in Australia the majority of birth mothers of children adopted in 2003-04 were under the age of 30, and almost all were not married.
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