The number of intercountry adoptions has tripled over the last 25 years, and now accounts for three-quarters of all adoptions, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The latest edition of Adoptions Australia 2005-06, the sixteenth report in the series, shows that despite the overall decline in adoptions over the last three decades (a 17-fold decrease since the 1970s), numbers of adoptions over the last nine years have remained relatively stable.
'The decline over the longer term can be attributed to the fall in the number of adoptions of Australian children and reflects the number of Australian children who are available for adoption, while the stability over the last nine years can be directly attributed to the rapid increase in overseas adoptions,' said Ms Sushma Mathur of the AIHW's Children Youth and Families Unit.
According to the report, a range of medical, social and legislative factors have contributed to these trends, including the availability of more effective birth control, the emergence of family planning centres and sex education classes, and changes in individual preferences and social trends with regards to raising children.
In 2005-06 there were 576 adoptions in Australia, and 421 of those (73%) were intercountry adoptions. Most children adopted from overseas were born in China (28%), South Korea (24%) and Ethiopia (17%).
There were 155 adoptions of Australian children in 2005-06. Of these, 60 were local (no previous relationship with the adoptive parents) and 95 were known child adoptions (adoptions by step-parents, relatives or carers). The great majority of the known adoptions (73%) were by step-parents.
In both local and intercountry adoptions, nearly all children (91%) were younger than five years old, and more than half of these were infants aged less than one year.
Children in local adoptions tended to be younger than those adopted from overseas, while for known child adoptions, most (71%) were aged 10 years and over.
The vast majority of adoptive mothers and fathers in both local and intercountry adoptions were 35 years and older with 52% of adoptive mothers and 60% of adoptive fathers being 40 or over. Parents adopting from overseas tended to be older than those adopting Australian children.
Around half of the children in local and intercountry adoptions were adopted into families with no other children.