Most adoptions in Australia from overseas

Intercountry adoptions remain the most common adoption type in Australia in 2010–11, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Adoptions Australia 2010–11, shows that 56% or 215 of the finalised adoptions over that period were of children born outside Australia, with the remaining 169 relating to adoptions of Australian children.

Of these remaining adoptions, 124 were ‘known’ child adoptions (adoptions of Australian children who have a pre-existing relationship with the adoptive parent(s), such as step-parents, other relatives, or carers).

‘As in previous years, most intercountry adoptions were from countries in the Asian region (80%); however, the proportion of adoptions from specific countries of origin has varied,’ said AIHW spokesperson Brent Diverty.

Around one in four (24%) intercountry adoption orders finalised in 2010–11 were for children from China, an increase from 14% in 2009–10. In contrast, South Korea did not appear among the four most common countries of origin for the first time in more than two decades, replaced by Taiwan.

‘This is due to a preference of South Korea for local options, and a reduction in the number of exit permits for children approved for intercountry adoptions,’ Mr Diverty said.

In total, 384 intercountry, local and known adoptions were finalised during the year, a 7% decline from the previous year, and a 66% decline from the 1,142 adoptions in 1990–91.

Local adoptions have steadily declined, while intercountry adoption numbers have fluctuated over the last two decades, remaining the most common type of adoption since 1999–2000. However, the 215 intercountry adoptions in 2010–11 continued a six-year pattern of decline.

‘The long-term fall in numbers can in part be attributed to a decline in the number of Australian children considered to require adoption. This reflects legislative changes such as the increased use of alternate legal orders, as well as broader social trends and changing social attitudes,’ Mr Diverty said.

Although almost all (87%) children adopted from overseas were under 5 years old, the proportion of infants aged under 1 has declined—from 47% of all intercountry adoptions in 2005–06 to 29% in 2010–11.

Among local adoptions, ‘open’ arrangements are the most common, continuing a 10 year trend.

‘An ‘open’ adoption is one in which all parties are happy to allow contact between the adoptive and birth families. ‘Open’ arrangements comprised 84% of local adoptions in 2010–11,’ Mr Diverty said.

In 2010–11, more than half of the children in both local and intercountry adoptions were adopted into families with no other children (61% and 55%, respectively). About half (52%) of children in local adoptions had adoptive parents aged 40 and over. For intercountry adoptions, this proportion was 68%.

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, 14 December 2011

Further information: Mr Brent Diverty, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5096, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032