After a long-term downward trend, adoption numbers are rising, particularly for children who are already known to their adoptive parents, according to a new report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Adoptions Australia 2016–17, shows that 315 children were adopted in Australia in 2016–17, up from 278 a year earlier—which was the lowest number on record.
‘This year’s rise in numbers was driven by an increase in ‘known child’ adoptions—that is, adoptions of children already known to the adoptive parents,’ said AIHW spokesperson Louise York.
Known child adoptions now make up almost two-thirds (65%, or 204 adoptions) of all adoptions in Australia, up from about 18% (or 104 adoptions) a decade earlier.
‘Of these known child adoptions, most—70%—were by carers, such as foster parents,’ Ms York said.
Adoptions of Australian children who are not already known to their adoptive parents are called ‘local’ adoptions. In 2016–17, there were 42 local adoptions in Australia, making up 13% of all adoptions.
A further 69 adoptions (22% of all adoptions) were of children from countries outside Australia, known as ‘intercountry’ adoptions.
‘This year, all intercountry adoptions were from Asia, with Taiwan the most common country of origin, making up 35% of intercountry adoptions,’ Ms York said.
This was followed by the Philippines (26%), South Korea (20%) and Thailand (15%).
The time parents wait to adopt a child from outside Australia has fallen in recent years. The average time from when parents first became a client of the department responsible for adoptions in their state or territory to when a child was placed with them was 2 years and 9 months in 2016–17, down from 5 years and 4 months in 2014–15.
However, waiting times vary significantly across countries. For example, the average waiting time was just under 2 years for children from Hong Kong, but over 6 years for children from Thailand.
The report also shows that adoptions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are uncommon, with only 4 adoptions taking place in 2016–17, and only 125 in the last 25 years.
This report provides further detail on the headline figures released during National Adoption Awareness Week (12 - 18 November 2017).