In Australia, adoption is one of a range of options used to provide permanent care for children who are unable to live with their birth families. This report presents the latest data on adoptions by Australians of Australian children and children from overseas in 2010–11. It also highlights important national trends in adoptions. Key findings are outlined below.

The number of annual adoptions continues to fall

The 384 finalised adoptions in 2010–11 was the lowest annual number on record. It was a 7% decline from the previous year and a 66% decline from the 1,142 adoptions in 1990–91. The long-term fall can be attributed to a fall in the number of Australian children adopted, reflecting the decline in the number of children considered to be in need of adoption and legally able to be adopted.

In contrast, intercountry adoption numbers have fluctuated over the last two decades, and have been the most common type of adoption since 1999–00. However, the 215 such adoptions in 2010–11 continued a six-year pattern of decline.

The majority of intercountry adoptees are from the Asian region

In 2010–11, four-fifths (80%) of children adopted from overseas were from Asian countries. The three most common countries of origin in Asia were China (24%), the Philippines (17%), and Taiwan (12%).

Ethiopia was the most common country of origin outside the Asian region (19%).

For the first time in more than two decades, South Korea was not among the four most common countries of origin—a consequence of South Korea giving preference to local options and deliberately reducing the number of exit permits for children approved for intercountry adoption.

The proportion of infants adopted from overseas has declined

Although nearly all children adopted from overseas in 2010–11 were under 5 years of age (87%), the proportion of infants under 12 months has declined—from 47% of all intercountry adoptions in 2005–06 to 29% in 2010–11.

In local and intercountry adoptions, parents 40 and over, and those with no other children were most likely to adopt

In 2010–11, just over half (52%) of the children in local adoptions had adoptive parents aged 40 and over. For children in intercountry adoptions, this proportion increased to about two-thirds (68%).

In 2010–11, more than half of the children in local and intercountry adoptions were adopted into families with no other children (61% and 55%, respectively).

‘Open’ adoption continued to be the main arrangement in local adoptions

About four-fifths (84%) of local adoptions in 2010–11 could be considered ‘open’—that is, all parties were happy to allow a degree of contact or information exchange to occur between families. ‘Open’ adoption agreements have been the most common arrangement in the past 10 years for local adoptions.