Falling intercountry adoption numbers contribute to overall decline

The 333 finalised adoptions in 2011-12 was the lowest annual number on record-a 13% fall from the previous year's low of 384 and a 78% decline from the 1,494 adoptions 25 years earlier in 1987-88.

For the first time since 1998-99, more Australian children (184) were adopted than children from overseas (149, excluding expatriate adoptions) (55% and 45%, respectively).

While the long-term fall is more notable for the number of Australian children adopted (an 84% decline from 1987-88 to 2011-12), the number of intercountry adoptions in 2011-12 continued a 7-year pattern of decline (resulting in a 52% decline from the 308 intercountry adoptions in 1987-88).

The long-term fall in numbers can, in part, be attributed to legislative changes, such as the increased use of alternate legal orders in Australia, as well as broader social trends and changing social attitudes which have made it easier for children to remain with their birth family or within their country of origin.

The proportion of infants adopted from overseas continues to decline

Although the majority of children adopted from overseas in 2011-12 were under 5 years of age (79%), the proportion of infants under 12 months has declined-from a peak of 47% of all intercountry adoptions finalised in 2005-06 to 23% in 2011-12.

Intercountry processing times continue to rise

Despite Australian Central Authorities maintaining or improving the time taken to complete the aspects of the intercountry adoption process they are responsible for, the median length of time from the approval of an applicant to the placement of a child has increased (from 37 months in 2007-08 to 56 months in 2011-12).

The rise can, in part, be attributed to the increased time taken by countries of origin to allocate children after receiving files from Australia (19 months in 2007-08 to 30 months in


Birth mothers of local adoptees are younger and unlikely to be married

The majority of birth mothers of children who were the subject of a finalised local adoption in 2011-12 were not in a registered marriage (85%). The median age of the birth mothers was 22, which is 9 years younger than that of all mothers giving birth in 2010, and 5 years younger than that of all unmarried mothers giving birth in 2010.

'Open' adoptions continue to be the main arrangement in local adoptions

Almost all (95%) local adoptions in 2011-12 could be considered 'open'-that is, all parties were happy to allow a degree of contact or information exchange between families.

Adoptions of Australian children by 'known' carers at 10-year high

The 70 adoptions in 2011-12 by 'known' carers, such as foster parents, represented a 10 year high for this type of adoption-more than double the 29 such adoptions in 2002-03.