Adoption numbers show a small upward trend

Over the past 25 years, adoption numbers declined by 64%—from 855 in 1994–95 to 310 in 2018–19—but since a low of 278 adoptions in 2015–16, there has been a rise of 12%. This is due to a 40% rise in known child adoptions from 2015–16 to 2018–19, which can be attributed to a higher number of adoptions by known carers, such as foster parents, in New South Wales.

Known child adoptions made up just over two-thirds of all adoptions

While other types of adoptions have declined, known child adoptions—where the child is already known to the adoptive parent(s)—rose over the past decade, from 129 in 2009–10 to 211 in 2018–19. These adoptions comprised 68% of all finalised adoptions in 2018–19, with adoption by carers, such as foster parents, being the most common (67% of all known child adoptions).

Local and intercountry adoptees were younger than known child adoptees

Adoptions of Australian children not known to their adoptive parent(s) are called ‘local’ adoptions. In 2018–19, 42 local adoptions were finalised, representing 14% of all adoptions.

A further 57 adoptions of children from countries with which Australia had an official adoption program—referred to in this report as intercountry adoptions—were also finalised. Nearly all (98%) of local adoptees, and 65% of intercountry adoptees were aged under 5. By comparison, less than 1 in 5 known child adoptees (17%) were aged under 5.

Indigenous children were adopted by known carers

In 2018–19, no Indigenous children were adopted through local adoption, and 12 Indigenous children were adopted through known child adoption. This was the highest number of finalised adoptions of Indigenous children in the past 25 years (equal to the number recorded in 1994–95). Over the 25 years from 1994–95 to 2018– 19, a total of 126 Indigenous children have been adopted.

Intercountry processing times dropped in 2018–19

For intercountry adoptions, the median length of time from when an adoptive parent became an official client of an Australian state or territory department responsible for adoption, to when a child was placed for adoption had been rising since 2007–08 (when data were first reported). The median processing time peaked at 5 years and 4 months in 2014–15, but then fell to less than 3 years in 2016–17 and 2017–18. The median time in 2018–19 was 2 years and 1 month, the shortest time on record.

The median length of time from when applicants became official clients of the department, to when a child was placed with them varied considerably across countries. For example, placements from South Korea had a median time of 21 months, while for Thailand the median time was just under 4 years (47 months).

Nearly all intercountry adoptions were from Asian countries

In 2018–19, 96% of finalised intercountry adoptions were for adoptees from Asian countries. The most common country of origin was South Korea (30%), followed by Taiwan and the Philippines (26% each).

The main country of origin for intercountry adoptions has changed over time. Between 2006–07 and 2010–11, the main country of origin was either China or the Philippines. Then, between 2011–12 and 2017–18, it shifted between Taiwan and the Philippines, with South Korea becoming the leading country in 2018–19.

Twelve months after entering Australia, the proportion of intercountry placements with moderate to substantial additional care needs declined

For the first time, this report includes data on the level of need of intercountry adoptees. This is the level of resources or support services required by the adopted child and/or their adoptive family to foster healthy development and wellbeing, support positive family functioning, and prevent adoption disruption (a continuum from no additional care needs, when compared with an average Australian family with non-adopted children, to moderate to substantial additional care needs).

At the time adoptees were allocated, 34% of the intercountry placements that occurred in 2017–18 were considered to have moderate to substantial additional care needs. However, 12 months after the adoptees had entered Australia, this proportion fell to 9%, with 52% considered to involve minor additional care needs by then.