Adoption aims to provide a nurturing, safe and permanent family for children and young people who are not able to live with their families. It is a process where full parental rights and responsibilities for a child are legally transferred from a child’s parents to their adoptive parents.
This report covers the latest data on adoptions of Australian children (domestic adoptions) and children from overseas (intercountry adoptions). Data covers characteristics of adopted children, their parents, and their adoptive families, as well as adoption processes and consent arrangements in place.
Types of adoption
The type of adoption practiced in Australia is known as a ‘plenary open adoption’, characterised by an open exchange of information between parties. The National Adoptions Australia data collection includes the following categories of adoption:
- Domestic adoptions of Australian children, which include:
- local adoptions, where the child and adoptive parent(s) did not know each other before the adoption
- known child adoptions, where the child and adoptive parent(s) knew each other before the adoption. Known child adoptions can be further categorised into adoptions by step-parent(s), relative(s), carers, or other.
- Adoptions of children from overseas (or intercountry adoptions), where the child and adoptive parent(s) did not know each other before the adoption.
- These can be further categorised as either ‘Hague’ or ‘bilateral’ adoptions, depending on the arrangement in place between Australia and the partner country. ‘Hague’ countries are those who are party to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (the Hague Convention). Australia has ‘bilateral’ arrangements with countries who are not party to the Hague Convention, but who can satisfy the principles of the Convention, regardless of whether the country is a signatory. More information on these differences is in Appendix A.
- Australia has intercountry adoption programs with the following partner countries who are party to the Hague Convention – Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Latvia, Poland, South Africa, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand (Intercountry Adoption Australia 2022). Australia also has intercountry adoption programs through bilateral arrangements with South Korea and Taiwan.
In 2021–22, 208 adoptions were finalised in Australia. Of these:
- 192 (92%) children were adopted within Australia (31 local adoptions, 161 known child adoptions).
- Most known child adoptions were by a carer (94, or 49% of domestic adoptions) or step-parents (60, or 31% of domestic adoptions).
- 16 children (7.7% of all adoptions) were adopted from overseas – 7 of these children came from countries party to the Hague convention, while 9 were adopted from countries which had a bilateral agreement with Australia.
- All intercountry adoptions were from Asian countries – 7 from South Korea, 6 from Thailand, 2 from Taiwan and one from the Philippines (Figure 1).
Adoptions by relatives or other known carers of children from other countries, or known child intercountry adoptions, are not included in national counts but are collected by all jurisdictions.
- These can be further categorised as either intercountry relative adoptions or intercountry known non-relative adoptions (Intercountry Adoption Australia 2022).
- In 2021–22, there were 6 known child intercountry adoptions.
For definitions of each of these adoption types, see the glossary.
More information on intercountry known child adoptions can be found at Intercountry Adoption Australia.
Figure 1: Number of finalised adoptions in Australia, by type of adoption, 2021–22