The overall number of children adopted by Australians fell from 330 in 2017–18 to 310 in 2018–19—but more children are being adopted by known carers, and the overall number of adoptions has risen by 12% since 2015–16, according to a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Adoptions Australia 2018–19, shows that two-thirds (68%) of the 310 finalised adoptions in 2018–19 were by persons already known to the child, including foster parents, step-parents, and other relatives.
‘Between 2008–09 and 2018–19, adoptions by known carers, rose by 306%, in part reflecting the desire to provide permanency for children in out-of-home or foster care environments,’ said AIHW spokesperson Ms. Louise York
‘This rise has been driven by New South Wales (NSW), where recent reforms have increased the focus on adoptions by known carers. In 2018–19, the majority (136 of 142 or 96%) of adoptions by carers occurred in NSW.’
There were 42 adoptions of Australian children not known to their adoptive parent(s), called ‘local’ adoptions, accounting for 14% of all adoptions in 2018–19.
A further 57 adoptions (18%) were of children from countries outside Australia through official intercountry adoption programs.
‘Processing times for intercountry adoptions have fallen from a peak of 5 years and 4 months in 2014–15 to a record low of 2 years and 1 month in 2018–19,’ said Ms York.
‘However, processing times varied considerably for different countries of origin. A placement from South Korea, for example, may take 21 months, while a placement from Thailand may take almost 4 years.’
Almost all 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).
‘This report, for the first time, includes information on the level of need associated with intercountry adoptions. This is a measure of the level of resources and/or support services required by the adopted child and their adoptive family to foster healthy development and wellbeing,’ said Ms York
One-third of intercountry adoptees placed with adoptive families in 2017–18 were considered to have moderate to substantial additional care needs at the time of placement decision. When the same children were assessed twelve months post placement, those requiring moderate to substantial additional care needs fell to 9%, with 52% considered to have minor additional care needs.
Twelve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were adopted in 2018–19, and all of them had pre-existing relationships with their adoptive parent(s).
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.
Between 1994–95 and 2015–16, the number of child adoptions in Australia fell from 855 to 278. Since then, there has been a 12% increase in adoptions, although overall numbers of adoptions fell during the past 12 months, from 330 in 2017–18 to 310 in 2018–19.