Local adoptions continue to fall while the number of children adopted from countries outside Australia has remained stable, according to a report published today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Adoptions Australia 1998-99 shows there were 543 adoptions in 1998-99, 34 fewer than in 1997-98, and far from a peak of nearly 10,000 in 1971-72.
Of the 543 adoptions, 299 were for locally-born children and 244 were for overseas-born children.
Of the 299 locally-born children, 172 were 'known child' adoptions (adopted by relatives or guardians). The other 127 children went to adoptive parents with no previous contact or relationship with the child ('placement' adoptions).
All 244 overseas-born adoptions were 'placement' adoptions. These adoptions include children adopted under the 1998 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Convention establishes uniform adoption procedures among its 24 signatory countries, and safeguards children's best interests.
Co-author of the report, Susan Kelly, said that the Convention would help Australians who wanted to adopt children from other countries.
'It is now possible for adoption orders to be finalised in the country of origin and recognised in Australia, which will streamline administrative processes.'
Ms Kelly said that the Convention, in addition to a bilateral adoption agreement with China, would likely lead to an increase in the number of Australian adoptions of overseas-born children.
According to the report, the number of overseas-born adopted children has remained at around 250 for the last seven years. For the years 1991-92 to 1998-99, most of the adopted children have come from Korea (608), India (225), Thailand (208), the Philippines (168) and Colombia (166).
There were 5,430 applications for information about past adoptions in 1998-99 (a 26% increase on the previous year). Of these, 67% were made by the adopted person, 19% by the birth parents, 4% by other birth relatives, 3% by adoptive parents, and 2% by a child of the adopted person.
New data for 1998-99 shows that most adoptive mothers (77%) were aged over 35 years, while 53% of adoptive fathers were aged 40 years and over. Almost all (98%) adoptive parents were married and most (59%) had no other children in the family.