For the first time in seven years, the number of children adopted from countries outside Australia has significantly increased, according to a report published today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Adoptions Australia 1999-00 shows there were 566 adoptions in 1999-00, 23 more than in 1998-99, but far from a peak of nearly 10,000 in 1971-72.
Of the 566 adoptions, 265 were for locally-born children, and 301 adoptions were for overseas-born children-57 more than the previous year.
Of the 265 locally-born children, 159 were adopted by relatives or guardians ('known child' adoptions). The other 106 children were adopted by parents with no previous contact or relationship with the child ('placement' adoptions).
All 301 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 40 signatory countries, and safeguards children's best interests.
Co-author of the report, Susan Kelly, said that the signing of the Convention by Australia is the likely reason for the increase in the number of Australian adoptions of overseas-born children.
'It is now possible for adoption orders to be finalised in the country of origin and recognised in Australia, and this has streamlined administrative processes,' Ms Kelly said.
According to the report, this is the first time in seven years that there has been any significant increase in the number of overseas-born adopted children, with figures remaining steady at around 250 each year. For the years 1991-92 to 1999-00 in total, most of the adopted children have come from Korea (685), India (262), Thailand (241), the Philippines (197) and Colombia (183).
There were 5,008 applications for information about past adoptions in 1999-00 (a fall of 8% from the 5,430 lodged in the previous year). Of these, half (51%) were made by the adopted person, 14% by the birth parents, 5% by other birth relatives, 2% by adoptive parents, and 1% by a child of the adopted person.
Most adoptive mothers (82%) were aged over 35 years, while more than half (54%) of adoptive fathers were aged 40 years and over. Almost all adoptive parents (99%) were married and about half (52%) had no other children in the family.