Since the early 1970s, there has been a 22-fold decrease in the number of adoptions in Australia, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
'The number of adoptions has fallen from a high of 9,798 in 1971-72 to 440 in 2007-08. This is the smallest number of adoptions recorded since 1969-70 and a 23% decline from just one year ago when there were 568 adoptions,' said report author Nicole Hunter.
'This one-year decline may be part of the normal variation in adoptions over the last decade,' she said.
According to the report, Adoptions Australia 2007-08, the overall decline in adoptions in the past 25 years can be attributed to a fall in the number of Australian children adopted.
'In contrast, intercountry adoptions have emerged as the dominant category of adoptions; steadily increasing over the last 25 years to represent 61% of all adoptions in 2007-08, compared with just 6% 25 years ago,' Ms Hunter said.
Of the 440 adoptions in 2007-08, 61% were intercountry, 16% were local and 23% were 'known' child adoptions.
For 'known' child adoptions, 67% were by step-parents and 26% were by carers.
Over half of all intercountry adoptions were from three countries: China (23%), South Korea (17%) and the Philippines (15%).
'Nearly all children, in both local and intercountry adoptions, were less than 5 years old (99% and 92% respectively), whereas for 'known' child adoptions, most (69%) of the children were 10 years of age or older,' Ms Hunter said.
Agreements made at the time of adoption indicate that the great majority (77%) of local adoptions are now open adoptions, meaning the birth parents have agreed to some contact and/or information exchange.
Only 96 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have been adopted over the last 17 years, and just four Indigenous children were adopted in 2007-08.