Adoption numbers decline
Adoption numbers in Australia declined by 63% over the past 25 years – from 709 in 1996–97 to 264 in 2020–21. The 264 adoptions finalised in 2020–21 are the lowest number on record.
Known child adoption made up 69% of all adoptions
In 2020–21, 183 known child adoptions (where the child is already known to the adoptive parent) were finalised, a decrease of 27% on the previous year. Over the longer-term, there has been an increase of 14% from 160 in 2001–02 to 183 in 2020–21.
These adoptions comprised 69% of all adoptions finalised in 2020–21, with adoption by carers, such as foster parents, the most common (55% of all known child adoptions), followed by step-parents (42%).
Around 1 in 6 are intercountry adoptions
In 2020–21, the 42 intercountry adoptions (of children from countries other than Australia with which Australia had an official adoption program) comprised 16% of all adoptions. Intercountry adoptions declined each year between 2004–05 and 2019–20 but remained relatively stable in 2020–21.
Local and intercountry adoptees were younger than known child adoptees
Adoption of Australian children not known to their adoptive parent(s) are called ‘local’ adoptions. In 2020–21, 39 local adoptions were finalised, representing 15% of all adoptions.
Nearly all (95%) of local adoptees and 71% of intercountry adoptees were aged under 5. By comparison, just under 1 in 7 known child adoptees (14%) were aged under 5.
Over the past 25 years, 3 in 5 adoptions of Indigenous children were by adoptive parents who already knew the child
In 2020–21, 5 Indigenous children were adopted, the lowest number of finalised adoptions of Indigenous children since 2016–17.
Over the 25-year period from 1996–97 to 2020–21, a total of 124 Indigenous children were adopted. Almost 2 in 5 (39%) Indigenous children were adopted by Indigenous Australians. Nearly 3 in 5 (58%) Indigenous children were adopted through known child adoptions.
Intercountry adoptions on average took over 3 years to process
In 2020–21, the median length of time from when an adoptive parent became an official client of an Australian state or territory department responsible for intercountry adoption to when a child was placed for adoption was 3 years and 4 months.
The median length of time varied across countries. Placements from South Korea had a median time of 24 months, while the median time for the Philippines was over 5 years.
Nearly all intercountry adoptions were from Asian countries
In 2020–21, 90% of finalised intercountry adoptions were for adoptees from Asian countries. The most common countries of origin were Taiwan, comprising just over a third (36%) of all intercountry adoptions, followed by South Korea (29%).
1.1 Categories of adoption
1.2 Adoptions in Australia
1.3 Recent developments
1.4 Data sources and processes
1.5 Report structure
2. Adoptions in Australia in 2020–21
2.1 Adoptions in 2020–21
2.2 Intercountry adoptions
2.3 Local adoptions
2.4 Known child adoptions
2.5 Access to information
3. Adoption trends in Australia
3.1 Trends in categories of adoption
3.2 Adoptions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
3.3 Alternatives to local and known child adoptions
Appendixes A, B and C (PDF 463 KB)
End matter: Acknowledgments; Abbreviations; Symbols; Glossary; References; List of tables; List of figures; Related publications