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National adoption rates down 98% over 50 years

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AIHW said the majority of recent non-international adoptions were between children and adoptive parents already known to them, including carers, step-parents and close relatives.
adoption rates 98%

Adoption rates have fallen by 98% over the last 50 years, according to a new Federal Government report.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found there were 201 adoptions in 2022-23, compared to nearly 10,000 adoptions in 1971-72.

AIHW said the majority of recent non-international adoptions were between children and adoptive parents already known to them, including carers, step-parents and close relatives.

Advocates are calling for more support to care for thousands of foster children across the country.

Adoption in Australia

There are two types of adoption in Australia — domestic and overseas.

‘Intercountry’ agreements, including with South Korea and India, allow Australian parents to adopt from another country.

Parents looking to adopt must follow strict eligibility processes, including criminal history and health checks, and interviews.

Some countries don’t allow intercountry adoptions by single parents; all overseas adoptions in Australia in 2022/23 were by couples.

Transparency

All adoptions in Australia, domestic and overseas, must be ‘open’ — a child must be raised knowing they were adopted.

Adopt Change said transparency in the adoption process is important. Spokesperson Michelle Stacpoole said: “Children need that sense of identity and to understand where they come from.”

Integrated birth certificates, which include information about a child’s biological and adoptive family, have been introduced in some states.

Foster care

In 2022-23, there were 173 domestic, and 28 overseas adoptions.

However, according to the latest AIHW data, there were more than 55,000 children in out-of-home care, including foster care, in 2021/22.

Foster care is provided when a child or young person is unable to live with their biological family. Foster carers take on temporary parental responsibilities.

Carers

Stacpoole said a “significant number” of children are living in uncertain or temporary environments.

For example, around 10% of children in the government care system are cared for in group homes, motels, and hotels, not “home-based care”.

First Nations children

Amid low adoption rates, First Nations children are over-represented in out-of-home care.

A 2017 review by the Victorian Law Reform Commission found adoption must “ensure that cultural connections for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are not merely preserved but also promoted and developed.”

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