Official adoption rates down in 2011

Date: Dec 15, 2011

The number of children adopted by local families has fallen slightly over the last financial year, continuing what has become an annual trend.

New statistics published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has shown that over the 12 months before June 30 2011, only 348 adoptions were completed - a seven per cent drop from the same time last year.

The figure was also shown to represent a 66 per cent fall from 1990-1991 levels of 1,142 - and a massive 90 per cent reduction from the more than 10,000 recorded in the early half of the 1970s.

The AIHW report makes it clear that is due to a several factors - namely recent changes in policy by international governments, shifting social attitudes and stricter local legislation.

It highlights the recent developments in South Korea as having a large impact on the recorded figures - with preference given to local arrangements by the relevant authorities.

Expanding on this topic, AIHW spokesman Brent Diverty said that South Korea was no longer in the top four countries in terms of adoption figures for the first time in more than twenty years.

Diverty explained: "This is due to a preference of South Korea for local options and a reduction in the number of exit permits for children approved for inter-country adoptions."

The report shows that the most popular countries for international adoption over the last financial year were China with 24 per cent, Ethiopia on 19 per cent and the Philippines at 17 per cent.

Domestic adoption figures were also shown to have declined, a fact which Everty attributed to a fall in the volume of local children "considered to require adoption".

"This reflects legislative changes such as the increased use of alternate legal orders, as well as broader social trends and changing social attitudes," said Everty.

In 2010-2011 there were a total of 124 'known' agreements, where the children involved have previously had an existing relationship with their adoptive parents.

This includes individuals such as step-parents, cousins, uncles and aunts, as well as those who previously provided care for the minors in question - with responsible parties making legal arrangements through their family lawyers.

It also found that the majority of domestic adoptions where made up of what is known as 'open' contracts - where families agree to a certain amount of ongoing contact to be sustained between the parties involved.

This sort of agreement accounted for 84 per cent of local arrangements - continuing a trend that has become prominent over the last decade - that highlights the importance of gaining qualified family law advice when developing contact arrangements.