Briefing paper

Past and present adoptions in Australia

9 Feb 2012

This Facts Sheet provides a summary of the ways in which adoption currently operates, past adoption practices, and the potential impacts adoption has on those involved.

There are three types of adoption currently operating in Australia:

  • Intercountry adoptions are of children from other countries who are usually unknown to the adoptive parent(s). Since 1999-2000, most adoptions in Australia have been intercountry adoptions. In 2010-11, there were 215, representing 56% of all adoptions.
  • Local adoptions are those of children born or permanently residing in Australia, but who generally have had no previous contact or relationship with the adoptive parents. In 2010-11, there were 45 local adoptions, representing 12% of all adoptions.
  • "Known" child adoptions are of children born or permanently residing in Australia who have a pre-existing relationship with the adoptive parent(s), such as step-parents, other relatives and carers. In 2010-11, there were 124 "known" child adoptions, representing 32% of all adoptions. (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2012)

Despite the large growth in the number of Australian children in out-of-home care over the last two decades, adoption of these children is rare. This is because there is a strong push for them to be restored to or maintain active contact with their parents. In addition, most jurisdictions have the capacity to: (a) make permanent care orders (which provide security of placement with a foster/kinship carer); and/or (b) have policies relating to the creation of permanency plans 1 when there is no foreseeable likelihood of children being able to safely return to the care of their parents. Unlike adoption, these foster/kinship care arrangements do not formally extend past a child turning 18 years of age.

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