Adoption rate in free fall

This article was published on 21.02.2008, in The Age.

Thirty-five years ago there were almost 10,000 adoptions in Australia. Last year there were just 568.

A new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) suggests various medical, social and policy factors are the cause for the drop in adoptions.

“The availability of more effective birth control together with the emergence of family planning centres and sex education classes has had a substantial impact in reducing the number of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies,” the Adoptions Australia report says.

“In addition, decreasing fertility rates may reflect a general change in individual preferences and social trends with regards to having children.”

The increasing success of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) also has negated the need for many adoptions as has an increasing social acceptance of raising children outside marriage, the report says.

In 1971-72, there were 9,798 children legally adopted in Australia.

Three and a half decades later, in 2006-07, 568 children were adopted.

The vast majority of children adopted last financial year – 71 per cent – came from overseas.

Most were Asian – 31 per cent came from China, 20 per cent from South Korea and 11 per cent from the Philippines.

Ethiopian children accounted for 12 per cent of all adoptions.

The increase in intercountry adoptions corresponds with a fall in the number of Australian children seeking adoption.

There were just 59 local adoptions in 2006-07 and 105 “known” adoptions – in which the child is adopted by a step-parent, other relatives or carers.

“A range of factors have contributed to this fall in adoptions of Australian children including more effective birth control, family planning centres, and sex education classes, as well as changing views on parenthood and child rearing,” Nicole Hunter from the AIHW said.

Over the same 25-year period, intercountry adoptions have increased from six per cent of adoptions to 71 per cent.

The proportion of South and Central American children being adopted into Australia has steadily declined as Chinese and African children gain popularity.

The report also shows that 92 per cent of adopted children were younger than five years old, while 59 per cent of local adoptions were infants.

It was more common for girls to be adopted than boys – 58 per cent compared to 42 per cent.

Birth mothers had an average age of 26.5 years – older than previous years.

About half of the children were adopted into families with no other children and three-in-five had adoptive parents aged 40 years and over.

Ninety-five per cent of the adoptive parents were in a registered marriage.

Indigenous children made up just six adoptions during 2006-07 – four were adopted by indigenous parents and two by other Australians.

The report also briefly mentions information services offered to adopted people and their birth parents once they are over the age of 18.

There were 2,851 requests for information in 2006-07.

That is the least number of requests made over the past decade and is a drop of 6 per cent over a year.

The majority – 73 per cent – of information applications were made by the adopted person and the vast majority were over the age of 25.

Birth parents made 15 per cent of inquiries and other birth relatives 7 per cent.