Australian adoption numbers drop to record low

Fraser Barton |

There were just 201 adoptions recorded in Australia in 2022-2023, the lowest on record.
There were just 201 adoptions recorded in Australia in 2022-2023, the lowest on record.

Just over 200 adoptions were finalised in Australia last year – an all time low and  dramatic decline since reporting began more than 50 years ago.

The Australian government started recording adoptions in 1968-1969.

The number of children adopted increased from 6773 in the first year to a peak of 9798 in 1971-1972.

Bbaby feet
There has been a stark decline in adoptions since reporting began more than 50 years ago. (April Fonti/AAP PHOTOS)

But the latest data in a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows a combined 201 domestic and inter-country adoptions were recorded in 2022-2023, a decline of 98 per cent since the early 1970s peak. 

Over the last five years the number of adoptions has decreased from 330 to 201. 

Domestic adoption falls under two categories: where the parents did not know the child before or are known to the child as a carer, step-parent or relative.

Inter-country adoptions fall under ‘Hague’ or ‘Bilateral’ agreements between Australia and partnering countries. 

Overseas adoptions previously increased from 393 to 434 over a 26-year period from 1979-2005 but have since declined to just 28 in the last recording year. 

But the number of children who found a home in Australia from overseas between 2021-2022 increased by 12, the report said. 

Of the 201 total adoptions in the latest data, 86 per cent were done domestically and 142 through the known child process.

Pregnancy stock  photo
The long-term effect of COVID-19 on adoption rates in Australia remains to be seen. (Tracey Nearmy/AAP PHOTOS)

All of the locally adopted children who had not met their adoptive parents were under four. 

The pandemic also had an impact on adoption processes with a 62 per cent decrease in inter-country adoptions from when it began to 2021-22.

But the long-term effect of COVID-19 on adoption in Australia remains unknown and that may become apparent in future data, the report said.

The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children adopted through known child adoptions has increased over the last five years, and has doubled over the same period when compared with the previous decade. 

Since before the turn of the millennium, 124 First Nations children have been adopted with 34 per cent adopted by Indigenous Australians, and 66 per cent adopted by other Australians.

Only four First Nations children had adoption orders finalised in the latest data and one was through a local adoption.

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