Just 292 children were adopted into stable, loving homes in the past year.
That’s the lowest number on record, and a 74 per cent drop on the number of adopted 25 years ago.
The amount of time it takes to finalise an adoption has also increased to over five years on average for intercountry adoptions.
Adoption advocates say the system is in desperate need of reform.
“Given the number of children who are in need of a permanent loving family, the findings are not good enough and we must continue to advocate for ethical adoption reform in Australia,” Jane Hunt, the chief executive of Adopt Change said.
While adoptions have increased in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, they are down in other states, says a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found.
The report says the number of carer adoptions has increased, despite the overall drop. So more children in long-term foster care are being adopted and given permanence.
However, Hunt says the report doesn’t look at the large number of children that are still in the foster system, waiting for a permanent home.
In news that might surprise people, only 56 “local adoptions” were finalised in the 2014-15 financial year.
A local adoption is the adoption of a child to an unknown family. Nearly three quarters of those children were adopted into a family with no other children.
It’s children in care, either with family or foster carers that make up the bulk of the overall figure of 292 adoptions.
This is good news, as it shows changes to the system to encourage more adoptions by carers are working.
“The majority (61 per cent) of known child adoptions finalised in 2014–15 were by a carer, such as a foster parent, with the majority of these (87 of the 94) occurring in New South Wales,” the report says.
“This reflects that state’s policies, which increasingly promote adoption to achieve stability for children under the long-term care of state child protective services.”
Hunt said the New South Wales results were encouraging, but more needed to be done to get children in foster care into stable homes, particularly those over five-years-old.