According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in June 2014, there were 43,009 Australian children living in out-of-home care facilities, a figure which has increased by 30 per cent since 2010.
Not only are Australian kids living in out-of-home and foster care placements, but close to a quarter of all those children had been in 10 or more different placements in their lifetime.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter says the decline in adoptions isn’t because there aren’t people wanting to invite children to be a part of their families, but rather that state departments haven’t created systems to allow them to do so.
“The problem is not an unwillingness of great Australian families to adopt children who are in need of adoption. The problem appears to be occurring at the point where we’re making the decision as to whether or not a particular child in a particular set of circumstances should be able to be adopted,” Porter said.
According to the most recent Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, just 292 children were adopted in the last financial year. There has been a decline in adoption by 74 per cent since 1991.
“If those children had the choice between the discontinuity of foster care or the more stable environment of a full adoptive family, I think the latter is the better course,” Porter told the ABC.
Local adoptions — adoptions made within Australia with children who don’t have any contact with their biological parents — make up just a small portion of the adoptions made in the country. In 2010-11, there were 45 local adoptions, representing 12 per cent of all adoptions in the country.
The second highest form of adoption in Australia is known adoptions, where the child is living in Australia and has a pre-existing relationship with their adoptive parents, which can include stepparents, relatives and other family members. In 2011, there were 124 known child adoptions, making up 32 per cent of all adoptions.
International adoptions are the most common form, with 56 per cent of all adoptions being of children from other countries.
The ABC reported that while adoptions within Australia take an average of three years to complete, the waiting times can be over five years. A time frame which can be difficult both for the potential parents and the child, says Minister Porter.
“I don’t see that that balance is perfect at the moment, and I think there probably is, in a variety of instances, an over-emphasis placed on the notion that family reunification should occur at all or great cost, and there are circumstances where that just can’t be rationally achieved.”