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Adoptions plunge as red tape adds to delay of getting a child

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Rachel Browne SOCIAL AFFAIRS

Babes in arms ... Australian couples are waiting more than four and a half years for adopted children.

Babes in arms ... Australian couples are waiting more than four and a half years for adopted children. Photo: Glen Watson

ADOPTION by Australians has fallen to a historic low, with 333 in 2011-12.

lw-1A report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Friday shows that figure to be 13 per cent lower than in 2010-11, and 78 per cent less than in 1987-88. The drop is blamed on the lengthy time it can take to adopt a child from overseas.

Adoptions Australia 2011–12 shows that it takes more than 4� years for an overseas-born child to be placed with an Australian family, once they have been approved.

Placements took just over three years in 2007-08.

Ricky Brisson, executive officer of inter-country adoption support network Australian Families for Children, said the time delays were frustrating for people who wanted to adopt from overseas.

"But it's not just that it takes a long time, there is also a lot of bureaucracy involved," she said.

"The government policies are hindering the process.

"There are so many children who are not allowed to be adopted by Australian families.

"It's hard to adopt older kids, it's hard to adopt children with special needs, it's hard to adopt children in groups.

There are a lot of limitations placed on which children can be adopted."

Tim Beard, spokesman for the AIHW, said many of the complications involved with intercountry adoptions were beyond Australia's control.

"Processing times are affected by factors such as the number and characteristics of children in need of adoption, the number of applications received and the resources of the overseas authority. These are all factors outside the control of Australian authorities. Australian Central Authorities have maintained or improved the time taken to complete the aspects of intercountry adoption they are responsible for," he said

The Federal Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon, closed Australia's adoption program with Ethiopia in June. Of children adopted from overseas in 2011-12, 86 per cent came from Asia, 12 per cent from Africa and two per cent from Central or South America.

The most common countries of origin were the Philippines, South Korea, China and Taiwan.

The adoption figures show Australian-born children outnumbered overseas children for the first time since 1998-99.

Of the 333 adoptions, 184 were Australian, compared with 149 from overseas.

Mr Beard attributed this to a 10-year high in adoptions by "known" carers such as foster parents. Known carers accounted for 70 adoptions in 2011-12, up from 29 in 2002-03.

NSW Community Services Minister, Pru Goward, announced proposals in November which will make it easier for foster carers to adopt.

Child welfare group Barnardos Australia finalised 25 adoptions from foster care through its NSW-based Find A Family program this year.

Barnardos Australia supports open adoption for children who cannot be restored to their birth families.

Almost 95 per cent of local adoptions finalised in 2011–12 were "open", meaning all parties involved agreed to contact between the adoptive and birth families.

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