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Adoption Information

How adoption works in Australia

What is Adoption?

Adoption permanently transfers all the legal parenting rights and responsibilities from the child's birth parents (or anyone with parental responsibility for the child) to the adoptive parents.

Open Adoption

Australia practices open adoption for both domestic and international adoptions, whereby children who are adopted grow up with an understanding that they have been adopted and, where possible, are supported to have a relationship with or knowledge of their family of origin and cultural heritage.

Where to Start?

The first step for prospective parents is to research which type of adoption or permanent care is possible in your state or territory, and decide which is right for your family.

Adoption and child welfare legislation in Australia is made at the state government level, and each jurisdiction has their own department and often a number of Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) who are commissioned to provide out-of-home care (OOHC) and adoption services. Each jurisdiction, department and NGO has their own process including setting the criteria for prospective adoptive parents and carrying out the training and assessment process. While the processes and criteria in each state are similar, they are not the same.

The basic steps for all types of adoption and permanent care are:

  • contacting the relevant state department or agency
  • attending an information session
  • undertaking assessment and training
  • waiting for matching
  • placement
  • post adoptive/placement support

Please note that the timeframes for adoption vary for a range of reasons and are subject to change. Prospective adoptive parents should be aware that currently the process can take a number of years.

Adopting a Child within Australia

Australia’s state and territory governments are responsible for administering domestic adoption and permanent care processes.

In some states and territories, there are also accredited non-government organisations that facilitate the adoption process for Australian children.

In these states, you can apply directly to the accredited agency to begin the adoption process as an alternative to applying through the state department.

Intercountry Adoption

Intercountry Adoption is governed by the Attorney-General's Department, but is administered by the state departments. The intercountry adoption process used in each state and territory is similar, but not identical.

Differences in process and requirements may also occur in each overseas country that Australia has a program with (the ‘sending country’).

The intercountry adoption Australia: your guide to overseas adoption website is a useful starting point for people considering Intercountry Adoption.

For contact details for the relevant government department in your particular State visit our resources page.

Permanent Care

Adoption is not always possible or considered in the best interest of certain children. In some states there is legislation making it possible to provide permanent homes for children instead of adoption. These are permanent care orders where the person wishing to provide a home for a child is assessed and, if successful, is granted parental responsibility until the child is 18 years of age. 

Contact your State authority for more information on permanent care.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children

Whilst permanency is just as important for the well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children, usually adoption is considered unsuitable by departments and agencies.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (ATSICPP) outlined below has been enacted to varying extents within the legislation of every Australian state and territory.

  1. Prioritising placement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family, community, or other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, where such placement is safe for the child.

  2. Consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, communities and organisations about child protection intervention, and child placement and care.

  3. Ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care are supported to maintain connection to their family, community and culture, especially children placed with non-Indigenous carers.

Find out more information about the placement principles

Post Adoption Support

There are a number of groups in existence that seek to support adoptees. Some of these are focussed on families formed through open adoption and others are tailored more towards adoptees and birth parents affected by adoption practices of the past such as forced adoptions and closed adoptions.

Post adoption services are sometimes provided by the various State/Territory departments.

Resources and Links

National Links

Intercountry Adoption Australia

The Australian Government created Intercountry Adoption Australia to help guide parents wanting to adopt a child from overseas.

State/Territory Links

ACT  |  New South Wales  |  Northern Territory  |  Queensland  |  South Australia  |  Tasmania  |  Victoria | Western Australian

The information and resources on the Adopt Change website are intended as a starting point for people seeking further information on adoption and topics surrounding adoption. They are not intended as legal advice.