Research reveals multiple barriers preventing 40,000 at risk children from finding permanent, loving homes

Research reveals multiple barriers preventing 40,000 at risk children from finding permanent, loving homes 

The ‘Barriers to Adoption’ Research launch will be launched today at Parliament House, Canberra. In 2016 only 196 Australian children were adopted, the lowest number on record.

This new research highlights complex, sometimes bizarre, barriers preventing vulnerable children from finding permanent homes.

A national survey, conducted by Adopt Change, of over 1,000 Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) has identified a wide variety of barriers to adoption exist which are withholding permanency and a sense of belonging from vulnerable, at risk children. These barriers range from the most common – the complex and overwhelming nature of the system and information, through to the personal and bizarre – such as the prospective parents weight, race or age.

The research identifies a number of key findings including:

  • 83% experienced barriers in the adoption process
  • 82% found the process complex and overwhelming
  • Over 56% experienced unexplained process delays
  • 63.5% said the children in their care have expressed a desire to be adopted
  • Only 33% felt their foster agency or department were highly supportive
  • Over 40% said the adoption process took more than 5 years
  • 20% believe age was a barrier to adoption
  • More than 40% already have their own biological children and wish to adopt
  • Over 50% said they would adopt children from out of home care

Qualitative commentary on the barriers withholding stability and permanency include:

  • Personal attributes such as age and weight of PAPs is preventing permanency for vulnerable, at risk children
  • Problems with agencies exacerbated time and cost challenges associated with adoption
  • PAPs cease the process due to complexity and lack of information, timeframe and uncertainty of outcome
  • PAPs are being told adoption is not an option if the child in their care is indigenous
  • PAPs are leaving the domestic adoption process for intercountry as the former is too difficult
  • Guardianship is not enough as it does not provide legal ties for a child after age 18

Renee Carter, CEO Adopt Change said, “The research findings support that there are a significant number of people wanting and trying to provide permanency for vulnerable, at risk

children, and yet they continue to face unexplained barriers and delays.”

“The current system is broken and we need urgent change in order to provide these children with a more permanent and supportive environment,” Ms Carter added.

A number of survey respondents have provided individual feedback here: – “Our doctor was not concerned at all with BMI (body mass index) as it doesn’t take into account body fact percentage and muscle mass. My partner goes to the gym 5 days per week so his body fat went down, muscle mass increased but then this pushed him into the overweight category.”

“We are open to teenagers (we both have extensive experience with teens) and sibling groups but have been told I am too young (aged early 30’s).”

“Our weight was brought up as an issue as we both had BMIs (body mass index) just in the overweight range. Our doctor wasn’t concerned about our weight but we were strongly advised by the government agency to lose weight, which we both have.”

“Applied to adopt our foster son, full adoption assessment done, assessor recommended adoption but local indigenous community and our indigenous foster care agency opposed the adoption (even though my husband is aboriginal) and so it was stopped.”

“When my child first came into my care she was seven years old. I considered adoption but was told multiple times by the department that because the child was indigenous and I was not that I would have no hope, so not to bother. I now have a permanent care order for my child but there is always the possibility that our home could be disrupted by a court order or a sudden phone call to conduct a risk assessment, which could see her removed from my care and placed elsewhere. There is a constant feeling of insecurity around the stability of our family which is very stressful.”

“Departments need to understand the pressure placed on families when care is temporary. Timely responses are needed. Too many times I have been told it’s the caseworkers day off or someone else will do that then it doesn’t get done.”

For further information and media interviews please contact 
Samantha Dybac P: 0411 251 373 

Available for Interview: 
Renee Carter, CEO Adopt Change
Case studies available upon request

Barriers to Adoption research launch will take place on Monday 4 September, 11am, Parliament House, Canberra. To attend the event please contact Nichola Zed The full research report will be publicly available on the Adopt Change website from Midday Monday 4 September 2017. Please visit

National Adoption Awareness Week (NAAW) was founded by Deborra-lee Furness in 2008 and runs each November. In 2017 it will run from Sunday 12 November – Saturday 18 November 2017. For further information visit

Hashtags: #adoptchange #adoptionbarriers #homeforlife

There were 196 Australian child adoptions in total in 2015-16, comprised of 45 local adoptions and 151 known child adoptions, including 24 children 18 yrs of age or over, and 70 by a known-carer. 68 of these known-carer adoptions were from NSW. (AIHW) Source: AIHW 2016 Adoptions Australia 2015-16, AIHW, Canberra.

*Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2017 Child Protection Australia 2015-16, AIHW, Canberra