What is adoption?

Through the process of adoption, a child stops being the child of one or both of the child’s birth parents or under the guardianship of the state, and becomes instead the child of one or two adoptive parents.

Technically, adoption actually occurs when the relevant state or territory court – in NSW, the Supreme Court – makes an adoption order. The effect of an adoption order is that parental responsibility for a child is transferred from one party or parties to a new parent or set of parents. In NSW, the process of adoption is governed by the Adoption Act 2000 (NSW).

Who can be adopted?

An adoption order can be made in relation to a person who is under 18 years of age, but also to a person over 18 who has been in the care of the person or people applying for the adoption order.

Who can adopt?

In NSW, a single person can adopt a child, as well as a ‘couple’. A couple is defined as a man and woman who are either married or have a de facto relationship (sections 4 and 26 Adoption Act 2000 (NSW).

Purpose of adoption

In earlier times in Australia, adoption was mainly considered as a means of providing childless couples with a child.

The focus now has shifted to the benefits of adoption for the child. A court will order an adoption only when it is clear that adoption (rather than another parenting arrangement) will provide the safest, most secure form of family for the child. Courts are now more careful about entirely severing relations between birth parents and their children.

Since the reformed Act was introduced in 2000, birth parents can agree to an adoption plan that provides for exchange of information and a form of continuing contact between the child, the birth parents and the adoptive parents.

Adoptive parents are now also encouraged to foster and maintain the development of a healthy cultural identity for children adopted from families internationally, or within Australia from birth parents of another culture.

Right to information

One of the key reforms to the Adoption Act in 2000 was the removal of much of the secrecy surrounding the adoption process. Procedures are now in place to allow supply to an adopted child, once the child reaches the age of 18, of information about their birth and birth parents. The birth parents also can apply for details of the child’s adoptive name and adoptive parents.

Both the adopted child and the birth parents can register a ‘contact veto’ with the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) if they don’t want to be contacted at all. FaCS also administers a ‘reunion information register’ for birth parents and adoptees who do want to reconnect.