How to Adopt in Australia

Three Methods:Adopting a Surrendered Australian ChildAdopting from OverseasAdopting a Family Member

The adoption process in Australia can be long and confusing. There are numerous qualifications that potential parents must meet and a complicated series of steps to be completed. As a result, the process can take months or years, and adoption rates in Australia reached an all-time low in 2011.[1] Still, with some perseverance, you can adopt a child in Australia.

Method 1
Adopting a Surrendered Australian Child

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    Determine your eligibility. Many people in Australia hope to adopt a child born in the country. The process begins with determining whether you are eligible.
    • You must be married or have been in a stable relationship for two years. You must be able to provide evidence of this.[2]
    • You must be physically healthy enough to raise a child. This usually means you must be around the age that someone would typically have a child.
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    Attend an information session. Information sessions are held on a regular basis to explain the process of adopting and to help you determine whether or not adoption is right for you and your family. You must attend one of these sessions to proceed.[3]
    • You'll need to check out the website for your state's human services department to determine when and where the next session will be held.
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    Take part in a training session. If you decide adoption is right for you, your next step is to attend a training session that will give a more detailed understanding of the process and help prepare you for some of the challenges that can come with adopting a child.[4]
    • If you or your spouse have undergone fertility treatment in an attempt to have your own child, you may not participate in a a training session until six months have passed, to ensure that you aren't currently pregnant.
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    Submit an application. Once you've completed the necessary training, you'll have to fill out a detailed application. This application will be used to verify your eligibility and suitability to adopt, and will require the following:[5]
    • A police check
    • A medical checks
    • A working-with-children check (used to verify that you haven't been charged with or convicted of harming a child)[6]
    • References
    • If you're in a de facto (non-married) relationship, documentary evidence will also be required.
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    Undergo assessment. There is a formal assessment process that will be used to predict whether you will be a suitable adoptive parent. The process typically takes three to four months.[7]
    • The assessment will consider your age, health, relationships, stability, and ability to provide financially for an adopted child.[8]
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    Work with the birth family. In Australia, the birth family of a child does not end their relationship with a child they have given up for adoption. They have a say in selecting a family to adopt their child. They may also have visitation rights.[9]
    • If a birth family selects you as a good family to raise their surrendered child, you may end up working closely with the birth family until the child reaches adulthood.

Method 2
Adopting from Overseas

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    Contact your state's Adoption and Permanent Care Services. Adopting from overseas is an even more complicated process, but may provide more options. The first step is to contact the office in your state that oversees adoption and alert them to your intentions.[10].
    • The agency will provide you with the necessary information and paperwork for the adoption process. In particular, they will give you an Expression of Interest document, which is necessary to proceed in the adoption process in some states.
    • Intercountry Adoption has an online directory of the relevant agencies.[11]
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    Submit an Expression of Interest form. Submit a form formally expressing your interest in intercountry adoption to the appropriate department or agency in your state.
    • Note that just as in domestic adoptions, certain eligibility requirements apply. You must be married or have been in a stable relationship for two years. You must not have undergone fertility treatment in the last six months, and you must not have had another child under your care for less than a year.[12]
    • Guides are available from the state to help you complete this form.[13]
    • Note that not every state requires you to submit this form before proceeding to informational seminars.[14]
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    Schedule a Preparation for Adoption Seminar. Once the state department handling adoption receives your Expression of Interest form, they will let you know that they received it. The form will be reviewed by the department and if you qualify, you will need to attend the seminar.
    • Depending on the state you live in, you will need to attend one or more seminars describing the process and responsibilities required to adopt a child.[15]
    • If you are adopting a child that is more than 2 years old, you may also need to schedule and attend the Older Child Seminar.
    • You'll receive an application at the seminar.[16] In some states, you must complete this application within a certain number of weeks following the seminar, or you will be required to attend again.
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    Submit an application to the state. Complete and submit your application to the state. Your application will be reviewed by an assessor who will determine your eligibility and suitability for adoption.[17]
    • This will include a police background check, verification of health and relationship status, and so on.
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    Await approval from your country of choice. If your state approves your application, it will forward it on to the country from which you are hoping to adopt. It will then be up to that country's government to determine whether you will be allowed to adopt.[18]
    • If the country in question has a quota on how many applications it accepts per year, your application may not be sent right away.
    • If your application is approved, you will be placed on a waiting list for a child.
    • Wait times vary by country, but you should expect to wait for a while. In 2013-2014, the average wait time was five years.
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    Complete a immigration application. Once a child has been selected for you, the Australian government must make a determination as to whether the child is eligible to immigrate.[19] Since the child will not be able to file this paperwork him or herself, you will need to complete it.
    • The paperwork for an adoption visa is available from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.[20]
    • You'll need to include certified copies of documents proving your citizenship, a police check, the child's birth certificate, and other pertinent documentation. Having these documents ready in advance will speed up the application process. Do not send original documents.
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    Travel to meet and pick up the child. Once your visa application is accepted, you'll need to travel to the child's home country to meet and accept the child allocated to you, and to bring him or her home.[21]
    • While you are overseas, you will likely also need to complete some adoption procedures with the government of the child's home country, such as court hearings finalizing the adoption with that government.
    • Do not make travel arrangements until your state's adoption office advises you to do so.
    • The Australian government's Smartraveller service can help you to prepare yourself for the requirements of traveling to the child's home country.[22] Using this service is strongly advised by Intercountry Adoption.
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    Finalize your permanent adoption arrangement. When you get home, you will need to finalize the process by applying for a court order, a birth certificate, and a citizenship certificate. The details of this process will vary based on the home country of the child and the state you live in.[23]
    • In some states, for example, you will need to submit regular progress reports for several month after bringing the child home before you can finalize the adoption. In others, there will be home visits to verify that everything is going well.[24]
    • Details on how to complete these final steps will be provided by your state's adoption agency and/or the government of the child's country of origin.

Method 3
Adopting a Family Member

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    Determine your eligibility. The easiest way to adopt a child in Australia is to adopt one that you are related to, either by blood or as a step-parent (intrafamily adoption). Your specific relationship to the child will determine your eligibility.[25]
    • For step-parents, you must have lived with the birth or adoptive parent of the child for at least two years immediately prior to the application.
    • For a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or sibling, you must have had a stable and ongoing relationship with the child for at least two years.
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    Assess the child's eligibility. The child must also be eligible for you to adopt, under the law. There are several specific guidelines that apply.[26]
    • For step-parents, the child must be at least five years of age.
    • A child must usually be under the age of 18 on the date the adoption application was submitted.
    • Step-parents and relatives may file for adoption of persons over the age of 18 if they cared for the child prior to his or her 18th birthday.
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    Complete an application. An application for intrafamily adoption can filed directly with the supreme court of the state you live in.[27] Contact the court to obtain the necessary paperwork.
    • It is a good idea to meet with a solicitor or contact Legal Aid for advice on filling out the application.[28]
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    Provide a court report. If the person you wish to adopt is under the age of 18, you will have to provide a court report detailing the adoption, prepared by a Contracted Adoption Assessor.[29]
    • The Contracted Adoption Assessor will prepare this report, for a fee, that details your suitability to adopt the child. The Assessor works on behalf of the Family and Community Services department of your state. Check your state's website to find out how to initiate the assessment process.
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    Obtain consent. Unless the court waves this requirement, you must obtain consent from the birth-parents of (or whomever has parental responsibility for) the child. There are some exceptions to this requirement:[30]
    • If the child is 12 or older, he or she may give consent to be adopted, rather than a parent.
    • Parental consent is likewise not necessary if the person being adopted is over 18.
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    Await a court decision. Last, you must wait for the court to make a ruling about the adoption. The court will rule based on whether the adoption will be in the best interests of the child.[31]


  • Private Australian adoptions are illegal. In other words, all adoptions must be made through the state. This is true regardless of whether or not the child is being adopted from outside of the country or from within.
  • Once your formal application has been submitted, it can take up to 7 months before an adoption assessor fully reviews your case. You will be assessed for your potential in rearing a child based on your submitted information.
  • Adoption in Australia can take a long time due to the thoroughness of the process. The amount of time will depend on numerous factors: the state that you live in, the number of children that are ready for adoption, the age of the children that you are approved to adopt, the number of prospective applicants, and the adoption process of the sending country.
  • Because of the difficulty of adopting a child in Australia, another option to consider is Permanent Care. This a program for children who have been removed involuntarily from troubled situations (e.g. domestic abuse). They are placed with families for long-term care. Permanent Care is not a formal adoption, but gives you custodianship of a child until he or she reaches the age of 18. At this point, you cease to have any formal legal relationship with the child, but will in most cases retain an emotional one.[32]


  • Many of the children available for domestic adoption suffer from medical conditions or have special needs. Consider your willingness and ability to care for such a child before beginning the adoption process.

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Categories: Adoption