About

The form of adoption practiced in Australia is referred to as ‘plenary open adoption’. Under these adoption practices the legal relationship between the child and their parent(s) is ended in order to create a new legal relationship with the adoptive family. For the adoptive parent(s), the legal rights of the adopted child become the same as they would be if the child had been born to the adoptive parent(s).

Adoption in Australia aims to provide a nurturing, safe, and permanent family for children and young people. Adoption is seen as a service for the child or young person, and decisions about an adoption are to be made with their best interests—both in childhood and later life—as the primary consideration.

The categories of adoption used in national reporting are:

  • Intercountry adoptions are adoptions of children from countries other than Australia who are legally able to be placed for adoption, but generally have had no previous contact or relationship with the adoptive parent(s). Intercountry adoptions include adoptions that occurred through one of Australia’s official adoption programs with a partner country. These adoptions are referred to in this report as either ‘Hague’ or ‘bilateral’ depending on whether the Hague Convention had entered into force in the partner country at the time a file of an applicant(s) was sent.
  • Local adoptions are adoptions of children born or permanently living in Australia before the adoption, who are legally able to be placed for adoption, but generally have had no previous contact or relationship with the adoptive parent(s).
  • Known child adoptions are adoptions of children born or permanently living in Australia before the adoption, who have a pre-existing relationship with the adoptive parent(s), and are generally not able to be adopted by anyone other than the adoptive parent(s). Known child adoptions include adoptions by step-parents, other relatives, and carers.

Each state and territory government in Australia has its own legislation, policies and practices regarding adoption. State and territory governments undertake responsibilities including the processing adoption applications and approving prospective adoptive parents. The Department of Social Services, as the Commonwealth Central Authority under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, is responsible for establishing and managing Australia’s intercountry adoption arrangements.

Information on adopting a child may be obtained from state and territory departments responsible for adoption, Intercountry Adoption Australia and the Department of Social Services websites. Visa and citizenship information, for parents adopting a child from outside Australia, is available from the Department of Home Affairs website.