Glossary

adoptee: The children and adults who have been the subject of an adoption order. Also known as adopted children and adopted persons.

adoption: The legal process by which a person legally becomes a child of the adoptive parent(s) and legally ceases to be a child of his/her existing parent(s).

adoption authority: An agency authorised under adoption legislation to decide on the placement of an adoptive child. In Australia, adoptions can be arranged by state and territory departments responsible for adoption, or by an authorised non-government agency. There are 2 categories of authorities: government arranging body and non-government arranging body.

adoption compliance certificate: A certificate defined by both the Family Law (Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption) Regulations 1998 and the Family Law (Bilateral Arrangements—Intercountry Adoption) Regulations 1998. Essentially, this is a document issued by competent authorities in the overseas country where the child was adopted that affirms that the adoption is made either under the Hague Convention or the country’s laws, and, in the case of a Hague adoption, that the relevant authorities have agreed to the adoption.

adoption order: A judicial or administrative order, made by a competent authority under adoption legislation, by which the adoptive parent(s) become the legal parent(s) of the child.

adoptive parent: A person who has become the parent of a child or adult as the result of an adoption order.

age of adopted child: For known child adoptions, this is the age when the adoption order for the child was granted. For local and intercountry adoptions, it is the age at which the child is placed with the adoptive family. Age is calculated from date of birth, in completed years.

applicant: A married couple, a de facto couple or a single person. The method by which the applicant becomes an official client will vary for each jurisdiction, and might be when the department first opens a file, when the applicant registers, or when the applicant is invited to attend an information session. For the purpose of this report, applicants who are already a client of the department, but are applying to adopt a subsequent child, or reapplying to adopt, are counted as applicants applying for the first time.

bilateral adoption: An intercountry adoption from a country with which Australia had an active intercountry adoption program, but where the Hague Convention had not entered into force before the file of the applicant(s) was sent.

carer (known child adoption): Foster parent or other non-relative who has been caring for the child and has had the responsibility for making decisions about the daily care and control of the child for the relevant period (as specified by the relevant state/territory department) before the adoption.

Central Authority: An officially designated body with specific obligations under the Hague Convention; all countries that are party to this convention on intercountry adoption must have such a body. The Australian Central Authority is the Australian Government
Department of Social Services. As Australia is a federation, a central authority has also been designated in each state and territory.

closed (program status): The intercountry program was not accepting new applications, and had been officially closed by the Australian Government.

country of origin: The usual country of residence of the child being adopted. This is generally the country of birth of a child.

de facto relationship (adoptive parents): An arrangement where 2 adoptive parents, who are not legally married, live together in a de facto relationship as defined by the state or territory in which they live.

dispensation: A legal process by which a court may declare that the consent of a parent is not required for an adoption order to be granted. Grounds for dispensation applications are set under individual state and territory legislation.

disruption: A term used to describe an adoption process that ends after the child is placed in an adoptive home and before the adoption is legally finalised. This results in the child’s return to (or entry into) foster care or placement with new adoptive parents.

dissolution: A term used to describe an adoption process in which the legal relationship between the adoptive parents and adoptive child is severed, either voluntarily or involuntarily, after the adoption is legally finalised. This results in the child’s return to (or entry into) foster care or placement with new adoptive parents.

expatriate adoption: A specific type of adoption that occurs when an Australian citizen or permanent resident living abroad for 12 months or more adopts a child through an overseas agency or government authority. Australian adoption authorities are not responsible for expatriate adoptions, and do not assess or approve applicants for such adoptions.

finalised adoption: An adoption order that was completed during the reporting period. This includes orders that were made in Australia, and, in the case of some intercountry adoptions where the full adoption order was made in the country of origin. The way in which an adoption is finalised depends on the process used in the country of origin and the procedures of the state or territory department responsible for adoption in Australia.

full adoption order in child’s country of origin: An adoption in the child’s country of origin made by an order that creates, between the child and the adoptive parent(s), the relationships of parent and child, and that severs the relationship between the child and the parents.

government arranging body: A state or territory department (see Acknowledgments) or another government authority authorised under adoption legislation to decide on the placement of an adoptive child.

guardianship/custody order (parental responsibility order): An order that involves the transfer of legal guardianship from the child’s parents to the relevant state or territory department or minister, or non-government agency. Such an order involves considerable intervention in the child’s life and that of their family, and is sought only as a last resort.

A guardianship order conveys responsibility for the welfare of the child to the guardian (for example, about the child’s education, health, religion, accommodation and financial matters). It does not necessarily grant the right to the daily care and control of the child, or the right to decide on the daily care and control of the child, which are granted under custody orders.

A custody order generally refers to an order that places children in the custody of the state or territory minister, or department responsible for child protection, or non-government agency. This order usually makes the child protection department responsible for the daily care and requirements of the child, while the parent retains legal guardianship. Custody alone does not necessarily bestow any responsibility for the long-term welfare of the child. This may vary with each individual jurisdiction’s guardianship and custody orders.

guardianship order in child’s country of origin: An order made in the child’s country of origin that creates a custodial relationship between the adoptive parent(s) and the child, but does not create the relationship of parent and child. In these cases, the parent–child link between the parent and the child is not severed. The child enters Australia under a guardianship order, and the full adoption order is made in Australia or the child’s country of origin.

Hague adoption: An intercountry adoption where the adoptive child’s country of origin has ratified or acceded to the Hague Convention, and the file of the applicant(s) was sent after the Hague Convention entered into force in that country (see Appendix B).

Hague Convention (intercountry adoption): A convention—specifically, the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption—that establishes standards and procedures for adoptions between countries. The Hague Convention includes legally binding safeguards and a system of supervision, and establishes channels of communication between countries. It came into force in Australia on 1 December 1998.

An intercountry adoption is classified as a Hague adoption or bilateral adoption.

inactive (program status): The intercountry program had not been officially closed but applications could not be sent due to requirements by the overseas country (for example, the adoption pathways offered may be currently unavailable to Australian prospective parents).

Indigenous person: A person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives. Where a person’s Indigenous status is unknown, that person is included in the category ‘Other Australian’.

intercountry adoption: An adoption of a child/children from countries other than Australia with which Australia has an official adoption program who may legally be placed for adoption, but who generally have had no previous contact with the adoptive parent(s). There are 2 categories of intercountry adoptions: Hague adoption and bilateral adoption. There are 2 arrangements for intercountry adoptions: full adoption order in child’s country of origin, and guardianship order in child’s country of origin.

known child adoption: An adoption of a child/children who were born or permanently residing in Australia before the adoption, who have a pre-existing relationship with the adoptive parent(s) and who are generally not able to be adopted by anyone other than the adoptive parent(s). These types of adoptions are broken down into the following categories, depending on the child’s relationship to the adoptive parent(s): step-parent, relative(s), carer and other.

local adoption: An adoption of a child/children born or permanently residing in Australia before the adoption who are legally able to be placed for adoption but who generally have had no previous contact or relationship with the adoptive parent(s).

marital status of adoptive parent(s): Applicable status at the time the child is placed with the adoptive parent(s), using 1 of the following categories: registered marriage, de facto relationship and single.

marital status of birth mother—married: The classification of the birth mother if she was legally married (regardless of whether she is married to the birth father) at the time of the child’s birth. In situations where the birth mother’s legal marital partner died before the birth, the birth mother is still classified as married.

marital status of birth mother—unmarried: The classification of the birth mother if she was not legally married at the time of the child’s birth (except in circumstances where the birth mother’s legal marital partner died before the birth). This includes situations where the birth mother was living in a de facto relationship.

minor additional care needs (special needs): Children who generally require a level of personal, emotional and physical care that is consistent with that which would be expected for their age group. On most occasions, the resources and supports for the child and their family are comparable to those expected for a family with an average, non-adopted child of similar age in the general population, but the child’s adoption history results in short-term or irregular periods where additional resources and supports are required for the child and/or their family.

moderate to substantial additional care needs (special needs): Children who regularly require a level of personal, emotional and/or physical care that is beyond that which would be expected for their age group. On a regular and frequent basis, the resources and supports for the child and their family are greater than those expected for a family with an average, non-adopted child of similar age in the general population. Areas of additional need may include, but are not limited to:

  • Children (on an ongoing basis) requiring abnormal amounts of attention and affection, high levels of routine and structure due to trauma/attachment issues; displaying (on an ongoing basis) aggressive behaviours, enuresis and encopresis; stealing; sleeping difficulties.
  • Children (beyond usual age expectations) requiring assistance with dressing, bathing, toileting, feeding, mobility.
  • Regular physical therapy
  • Regular medication for a diagnosed condition that requires skill and training to administer, or is needed to allow significantly improved day-to-day functioning.
  • Medical need for special dietary restrictions
  • Frequent hospital or specialist appointments, or
  • Ongoing high support special education programmes.

no additional care needs (special needs): Children who regularly require a level of personal, emotional and physical care that is consistent with that which would be expected for their age group. On a day-to-day basis, the resources and supports for the child and their family are essentially the same as would be expected for a family with an average, non-adopted child of similar age in the general population.

non-government arranging body: An agency approved to undertake adoption arrangements in Australia that is not owned or controlled by the Australian Government or by a state or territory government. Such agencies might include church organisations, registered charities, non-profit organisations, companies and cooperative societies and associations.

non-Hague adoption: An adoption from a country with which Australia did not have an active intercountry adoption program, and where the Hague Convention had not entered into force before the file of the applicant(s) was sent.

on hold (program status): The intercountry program was not accepting new applications, but had not been officially closed. May occur while a review of, or changes to, the adoption legislation, principles or processes in the overseas country are in progress.

open (program status): The intercountry program was accepting new applications at some point during the 12-month period prior to the current reporting period.

other (known adoption): An adoption for a child/children adopted by the commissioning (surrogate) parent(s), whether the commissioning parent(s) is/are a relative or not.

partner country: A country with which Australia had a current intercountry adoption program at the time the file of the applicant(s) was sent.

permanent care order: An order granting permanent guardianship and custody of a child to a third party. Unlike adoption orders, permanent care orders do not change the legal status of the child, and they expire when the child turns 18 or marries. An application may be made to revoke or amend a permanent care order.

The granting of a permanent care order is usually the final step in the process of permanent family placement for children who have been abused or neglected, or who are in need of care and protection for other reasons, and are unable to remain safely within the birth family.

placement: The act of placing a child/children with their adoptive family (that is, for intercountry adoptions, the child enters Australia; for local adoptions, the child is taken into the care of the prospective adoptive parent(s)) during the reporting period, regardless of the status of their adoption order.

program status: The status of Australia’s intercountry adoption program with a given country of origin in the 12-month period prior to the current reporting period using 1 of the following categories: open, inactive, on hold and closed.

prospective adoptive parent(s): A person who has applied or intends to apply to adopt a child through a relevant authority. Prospective adoptive parents also includes current carers of children who are undergoing proceedings to adopt a foster child and step-parents who intend to adopt their partner’s child.

registered marriage (adoptive parents): The status of 2 adoptive parents who are legally married to each other and living together at the time the child is placed with them.

relative(s) (known adoption): Any relative(s) of the child being adopted, as defined by the Family Law Act 1975, other than step-parents. For Indigenous children, a relative includes anyone related through kinship arrangements.

single (adoptive parents): The status of an adoptive parent who is not legally married or living in a de facto relationship; might include widowed parents.

special needs: Special needs in the Australian adoptions context is defined as the level of resources or support services required by the adoptee and/or their adoptive family to foster healthy development and wellbeing, and to support positive family functioning and prevent adoption disruption. Special needs is examined through a continuum of level of need that is broken down into the following categories: no additional care needs, minor additional care needs, and moderate to substantial additional care needs.

step-parent (known adoption): A category of known adoption that includes a non-biological parent who is the spouse of the child’s birth parent or  adoptive parent. Foster parents are not included in this category.