Glossary

This page provides a list of subject specific terms used in national reporting on adoptions by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

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 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. 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.

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

carer (known 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 Attorney-General's Department. As Australia is a federation, a Central Authority has also been designated in each state and territory.

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 departments 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 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 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 this country.

Hague Convention (intercountry adoption): a convention-specifically, the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption-that establishes uniform 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 non-Hague adoption.

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 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 non-Hague 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.

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 where the Hague Convention had not entered into force in the adoptive child's country of origin before the file of the applicant(s) was sent.

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 has a current intercountry adoption program.

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, the child enters the home) during the reporting period, regardless of the status of their adoption order.

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 adoption: an adoption of a child or young person who:

  • exhibits physical, intellectual or cognitive disabilities that require interventions in the domains of learning and development
  • has conditions that are deemed to pose potential barriers to permanent placement and/or affect the outcome of an adoption, such as:
    • behavioural disorders
    • 1 or more diagnosed severe medical conditions
    • being part of a sibling group that is to be placed with the same adoptive family
    • being older.

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 previously adoptive parent. Foster parents are not included in this category.