Known child adoption in Australia

Known child adoptions refer to adoptions of children who were born or permanently residing in Australia before the adoptions, 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). Known child adoptions include adoptions by step-parents, other relatives, and carers. The diagram below presents a simplified overview of the known child adoption process for step-parent and relative adoptions (Figure 3) and carer adoptions (Figure 4).

Figure 3: Overview of step-parent/relative (known child) adoptions in Australia

The flow chart broadly shows the process for adoptions by step-parents and other relatives (intrafamilial adoptions). It starts from the initial enquiry by either the step-parent or relative through to the adoption order being made, as well as any consents or dispense orders. The precise order of the steps may vary slightly between jurisdictions.

Note: The number and order of the steps may vary between jurisdictions.

Figure 4: Overview of carer (known child) adoptions in Australia

The flow chart broadly shows the general process for adoptions by carers, such as foster parents. It starts from the initial enquiry by either the carer(s), child’s birth family or caseworker and progresses as a single process through to the adoption order being made, as well as any consents or dispense orders. The precise order of the steps may vary slightly between jurisdictions.

Note: The number and order of the steps may vary between jurisdictions.

Known child adoptions are administered and/or recorded by the department responsible for adoption in each state and territory. The aim of this type of adoption is to provide the child with a clear legal position, status, and stability within the family arrangement. In some circumstances, the adoption may be finalised after the adoptee is legally considered an adult. The majority of known child adoptions are by step-parents adopting their partner’s children, or by long-term carers, such as foster parents, of children placed in their care.

Adoptions by relatives other than step-parents are less common. This is because most states and territories have policies that promote the use of parental responsibility orders rather than adoption when a child is to be permanently cared for by another relative, such as permanent care and guardianship/custody orders. Known child adoptions by people who are not carers or relatives, such as by commissioning (surrogate) parents, are uncommon in Australia.

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Age of known child adoptees

The older age of children in known child adoptions is affected by minimum age requirements for some types of known child adoptions and, in many jurisdictions, the length of time the intended adoptive parent(s) needed to have had a relationship with the child before an adoption was possible. Children adopted by step-parents are generally older than those adopted under other types of adoption, including other categories of known child adoption, in part, due to the additional time involved in forming step-families.

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See the source data tables for further information and footnotes about these data.

Explanatory notes

Age is calculated from date of birth, in completed years. For known child adoptions, this is the age when the adoption order for the child was granted.

‘Other known’ was introduced as a reporting category in 2000–01, but not consistently used as a reporting category until 2007–08. In addition to adoptions from commissioning parents, adoptions recorded as ‘other known’ prior to 2007–08 may include adoptions where the relationship with the adoptive parent was unknown.