Adoption is a legal process and transfers rights and responsibilities of parenthood from the child’s birth parents (or from the Minister for those children where parental responsibility is with the Minister) to the adoptive parents.

Foster carers interested in adoption need to understand that the adopted child will have the same status in the family as any of their other children, and will be entitled to the benefits of full family membership throughout their life.

Adoption is a permanent order made by the Supreme Court of NSW. The Adoption Act 2000 and Adoption Regulation 2003 sets out how an adoption arrangement is to be made. Key points in the adoption legislation include :

  • the best interests of a child, both in childhood and later life must be the main consideration
  • the child should know about and have access to their birth family and cultural background
  • the child’s given name or names, identity, language and cultural and religious ties should, when possible, be identified and preserved
  • openness in adoption should be encouraged.

After an Adoption Order is made:

  • the adoptive parents have full parental responsibility for the child, as if the child was born to them
  • the child has full legal membership of the adoptive family
  • the child has a new birth certificate to show the new legal relationship
  • the child’s inheritance rights change so they have the same rights as other children of the adoptive parents
  • the child’s access to certain services and allowances may be affected, as the assessment of their entitlement relies on the financial circumstances of their adoptive family.

Why adopt?

Foster carers often see adoption as a way of making a lifelong emotional and practical commitment to a child. Carers who become adoptive parents have said that they feel more free to love the child completely, and that they are not so concerned about the possibility of having to ‘let go’ of the child.

Adoption can offer long-term stability and permanency for children and young people in out-of-home care where restoration to their birth family is not an option. Adoption must be in the best interests of the child – both in childhood and later life. Most adoptions of foster children in NSW are open adoptions, where the child still has contact with their birth family.

What is ‘openness’ in adoption?

Openness in adoption refers to the building of a relationship between the birth and adoptive families through contact with each other, and the degree of openness with which adoption is discussed within the adoptive family. It’s important for there to be openness within the adoptive family to discuss adoption issues. This includes supporting the child to develop a respectful and non-judgemental understanding of why their birth parents cannot look after them.

Amendments to the Adoption Act recognise that the birth parents have an interest in planning for their child’s future, including decisions about contact and the maintenance of cultural identity. In Open Adoption, the child is encouraged and assisted to retain their links with significant prior relationships through ongoing contact where it is in their best interests.

It is important that contact in adoption is mutually agreed to by all involved, and a significant role for Agencies and/or Community Services is to offer support in working out how to develop positive relationships where possible.

Who can adopt?

To apply for adoption you must be:

  • resident or domiciled in NSW, and
  • of good repute and fit and proper to fulfil the responsibilities of parenting, and
  • over 21 years of age, and
  • at least 18 years older than the child to be adopted.

One person solely or a couple jointly may adopt a child. The Adoption Act 2000 defines ‘couple’ as two persons who:

  • are married to each other, or
  • are de facto partners (whether of the same sex or a different sex).

Find out more about how to adopt a child in your care.