Open adoption from out-of-home care involves a child who has been removed from their parents and placed in the care of the Minister being formally adopted. In 2014 there were 89 adoptions from out-of-home care in NSW.

According to the permanent placement principles outlined in the Safe Home for Life reforms, open adoption is considered to be a preferred placement option over placing a child under the parental responsibility of the Minister, or long-term foster care.

The severance of birth-parents’ rights is taken very seriously by the Supreme Court, and prospective adoptive parents need to be able to demonstrate to the court that they have the child’s best interest at heart, especially when it comes to birth family contact.

Watch this video of Justice Brereton outlining the NSW Supreme Court’s position on Open Adoption.

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 within 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.

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 greater freedom 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.

Why are there so few adoptions?

The history of adoption practice in NSW has had an impact on open adoption practice today. Whilst much work is being done to improve the process of open adoption from out-of-home care it can still be a difficult and challenging experience.

It must be proven that open adoption is the best outcome for the child. Children who have experienced trauma in their early years can have greater needs than children who have had stable nurturing environments. Prospective adoptive parents need to consider how they can support children who have experienced trauma in their early years and how this can impact on a child’s early development.

There are a number of agencies accredited to provide open adoption services from foster care.  These agencies can provide ‘dual authorisation’ which means that you as a carer can be authorised as both a foster carer and a prospective adoptive parent at the same time.

However, approval as an authorised foster carer will not result in automatic approval as a prospective adoptive applicant, and the rigour of existing probity and assessment checks will be maintained.

It is important to understand the difference between fostering and adoption.

  • Foster care is providing a secure and safe home for children who can’t live at home, and who are legally under the care of the Minister.
  • 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.

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.