Adopting a child from overseas

Adopting a child from overseas - process info sheet [PDF 139KB]

Information for people interested in adopting a child from overseas.

What is intercountry adoption?

Intercountry adoption is the term used to describe adoptions of children from overseas.

Adoption is a way for you to provide a new, permanent family for a child who for various reasons cannot live with their birth parents. It legally and permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities for the child from the birth family (or legal guardian) to you, the adoptive family in Australia.

Intercountry adoption is governed by The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

In the ACT, the Community Services Directorate is the central authority for intercountry adoptions. This is coordinated by Child and Youth Protection Services in accordance with the Adoption Act 1993.

Why do children need adoption?

According to Intercountry Adoption Australia, many overseas children requiring intercountry adoption have special physical, intellectual or behavioural needs, such as:

  • health problems ranging from minor and correctable to complex and requiring ongoing treatment or management
  • mild to severe developmental delay
  • problematic family or social history (including abuse)
  • physical and/or intellectual disability.

In some ways, all children adopted from overseas have special needs as they often have language, cultural and other ethnic differences from your family and local community.

Additionally, children may be old enough to remember spending time with their birth family and some may have lived with other relatives, a foster carer or in an orphanage.

While there is variation across countries, children who would benefit from being adopted by an Australian family are increasingly older, sibling groups or may have special needs. While younger children and infants do also require adoption, Australia’s partner countries increasingly have more applications than needed.

There are many reasons why a child may need an adoptive family. The child’s parent or parents may be deceased or simply unable to care for the child. If there are too few families within their birth country who have the capacity to care for them, these children could benefit from a loving and caring home in Australia.

Which countries can I adopt from?

The Australian Government has arrangements in place with a number of countries that meet the principles and standards of the Hague Convention. This helps ensure children are protected against child trafficking and other corrupt or illicit activities.

Intercountry arrangements can change, be put on hold or closed at any time. To see the current list of countries you can adopt from visit Intercountry Adoption Australia – Partner countries.

Only under exceptional circumstances will adoptions from countries not on Australia’s partner list be considered. If you want to adopt from another country, contact Child and Youth Protection Services to discuss your situation.

Eligibility – who can adopt?

The eligibility criteria for who can adopt is different in each country. This can include age, marital status, health and in some cases religion.

In brief, all countries require you to demonstrate your ability to provide for emotional, social and economic wellbeing of a child until they reach adulthood. Intercountry adoption also requires your commitment to, and respect for, the child’s heritage and culture of origin.

For specific criteria for each country visit Intercountry Adoption Australia – Partner countries.

The ACT also has certain criteria you need to meet when considering adoption from overseas. These are:

  • Residence: You must live in the ACT (or did at the time of the application and at the time of the adoption order). You also need to be an Australian citizen, or if you are applying as a couple, at least one person must be an Australian citizen.
  • Age: You must be at least 25 years of age.
  • Relationship: For couples, you must have been living together in a stable relationship for at least three years.
  • Suitability register: You must be listed on the suitable people register. This register is maintained by Child and Youth Protection Services and requires you to be assessed for your suitability to adopt. The assessments are conducted by a private social worker or psychologist.

The adoption process

Adoption can be a complex process, and adopting from overseas adds another layer of complexity. Intercountry adoption is also a long process and can take many years to complete. In brief, the intercountry adoption process involves:

  • Making an initial enquiry with us registering your interest.
  • Attending a half-day information session and two-day education seminar to ensure you understand the implications of adoption.
  • Attending a pre-application interview so we can confirm your eligibility.
  • Completing an application.
  • An assessment process, including interviews and financial, medical and police background checks to determine suitability.
  • Preparation of an adoption report to be provided to your country of choice (if you are found suitable through the assessment process).
  • An assessment process conducted by your country of choice to determine your suitability and if approved have you placed on their waiting list until a child is matched to you.
  • A placement proposal outlining a possible adoption to be considered by Child and Youth Protection Services (to ensure compliance with Australian law) and then you to decide if you want to adopt the child or not.
  • Immigration processes to allow the child to enter and remain in Australia.
  • Travelling to the child's country of birth to accept their placement and complete the country's adoption and immigration requirements.
  • Finalisation of the adoption. Depending on the country this may happen overseas or after you return to Australia with the child.
  • Updating of relevant records and provision of a new birth certificate for the child.
  • Post adoption assessments depending on the child's birth country.
  • Accessing post adoption support if required.

More detail on each step of the process, including estimated timeframes, costs and responsibilities, is available at The adoption process. You are also encouraged to visit Intercountry Adoption Australia – Thinking about adoption.

Local adoption

Have you considered adopting a child from the ACT? There are children in the ACT also in need of permanent, loving homes. Find out about Adopting a child from the ACT.

Further support and information

If you are considering adoption you might like to get support and advice to help you and your family through the process. This could include legal advice, counselling and other support services.

The Intercountry Adoption Australia website provides helpful information about the various aspects of adopting from overseas.

You can also contact Child and Youth Protection Services on 6207 1466 or