Adopting a child from the ACT
Information for people wanting to adopt a child.
- What is adoption?
- Why do children need adoption?
- Who can be adopted?
- Eligibility – who can adopt?
- The adoption process
- Involvement of birth parents
- What happens after an adoption is granted?
- Further support and information
What is adoption?
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. Adoption legally and permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities for a child from their birth family (or legal guardians) to you, their adoptive family.
In the ACT, adoption is organised through Child and Youth Protection Services and decided on by the ACT Supreme Court. There are different types of adoption. These are:
- Local adoption: Where you have no previous relationship with the child to be adopted, and the birth parents decided on adoption when their child was born.
- Out of home care adoption: Where you adopt a child who is in foster or kinship care.
- Step-parent adoption: Where you are looking to adopt the child of your partner – your step-child.
The information on this page relates to local adoption.
In reality, there are very few local adoptions – it is more common for children to be adopted from out of home care. In considering local adoption, we encourage you to also think about adopting a child who is in out of home care. To adopt from out of home care, you do not need to already be the child’s foster carer, and both adoption processes can run at the same time (so you don’t have to decide one way or the other to begin). The processes are a little different, so please also look at the information provided at Adopting a Child from out of home care.
If you are actually looking to adopt your step-child, please go to Adopting a step-child where you will find information more relevant to your situation.
Why do children need adoption?
There are various reasons why some children can no longer be raised by their birth parents. It may be because of complex family or social backgrounds, mental or physical illness, neglect, abuse or because the parents are simply unable to be involved. Children needing adoption may also have medical or educational needs their birth families cannot manage.
For whatever reason, their birth parents are unable to provide them with the care and support needed for their children to grow and become happy, healthy adults.
When a parent, or member of their family, can no longer effectively care for their child, the child is taken into care by Child and Youth Protection Services who works with ACT Together to provide a new, permanent home for the child.
Local adoption facilitates the adoption of children whose birth parents have consented and made a plan of adoption for their child, usually at the time of their child’s birth.
Who can be adopted?
Children in the ACT who are under 18 years old can be adopted. Typically adoption is not sought for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children or children that can be cared for by extended members of their birth families, such as grandparents.
People over 18 years old can also be adopted. This is relevant for you if you were the carer of the person for significant time and you both want to formalise your relationship. Adoption of over 18s is coordinated through private legal professionals not Child and Youth Protection Services.
Eligibility – who can adopt?
To adopt a child in the ACT, you must live in the ACT and be listed on the suitable people register. There are also requirements outlined in section 14 of the Adoption Act 1993 regarding whether you are adopting as a couple or an individual.
The suitable people register is maintained by Child and Youth Protection Services. To be listed on the register, you will need to have attended education seminars and participated in an assessment involving interviews and police and medical checks.
If there is a time in your past you are not proud of, we ask you to be open and honest with us, as it may not prevent you from being a suitable person who can today and in the future provide a loving and stable home to a child in need.
There is no guarantee that once you are listed on the suitable people register that you will have a child placed with you. There is also no way of estimating how long it may take to have a child placed with you.
Adoption is a big decision and you are encouraged to seek as much information as possible about the unique challenges, demands and rewards of adoptive parenthood.
The adoption process
Adoption can be a complex and long process. In brief, the local adoption process involves:
- Making an initial enquiry with us to register your interest.
- Attending a half-day information session and two-day education seminar, followed by an interview, to ensure you understand the implications of adoption.
- Completing an application so we can confirm your eligibility and begin the assessment process.
- An assessment process, including interviews and financial, medical and police background checks to determine suitability.
- Recommendation to the Carer Assessment and Linking Panel (CALP) that you be placed on the suitable people register and be considered for future adoptions.
- A placement proposal outlining a possible adoption for you to consider. All required consents will have been obtained before a proposal is given to you.
- Placement of the child with you with ongoing assessments and support to ensure the match is correct, and determine if you should apply to the ACT Supreme Court for an adoption order.
- Lodging the adoption order application with the CT Supreme Court – this includes a recommendation report from us.
- Attending a court hearing where the decision on adoption will be made.
- Updating of relevant records and provision of a new birth certificate for the child.
- Accessing post adoption support if required.
It is not possible to guarantee the time it will take for an adoption to be granted. More detail on each step of the process, including estimated timeframes, costs and responsibilities, is available at The adoption process.
Involvement of birth parents
Adoption is a major decision for birth parents. Sometimes adoption is initiated by a birth parent (local adoption), and sometimes by Child and Youth Protection Services (out of home care adoption) when reuniting the child with their birth parents is not in the child’s best interests. Regardless, birth parents can have significant involvement in the adoption process.
Consent to any adoption is required by both birth parents, and any other legal guardians of the child. There are rules and requirements around obtaining consent including timeframes and revocation periods where parents can change their mind. These requirements are outlined in section 26 of the Adoption Act 1993.
If consent is not given, either because a parent or guardian cannot be found, does not have the mental capacity to give consent, or does not agree with the adoption, an application to dispense their consent can be made to the ACT Supreme Court.
As a potential adoptive parent, you will only be asked to consider adoption of a child where all consents have already been obtained or dispensed.
Selection of adoptive parents
When birth parents make an adoption plan for their child, they may choose to be actively involved in the process of selecting who will adopt their child. This can include providing criteria they would like you to meet, such as a specific religion, ethnic or racial background, lifestyle or marital status.
Every effort is made to ensure these criteria are met while ensuring the best interests of their child remains the focus.
Birth parents can also be provided with non-identifying information about you to help them select who in their view is the best match for their child.
Adoptions in the ACT are open, meaning adoption does not exclude the right for birth parents, legal guardians, or their families to have future contact with their child after adoption. Future contact can be helpful for the adopted child to build a more complete picture of who they are and where they come from.
Contact will vary and is dependent on the best interests of the child.
If future contact is in the best interests of the child, and all parties agree, birth parents will be involved in establishing a contact plan – along with you as the adoptive parents, Child and Youth Protection Services, ACT Together and where able the child – outlining how and when contact will occur. This contact plan forms part of the adoption plan that is lodged in court.
If contact is not in the best interests of the child, or all parties do not agree to future contact, then information that identifies who the birth parents are will be available once the child turns 18. Likewise, the birth parents will be able to request identifying information about the adopted child when the child turns 18.
Part 5 of the Adoption Act 1993 provides more information about when adoption information can be accessed and by who.
What happens after an adoption is granted?
Once adoption is granted by the ACT Supreme Court, all legal rights and responsibilities for the adopted child will be transferred from the birth family to you. The child will become in law your child, and you will become in law their parent. The child will cease to legally be a child of the birth parents.
A new birth certificate for the child will be made to reflect the legal change, and will be the only one permitted to be used for legal purposes. The child will also now have the usual rights to inherit from your estate.
Future contact with the birth family will occur in line with the contact plan agreed by the Court.
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.
You can also contact Child and Youth Protection Services on 6207 1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.