Information for birth parents and legal guardians considering placing their child for adoption.
- What is adoption?
- Is adoption right for my child?
- Who is involved in the decision to make an adoption plan?
- Consenting to adoption
- Involvement of birth parents in developing the adoption plan
- How are adoptive parents selected?
- The adoption process
- Who takes care of my child during the adoption process?
- What happens after an adoption is granted?
- Reunion Contact and Information Register
- Further support and information
What is adoption?
Adoption is a way to provide a new, permanent family for your child if for various reasons you cannot raise them yourself.
Adoption legally and permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities for your child from you to an adoptive family. Once an adoption is granted you will no longer be, under law, the parent of your child.
In the ACT, adoption is organised through Child and Youth Protection Services and decided on by the ACT Supreme Court.
Adoption is a serious decision. If you are considering adoption for your child it is important you fully consider all options available to you.
Is adoption right for my child?
Adoption is one option for you to ensure the ongoing care of your child. Other options include accessing support services to help you parent your child yourself, or arranging another family member to care for your child.
Whichever option you choose, it is important that where possible both birth parents are involved in the decision.
Support to care for my child
Being able to care for your child yourself will depend on your personal situation, including your age, health, home life, financial situation and support network. In the ACT there are services you can access to help you parent your child. Some examples include:
- Child and Family Centres
- Parenting groups
- Karinya House
- Hospital social workers
- Your GP
For more information on the support available, please contact the services directly.
Family member or kinship care
You may be able to have another family member raise your child. This will depend on their willingness and ability to take on the responsibility.
Both you and the family member will need to think carefully about how this arrangement may work, including how your child is to be raised, any financial support for the family member and what contact you and your child will have in the future.
You can formalise this arrangement by applying for a parenting order from the Family Court of Australia. You should seek legal advice for more information.
If your child is already being cared for by a family member through the out of home care system, an Enduring Parental Responsibility order from the ACT Children's Court can also formalise this relationship. You should speak to your case manager or seek legal advice for more information.
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children
Adoption is less common within Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities because generally children are raised by their whole community and there are other more preferred options. If your child is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander decent, special consideration needs to happen to ensure the right people are consulted and safeguards put in place to ensure your child can maintain a connection with the lifestyle, culture and traditions of their community.
Parents under 18 years old
If you are under 18 years old, adoption for your child is available. Regardless of your age, adoption requires your informed and voluntary consent because adoption has life-long legal implications.
To ensure you have the capacity to understand the decision you may be making, the Adoption Act 1993 states parents under 18 considering adoption must be provided with support and information to help you make an informed decision. This includes information about:
- the time period for providing consent
- the process and time period for reversing consent
- alternatives to adoption
- future contact with your child.
This information is available from this website.
Who is involved in the decision to make an adoption plan?
Adoption is a big deal and where possible both parents should be involved in the decision to make an adoption plan.
If your situation doesn’t allow for you and your child’s other parent or legal guardian to work together to create the plan, it is possible for you to meet separately with the case worker assigned to help you.
In making the plan for your child, you are encouraged to be actively involved in the process by assisting with background information and the selection of your child’s adoptive parents. More information about this is available at Involvement of birth parents in developing the adoption plan.
Consenting to adoption
Consent to any adoption is required by both birth parents, and any other legal guardians of your child. There are rules and requirements around obtaining consents including mental capacity, timeframes and revocation periods where you can change your mind. These requirements are outlined in section 26 of the Adoption Act 1993, but in brief are:
- A parent cannot give consent until their child is at least 28 days old.
- A parent must have had a copy of the consent forms for at least 14 days before giving consent.
- A parent will have 28 days after giving consent to change their mind and revoke their consent.
If consent is not given by all parents, either because a parent or guardian cannot be found, or do not have the mental capacity to make an informed decision, or do not agree with the adoption, an application to dispense their consent can be made to the ACT Supreme Court.
Dispensation is the legal process to remove the requirement of obtaining consent from a birth parent or legal guardian.
There are strict grounds for when dispensation can be granted, as outlined in section 35 of the Adoption Act 1993. The specific ground used for seeking dispensation will vary depending on the circumstances of your case, and so too will the time it takes for the ACT Supreme Court to reach a decision.
If your situation requires the dispensation process to happen, Child and Youth Protection Services will work with you to progress the application as quickly as possible.
If you change your mind and want to revoke (reverse) your consent, you need to do so within 28 days of when you signed the official consent forms. To do this, you must notify the Registrar at the ACT Supreme Court in writing. Please contact the ACT Supreme Court for more information on how to do this.
Involvement of birth parents in developing the adoption plan
Once you have made the decision and consented to the adoption of your child you are encouraged to be actively involved in developing their adoption plan.
You will be asked to provide personal information about yourself and your family, such as your medical history, social background and reasons for the adoption. We ask that you be as open as possible. Child and Youth Protection Services does not want to intrude unnecessarily, but needs to capture certain information for the wellbeing of your child and to satisfy court requirements.
Adopted people have a need to know about their birth families and their adoptive parents are educated to help them understand and learn about their adoption from an early age. For your child, this will help them build positive feelings about your family and where they come from.
This also recognises that supporting your child’s understanding and connection to their family background and cultural identity can strengthen their emotional wellbeing and all aspects of their development.
Selecting adoptive parents
You can choose to be actively involved in the process of selecting your child’s adoptive parents. This can include providing criteria you would like the adoptive parents to meet, such as a specific religion, ethnic or racial background, lifestyle or marital status.
Every effort is made to ensure the adoptive parents meet your criteria while ensuring the best interests of your child remains the main consideration.
You can also be provided with non-identifying information about potential adoptive parents to select who in your view is the best match for your child.
Adoptions in the ACT are open, meaning adoption does not exclude the right for you, or your family, to have future contact with your child after they are adopted. Future contact can be helpful for your 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 your child.
If future contact is in the best interests of your child, and all people involved agree to future contact, you can be involved in establishing a contact plan that outlines how and when you can make contact with them. This contact plan will be lodged in court.
If contact is not in the best interests of your child, or not agreed to by all people involved, then information that identifies who you are will be available to your child once they turn 18. At this same time, you will be able to request identifying information about your child and their adoptive parents.
Part 5 of the Adoption Act 1993 provides more information about when adoption information can be accessed and by who. You can also learn more at Reunion Contact and Information Register.
How are adoptive parents selected?
People who want to adopt a child are thoroughly assessed by Child and Youth Protection Services to determine their suitability to permanently care for an adopted child. They also receive training and education on adoption.
Before adoptive parents are selected for your child, Child and Youth Protection Services must be satisfied they have the ability to meet the particular needs of your child for the rest of their lives.
The adoption process
How you come to the decision to place your child for adoption will be unique to you and your circumstances. Each adoption is therefore different and the specific steps involved will vary. The adoption process will also vary depending on whether your child is already in out of home care and who initiated adoption. While your adoption path will be unique, the adoption process generally involves:
- Making an initial inquiry with us to register your interest, followed by a meeting to discuss your situation and ensure you understand the implications of adoption. (Child and Youth Protection Services can also initiate the adoption process if your child is already in out of home care.)
- Obtaining consents from all people with parental responsibility.
- Using the dispensation process if consent is not given.
- Placing your child in pre-adoptive care (if they are not already in out of home care).
- Developing the adoption plan including, if you decide, your input and criteria for adoptive parents.
- Matching of possible adoptive parents who have been assessed as suitable to care for your child.
- Providing your view on a list of possible adoptive parents, and the final selection made by Child and Youth Protection Services in consultation with all parties involved.
- The selected adoptive parents receiving a placement proposal of your child to consider.
- Placing your child with the selected adoptive parents with ongoing assessments to ensure the match is correct and determine if the adoptive parents should apply to the ACT Supreme Court for an adoption order. Your involvement in the process ends from this point, but you will be kept informed throughout.
- The adoptive parents lodging the adoption application with the ACT Supreme Court.
- The adoptive parents and your child attending a court hearing where the decision on adoption is made. You will be notified of the decision and if granted all legal rights and responsibilities for your child will immediately be transferred from you to the adoptive parents.
- Updating of relevant records and provision of a new birth certificate for your child.
- Accessing post adoption support if required.
Adoption is a sensitive process and depends on the specific circumstances of your case. It is not possible therefore to guarantee the time it will take for an adoption to be completed. More detail on each step of the process, including estimated timeframes, costs and responsibilities, is available at The adoption process.
Who takes care of my child during the adoption process?
Once you give consent to your child’s adoption they will be taken into care by a temporary foster carer. Your child will move to their adoptive family once a suitable match has been found and the adoptive parents have agreed to care for your child.
This will include a period of time where the match is assessed for ongoing suitability and agreement by the adoptive family and your child to the adoption. Following this, the adoptive parents can apply to the ACT Supreme Court to permanently become the parents of your child through an adoption order.
What happens after an adoption is granted?
Once adoption is granted by the ACT Supreme Court, all legal rights and responsibilities for your child will be transferred from you to the adoptive parents. Your child will become in law a child of the adoptive parents, and the adoptive parents will become in law the parents of your child. Your child will cease to legally be your child.
A new birth certificate for your child will be made to reflect the legal change, and will be the only one permitted to be used for legal purposes.
Future contact with you will occur in line with the contact plan lodged with the Court, if one was developed.
Reunion Contact and Information Register
While adoptions today are more open, this has not always been the case. The Reunion Contact and Information Register helps people who have been separated by an adoption to make contact with one another once the adopted child has turned 18. Adopted people, birth/legal parents, adoptive parents, and family relatives can place their name on the register and leave a message in case a match is made.
When a person has their name added to the register, a search is conducted to see if a match exists. If a match is found and the adopted child is 18 or older, Child and Youth Protection Services will offer help to connect those involved. If one of these people has left a message for the other, the message is provided at that time.
You can find out more about this at Information on past adoptions.
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 1466 or email@example.com.