Information for children involved in adoption.
Are you a child or young person under 18 who is being asked about adoption by adults around you? This information will help you understand what adoption means so you can share your opinion with them on whether you want to be adopted or not.
What is adoption?
Adoption is a way to provide a new, permanent family for you if for various reasons you cannot live with your birth mum or dad.
Adoption legally and permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities for you from your birth parents (or legal guardian) to your new adoptive parents. This means your adoptive parents can make decisions about your life as if they were your birth parents. This includes things like where you live, your education, what activities you do and other things that will help you grow up to be a happy, healthy adult.
In the ACT, adoption is organised through Child and Youth Protection Services and decided on by the ACT Supreme Court. There are three different types of adoption. These are:
- Local adoption: Where you would live and be taken care of by a person you do not already know. This person will have been involved in a number of checks to ensure they will be able to look after you well for the rest of your life.
- Out of home care adoption: Where you would live with and be taken care of by a foster carer you already know, or a relative like your grandparent, aunt or uncle.
- Step-parent adoption: Where you would live and be taken care of by the partner of your birth mum or dad.
There are different rules and processes depending on the type of adoption that relates to you. In all cases, the main goal is to do what is best for you.
Why does adoption happen?
There can be a lot of reasons why you may not be able to live with your birth mum or dad anymore. Sometimes your birth parents are simply unable to take care of you in the best way, or because there are complicated issues or conflict at home.
Adoption might also happen because you have a step-parent who wants to be able to take care of you in the same way your birth mum or dad does, and your mum or dad wants them to be able to do that as well.
Whatever the reason, adoption gives you a stable, safe and loving family to live with and be a part of for the rest of your life.
Who can be adopted?
Children in the ACT who are under 18 years old can be adopted. Typically adoption is less common for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children or children that can be cared for by other members of their birth families, such as grandparents. In these cases, there are other ways to give you a stable and permanent home. You can find out more about these at Alternatives to adoption.
Who can adopt?
Only adults who have passed a number of assessments and checks can adopt a child in the ACT. These checks ensure the adopting person will be able to properly care for you for the rest of your life.
How is adoption organised?
How an adoption is organised depends on the type of adoption that relates to your situation. Typically though, adoption involves:
- An assessment of your situation and what would be in your best interests.
- An assessment of the adopting parents and their family to ensure they will be a good match for you and be able to care for you for the rest of your life.
- Conversations with you to ensure you understand what adoption means and to hear whether you want to be adopted or not. If you need help to do this, a counsellor can meet with you.
- Consent from your birth mum and dad that they agree to your adoption. If they don't agree adoption can still happen but requires more involvement with the ACT Supreme Court.
- Development of an adoption plan which includes what contact you will have with your birth family after your adoption.
- An application to the ACT Supreme Court for you to be adopted by your adoptive parents (or parent) this will include your adoption plan.
- Going to court with your adoptive parents to talk to a judge about your adoption.
- An adoption order being made by the ACT Supreme Court transferring all legal rights and responsibilities for you to your adoptive parents.
- A new birth certificate being provided showing the names of your adoptive parents, and your new surname if you decide to change it.
There is a lot that needs to be considered when thinking about adoption to ensure it is the right thing for you and that the rights of everyone involved have been thought about. This takes time.
Because everyone's situation is different, it is not possible to guarantee how long an adoption will take. If you want to know more about how adoption happens, you can find more information at The adoption process.
Who decides on my adoption?
There are a number of people involved in deciding whether adoption should happen and how. This includes:
- You: Your views are important and they will be used to help decide whether adoption is best for you and if any special considerations should be included.
- Birth parents: Both parents, and any other legal guardian you have, must consent, or agree, to your adoption. If possible, they are also involved in deciding who your adoptive parents will be and what contact they will continue to have with you after your adoption.
- Adoptive parents: Your adoptive parents must be able to care for you for the rest of your life. They are also involved in deciding what ongoing contact you will have with your birth family after your adoption.
- Child and Youth Protection Services: This is the government agency responsible for adoptions in the ACT. They guide the process and support everyone involved.
- ACT Together: If you are in out of home care, this group will support and work with you through the adoption process.
- Court: The ACT Supreme Court has the final say on all adoptions in the ACT and will decide whether your adoption should happen or not. They also decide whether a particular parent’s consent to your adoption is needed if the parent does not want to give, or cannot give, consent on their own.
What if I don't want to be adopted?
It is important you let the people involved in your adoption know how you are feeling. It is especially important that you let your case worker from ACT Together or Child and Youth Protection Services know as they will want to hear this directly from you. It is also important that you tell people before your adoption order is made by the ACT Supreme Court.
If you need help to share how you are feeling, or are unsure of how you are feeling, a counsellor can meet and talk with you. Let your case worker or Child and Youth Protection Services know and they will organise this for you.
Can I change my mind?
If your adoption has not yet been granted by the ACT Supreme Court, then yes you can change your mind.
If your adoption has been granted by the Court then no you cannot change your mind. Adoption means you become a member of your adopted family by law for the rest of your life. This is why it is important you are sure about your adoption before an adoption order is made.
Only in very special circumstances can an adoption be reversed and this requires you to go to court.
What if my birth parents don't agree to my adoption?
If adoption is the best option for you but any of your birth parents or legal guardians do not agree and do not give their consent, then a process called dispensation can happen. This is where Child and Youth Protection Services, or your adopting parents, ask the ACT Supreme Court to consider your adoption without the consent of both your birth parents or any guardians.
To do this, the Court must be satisfied that attempts have been made to get consent from everyone involved and that adoption is in your best interests.
The dispensation process also happens when it is not possible to ask one of your birth parents or guardians for their consent because they cannot be found, are no longer alive, or do not have the mental capacity to make an informed decision.
What happens to my birth parents after I’m adopted?
While adoption changes your legal relationship with your birth parents, it does not change the emotional relationship you have with them. Your birth parents will no longer be responsible for you or be able to make decisions about your life, but they will be able to remain in contact with you, or receive information about you, if that is what you want and it is best for you. For more information see Will I have contact with my birth parents and family?
If you are being adopted by a step-parent, it is a little different. In this case, your adoption only changes the legal relationship between you and the birth parent who is not in a relationship with your step-parent. For example, if your birth mum is married or in a long-term relationship with your step-parent who wants to adopt you, then only the relationship between you and your birth dad changes. Your relationship with your mum does not change.
Will I have future contact with my birth parents and family?
You can stay in contact with your birth parents and their families after your adoption, if this is the best thing for you and everyone involved agrees. This will be outlined in your adoption plan that goes to court. It will include how you can be contacted, such as through letters, emails, photos, or in person, and say how often you can be contacted. Wherever possible, you will be involved in developing your adoption plan and be able to say what you would like to have happen. Your adoptive and birth parents will also be involved in developing the plan.
Unfortunately, some families have complicated problems or they do not get along, and this may not provide the best environment for you to be in if future contact was to happen. In these situations, contact will not be allowed until your birth family can show their situation has changed and that contact would be good for you, and you and everyone else agrees. If this is your situation, this will also be outlined in your adoption plan that goes to court.
Are there other options to adoption?
Depending on your situation, there might be another option to think about.
Enduring Parental Responsibility
Enduring Parental Responsibility provides the person looking after you with all the rights and responsibilities for you as if they were your birth parent, but without changing who your legal parents are. It could be good for you if you have been in out of home care with the same carer for a long time and it is unlikely that you will be able to return to your birth parents, or if you are being cared for by a relative like a grandparent.
Family Court parenting orders
In many instances, a parenting order is enough to formalise the relationship between you and a step-parent. Parenting orders do not change who your legal parents are but give your step-parent the right to participate in major decisions about your life and have certain legal responsibilities for your care.
Changing your name by deed poll
Deed poll allows you to change your name without changing who your legal parents are. This can be another option to step-parent adoption. It would allow you to have the same surname as your step-parent without changing who your legal parents are.
Both birth parents need to agree to your name change if you are under 16. The ACT Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages can help with a name change application.
Can I get more information or support?
Yes. Making sure you understand what adoption means for you and how you feel about it is very important. Counselling and other support services are available.
If you would like more information or support, speak to your case worker or contact Child and Youth Protection Services on 6207 1466 or firstname.lastname@example.org.