The adoption process


Information for parents and families considering adoption.


The adoption process

Adoption is a defining moment in the life of a child, their adoptive family and birth parents. It is a sensitive process that takes time to ensure adoption is the best option for the child, and that the rights of everyone involved have been considered.

Depending on the type of adoption you are considering the process will vary. The time it takes to complete will also vary. Below is a guide of the different adoption processes, indicators of how long each step may take, who is responsible for each step and where costs may be involved. While estimated times have been provided these are dependent on many factors and each case will be different.

Local adoption process

Birth parents

The timeframes provided are estimates only. There are many factors that can affect how long the process may take and each person’s circumstances are unique.

It is also important that you don’t feel rushed as adoption is a serious decision. If you need to take extra time, Child and Youth Protection Services will work with you on that.

The typical steps in the local adoption process for birth parents are:

1: Make an initial enquiry to register your interest

Contact Child and Youth Protection Services (CYPS) to discuss your situation. CYPS will provide you with information about the process and the legal implications and requirements, offer support and counselling, and arrange a meeting with you if you want to proceed. Your child does not need to already be born to contact CYPS about adoption.
Estimated time: Short phone call.
Who’s responsible: You.

2: Attend meetings with CYPS

CYPS will provide you with detailed information about adoption, including the requirement of consent by both parents. The purpose is to ensure you are well informed to make a decision about whether to proceed, what is involved in the process and to understand your rights. It is important to consider everything carefully before making a decision.
Estimated time: Typically one hour but will be guided by your needs. Multiple meetings can also be arranged.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.

3: Voluntary care agreement and pre-adoptive care

If you decide to proceed with adoption a voluntary care agreement will be created to temporarily transfer parental responsibility for your child from you to the Director General Community Services Directorate. Your child will be placed with a temporary carer. You will be able to have contact with your child during the agreement period.
Estimated time: 2 – 3 months (or until the parental consents become valid).
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.

4: Consent to the adoption

Consent is required from both birth parents and all legal guardians. Consent must be given freely and you will be required to sign official consent forms. You will have 28 days to revoke your consent if you change your mind. Once your consent becomes valid (after the revocation period has ended), the Director General will have guardianship of your child until your child is adopted.
Estimated time: 6 – 12 weeks (minimum).
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.

5: Dispensation for consent

If consent is not obtained from all parties, and adoption is in your child's best interests, CYPS will work with the ACT Government Solicitor to lodge an application with the ACT Supreme Court to dispense consent of the relevant party.
Estimated time: 8 weeks – 1 year. This timeframe is dependent on the dispensation process, if required, and the views of the Court.
Who’s responsible: CYPS and ACT Government Solicitor.

6: Participate in the selection process for the adoptive parents

You will be encouraged to participate in selecting who might adopt your child. CYPS will provide you with non-identifying information for a small number of pre-approved adoptive parents who have been matched to your child. You will be asked to select your preference for your child. CYPS will make the final decision in consultation will all relevant parties.
Estimated time: Typically a one hour meeting to consider the profiles and up to 48 hours to provide feedback to CYPS regarding your views. This does not include the time it takes to match potential adoptive parents to your child.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.

7: Placement proposal provided to selected adoptive parents

CYPS will meet with the selected adoptive parents and provide them with non-identifying information about your child, and you. They will be provided with background and health information to consider before making a decision to accept the proposal or not.
Estimated time: 24 hours minimum for the prospective parents to consider the proposal before providing CYPS with a response.
Who's responsible: CYPS and prospective adoptive parents.

8: Placement of your child with the adoptive parents and ongoing assessments

If the proposal is accepted, your child will be put in the care of the adoptive parents who will be given parental responsibility for them. You will be notified that this has happened. CYPS will conduct regular check-ups for six months to ensure the placement is working and to provide any support to your child and the family. If after six months the placement is satisfactory the adoptive parents will be advised to begin an application to the ACT Supreme Court for an adoption order.
Estimated time: 6 – 12 months.
Who's responsible: CYPS.

9: Legal proceedings to finalise the adoption

The adoptive parents will lodge an adoption order application with the ACT Supreme Court. A hearing will be arranged where a Judge will grant or refuse the application. If granted, the adoptive parents will by law immediately become the parents of your child, and all relevant legal records will be updated in the following weeks to reflect the change. The child will cease to legally be your child. You will be notified of the outcome.
Estimated time: 6 – 8 weeks (minimum).
Who's responsible: Adoptive parents and CYPS.

There are no costs to birth parents during the adoption process, unless you decide to seek independent legal advice. Download a copy of the adoption process for birth parents considering adoption for their child.

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Adoptive parents

The timeframes provided are estimates only. There are many factors that can affect how long the process may take and each person’s circumstances are unique.

It is also important that you don’t feel rushed as adoption is a serious decision. If you need to take extra time, Child and Youth Protection Services will work with you on that.

The typical steps in the local adoption process for adoptive parents are:

1: Make an initial enquiry to register your interest

Contact Child and Youth Protection Services (CYPS) to discuss your situation. This will be a general conversation of your circumstances to help us determine whether adoption may be possible and what steps you should take next. If adoption is possible you will be provided with an information pack and expression of interest form.
Estimated time: Short phone call.
Who's responsible: You.

2: Attend education seminars

You will need to attend a half-day information session and a two-day seminar before you can make a formal application to adopt. This is to ensure you understand the full implications of adoption.
Estimated time: Education sessions are typically held twice a year.
Who’s responsible: You.
Costs: Two-day education seminar.

3: Attend pre-application interview

CYPS will arrange a meeting to go over any remaining questions you have from the seminar and explore any issues that may affect your eligibility or readiness to adopt. If you meet the basic eligibility criteria, you will be provided with the adoption application form.
Estimated time: Typically 1.5 – 2 hours.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.

4: Submit your application form

Complete the application form and submit it plus payment and any requested documentation to CYPS.
Estimated time: In your own time, up to a maximum of 18 months. After this time you may be required to attend a further information session and/or seminar.
Who’s responsible: You.
Costs: Application fee.

5: Participate in the assessment process

CYPS will conduct the relevant assessments required by law to determine your suitability to adopt. This will include a series of interviews with you, any adults living in your home, children you already have, and for single applicants your primary support people. Police and medical checks will also be done. An assessment report will be prepared and discussed with you.
Estimated time: 6 – 12 weeks (minimum).
Who’s responsible: CYPS will conduct the assessments. It is your responsibility to participate openly and honestly.
Costs: Assessment fee.

6: Await decision by the Carer Assessment and Linking Panel

CYPS will submit the assessment report to the Carer Assessment and Linking Panel requesting endorsement of your suitability to adopt a child and have you placed on the suitable people register, a legal requirement for all adoptions. If endorsed, you will remain on the register for two years. If you wish to remain on the register after this time, an updated assessment will be needed.
Estimated time: 4 – 8 weeks (minimum).
Who’s responsible: CYPS.

7: Consider placement proposal – matching a child with you

If a match is made between you and a child needing adoption you will be invited to a meeting where you will be given non-identifying information about the child, their birth family and their wishes for future contact to consider (there is no guarantee if or when a child may be matched to you). You will be asked to take at least 24 hours to consider accepting the proposal before meeting the child.
Estimated time: Typicallya one hour meeting, plus at least 24 hours to consider the proposal. This does not include the time it takes to match a child to you.
Who’s responsible: You.

8: Placement of the child with you and ongoing assessments

If you accept the proposal, the child is put in your care and you will have parental responsibility for them. CYPS will conduct regular check-ups for six months to ensure the placement is working and to provide any support to you and the child. If after the six months the placement is satisfactory you will be advised to begin an application to the ACT Supreme Court for an adoption order.
Estimated time: 6 – 12 months.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.

9: Lodge adoption order application with the ACT Supreme Court and receive a hearing date

You can use a solicitor or lawyer to prepare the adoption order application and have it lodged with the ACT Supreme Court, or you can do this yourself. If you don't use legal services it is recommended you contact the ACT Supreme Court’s Registrar for guidance. The Court will provide you with a hearing date for when you will need to attend court to have your application considered. You will need to officially serve the application on CYPS staff.
Estimated time: 6 – 8 weeks (minimum).
Who’s responsible: You.
Costs: Legal services if you decide to use them, plus Court fees.

10: Preparation of adoption report to the ACT Supreme Court

CYPS will submit a report to the ACT Supreme Court outlining the adoption, including any issues or agreements that exist between you and the other parties involved, and whether based on the assessment process granting of the adoption is recommended.
Estimated time: 28 days from receipt of court documents.
Who’s responsible: CYPS.

11: Attend court

You, the child to be adopted, your legal representative (if used) and CYPS will appear before a Judge for your adoption order application to be considered and a decision will be made by the Judge to either grant or refuse the order.
Estimated time: Typically 30 minutes.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.

12: Finalisation of adoption order

If granted by the Judge, the adoption order is finalised and by law you immediately become the parent of the child. You will be provided with a copy of the adoption order at the time of the hearing and all other relevant legal records will be updated in the following weeks to reflect the change, including a new birth certificate for the child that can be obtained from the ACT Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The birth parents will be notified.
Estimated time: 6 – 8 weeks for record updates.
Who’s responsible: Court staff and CYPS.
Costs: New birth certificate.

13: Access post-adoption support services

CYPS can provide you with short-term support for identified needs after an adoption order is made. This could include referrals to relevant community services.
Estimated time: You can ask for help at any time.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.
Costs: Dependent on support required.

Download a copy of the local adoption process for adoptive parents.

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Out of home care adoption process

The timeframes provided are estimates only. There are many factors that can affect how long the process may take and each person’s circumstances are unique.

The typical steps in the out of home care adoption process for carers are:

1: Make an initial enquiry to register your interest

Contact your Child and Youth Protection Services (CYPS) or ACT Together case worker to discuss your interest. This will be a general conversation about the child in your care and your eligibility to help us determine whether adoption may be possible and what steps should be taken next.
Estimated time: Short phone call.
Who’s responsible: You.

2: Attend a permanency consultation meeting

Your case worker will arrange a permanency consultation meeting to discuss if adoption by you is in the best interest of the child. The meeting will include CYPS and ACT Together (if they are your case manager). If adoption is supported you will be provided with an application form to complete. If, at the time of the initial permanency consultation, there are issues identified that may prevent progress towards an adoption order for the child, this feedback will be provided to you. If the issues are able to be addressed, a further permanency consultation may be held. For some complex matters, a series of permanency consultations are required.
Estimated time: 4 – 8 weeks (minimum).
Who’s responsible: Your case worker and you.

3: Submit your application form

Complete the application form provided to you and submit it plus any requested documentation to CYPS, or ACT Together if they are your case manager.
Estimated time: In your own time.
Who’s responsible: You.

4: Participate in the assessment process

CYPS or ACT Together will conduct the relevant assessments required by law to determine your suitability to adopt. This will include a series of interviews with you, the child you want to adopt and other members of your household, as well as any necessary updates of your original carer assessments, for example financial, medical and police background checks.
Estimated time: 6 – 8 weeks (minimum).
Who’s responsible: CYPS or ACT Together will conduct the assessment. It is your responsibility to participate openly and honestly.

5: Await decision by the Carer Assessment and Linking Panel

CYPS will submit a report, based on your assessments, to the Carer Assessment and Linking Panel (CALP) requesting endorsement of the adoption. CALP makes recommendations regarding the suitability of prospective adopters and the match between prospective adopters and children. Once approval is given your name will be placed on the suitable people register, a requirement for adoptions.
Estimated time: 4 – 8 weeks.
Who’s responsible: CYPS.

6: Await decision by the Application Review Committee

The Application Review Committee (ARC) is required to review all CYPS court applications, including adoption order applications. ARC is the body within CYPS that decides whether a matter should proceed to court. If the Committee endorses the adoption CYPS will work with you to progress the adoption.
Estimated time: 2 – 6 weeks.
Who’s responsible: CYPS and ACT Together.

7: Obtain consents from all relevant people

CYPS will request consent to the adoption from all relevant parties – that is any person with legal parental responsibility and the Director General Community Services Directorate. If consent is not obtained from all parties the dispensation process will begin.
Estimated time: 6 – 12 weeks (minimum).
Who’s responsible: CYPS.

8: Seek dispensation for consent

If consent is not obtained from all parties, CYPS will work with the ACT Government Solicitor to lodge an application with the ACT Supreme Court to dispense consent of the relevant party.
Estimated time: 8 weeks – 3 years. This timeframe is dependent on the dispensation process, if required, and the views of the Court.
Who’s responsible: CYPS and the ACT Government Solicitor.

9: Lodge adoption order application with the ACT Supreme Court and receive a hearing date

CYPS can support you to complete and lodge the adoption order application with the ACT Supreme Court. You can also decide to use independent legal services to assist you. The Court will provide you with a hearing date for when you will need to attend court to have your application considered. You will need to officially serve the application on staff from CYPS.
Estimated time: 5 – 8 weeks.
Who’s responsible: You are responsible for lodging the application, but CYPS can support you.
Costs: Legal services if you decide to use them, plus Court fees.

10: Preparation of adoption report to the ACT Supreme Court

CYPS will submit a report to the ACT Supreme Court including any issues or agreements that exist between you and the other parties involved, and whether based on the assessment process granting of the adoption is recommended.
Estimated time: 28 days from receipt of court documents.
Who’s responsible: CYPS.

11: Attend court

You, the child to be adopted and CYPS will appear before a Judge for your adoption order application to be considered and a decision will be made by the Judge to either grant or refuse the order.
Estimated time: Typically 30 minutes.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.

12: Finalisation of adoption order

If granted by the Judge, the adoption order is finalised and parental responsibility is immediately transferred from the Director General to you, and the birth parents are informed of this. You will be provided with a copy of the adoption order at the time of the hearing and all other relevant legal records will be updated in the following weeks to reflect the change, including a new birth certificate that can be obtained from the ACT Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You will no longer receive the foster care subsidy.
Estimated time: 6 – 8 weeks for record updates.
Who’s responsible: You and ACT Together.
Costs: New birth certificate.

13: Access post-adoption support services

ACT Together can provide you with short-term support for identified needs after an adoption order is made. This could include referrals to relevant community services, or support around birth family contact.
Estimated time: You can ask for help at any time.
Who’s responsible: You and ACT Together.
Costs: Dependent on support required.

Download a copy of the out of home care adoption process.

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Step-parent adoption process

The timeframes provided are estimates only. There are many factors that can affect how long the process may take and each person’s circumstances are unique.

The typical steps in the step-parent adoption process are:

1: Make an initial enquiry to register your interest

Contact Child and Youth Protection Services (CYPS) to discuss your situation. This will be a general conversation of your circumstances to help us determine whether adoption may be possible and what steps you should take next. If adoption is possible you will be provided with an application form.
Estimated time: Short phone call and one hour face-to-face meeting.
Who’s responsible: You.

2: Submit your application form

Complete the application form provided to you and submit it plus payment and any requested documentation to CYPS.
Estimated time: In your own time.
Who’s responsible: You.
Costs: Application fee.

3: Await review of your application

CYPS will review your application for eligibility.
Estimated time: 6 – 8 weeks.
Who’s responsible: CYPS.

4: Obtain consents from all relevant people

You are encouraged to use legal services to obtain consent to the adoption from all relevant parties. This includes your partner and any other person who has legal parental responsibility for your step-child. If you cannot get consent from all parties you will need to begin the dispensation process with the ACT Supreme Court. Speak to your solicitor or lawyer about this.
Estimated time: 8 weeks – 3 years. This timeframe is dependent on the dispensation process, if required, and the views of the Court.
Who’s responsible: You
Costs: Legal services.

5: Participate in the assessment process

CYPS will conduct the relevant assessments required by law to determine your suitability to adopt. This will include a series of interviews with the whole family, the child you want to adopt, and if possible the non-continuing birth parent or guardian. Police and medical checks will also be done.
Estimated time: 6 – 8 weeks (minimum).
Who’s responsible: CYPS will conduct the assessment. It is your responsibility to participate openly and honestly.
Costs: Assessment fee.

6: Lodge adoption order application with the ACT Supreme Court and receive a hearing date

You can use a solicitor or lawyer to prepare the adoption order application and have it lodged with the ACT Supreme Court, or you can do this yourself. Depending on your circumstances you may need to lodge your application instead with the Family Court of Australia. If you don't use legal services it is recommended you contact the ACT Supreme Court’s Registrar for guidance. The Court will provide you with a hearing date for when you will need to attend court to have your application considered. You will need to officially serve the application on CYPS staff.
Estimated time: 6 – 12 months.
Who’s responsible: You.
Costs: Legal services if you decide to use them, plus Court fees.

7: Preparation of adoption report to the ACT Supreme Court (or the Family Court of Australia)

After you have lodged your application and served this on CYPS staff, CYPS will submit a report to the Court outlining the adoption, including any issues or agreements that exist between you and the other parties involved, and whether based on the assessment process granting of the adoption is recommended.
Estimated time: 28 days from receipt of Court documents.
Who’s responsible: CYPS.

8: Attend court

You, your partner, the child to be adopted, your legal representative (if used) will appear before a Judge for your adoption order application to be considered and a decision will be made by the Judge to either grant or refuse the order. CYPS may also attend.
Estimated time: Typically one hour.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.

9: Finalisation of adoption order

If granted by the Judge, the adoption order is finalised and parental responsibility is immediately transferred from the non-continuing parent to you, and the non-continuing parent is informed of this. You will be provided with a copy of the adoption order at the time of the hearing and all other relevant legal records will be updated in the following weeks to reflect the change, including a new birth certificate for the child that can be obtained from the ACT Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Estimated time: 6 – 8 weeks.
Who’s responsible: Court staff and CYPS.
Costs: New birth certificate.

10: Access post-adoption support services

CYPS can provide you with short-term support for identified needs after an adoption order is made. This could include referrals to relevant community services.
Estimated time: You can ask for help at any time.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.
Costs: Dependent on support required.

Download a copy of the step-parent adoption process.

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Intercountry (overseas) adoption process

The timeframes provided are estimates only. There are many factors that can affect how long the process may take and each person’s circumstances, and each country’s requirements are unique.

The typical steps in the intercountry adoption process are:

1: Make an initial enquiry to register your interest

Contact Child and Youth Protection Services (CYPS) to discuss your situation. This will be a general conversation to help determine whether adoption may be possible and what steps you should take next. If adoption is possible you will be provided with an information pack and expression of interest form.
Estimated time: Short phone call.
Who’s responsible: You.

2: Attend education seminars

You will need to attend a half-day information session and a two-day seminar before you can make a formal application to adopt. This is to ensure you understand the full implications of adoption.
Estimated time: Education sessions are typically held twice a year.
Who’s responsible: You.
Costs: Two-day education seminar.

3: Attend pre-application interview

CYPS will arrange a meeting to discuss any questions you have from the seminar and to explore any issues that may affect your eligibility or readiness to adopt. If you meet the basic eligibility criteria, you will be provided with the adoption application form.
Estimated time: Typically 1.5 – 2 hours.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.

4: Submit your application form

Complete the application form and return it plus payment and any requested documentation to CYPS.
Estimated time: In your own time, up to a maximum of 18 months. After this time, you may be required to attend a further information session and/or seminar.
Who’s responsible: You
Costs: Application fee.

5: Participate in the assessment process

CYPS will arrange for a private social worker or psychologist to conduct the relevant assessments required by Australian law to determine your suitability to adopt. This will include a series of interviews with you, any adults living in your home, children you already have, and for single applicants your primary support people. Police and medical checks will also be done. An assessment report will be prepared by the assessor. CYPS may complete a supplementary report focusing on local adoption issues.
Estimated time: 6 – 12 weeks (minimum).
Who’s responsible: CYPS will arrange the assessor. It is your responsibility to participate openly and honestly.
Costs: Private assessor fee.

6: Await decision by the Carer Assessment and Linking Panel

The assessment report will be submitted to the Carer Assessment and Linking Panel for endorsement of your suitability to adopt and to place you on the suitable people register, a legal requirement for all adoptions. If endorsed, you will remain on the register for two years. To remain on the register after this time, an updated assessment will be needed.
Estimated time: 4 – 8 weeks from time assessment report is finalised.
Who’s responsible: CYPS.

7: Application sent to overseas authority for approval

CYPS will work with you to complete your application package. This will be sent to the relevant overseas authority who will conduct their own assessment of your suitability. Your application may not be sent immediately if the country imposes an annual limit on applications. If approved you will be placed on the authority’s waiting list for future adoptions. To remain on the list updated assessments will be needed if certain time periods are passed.
Estimated time: 3 – 9 months (minimum).
Who’s responsible: CYPS and you.
Costs: Dependent on country – can include translation and notarisation costs.

8: Consider placement proposal – matching a child with you

If the overseas authority matches a child to you, a placement proposal is sent to CYPS for approval. CYPS needs to ensure the proposal complies with Australian law. If approved, you will be contacted and provided information about the child so you can decide whether to accept or not. Information varies greatly amongst countries and will depend on the child's individual circumstances. If you accept the proposal there may be a cost and this varies depending on the country involved.
Estimated time: Typically a one hour meeting to discuss the proposal, plus at least 24 hours after the meeting before you provide a decision. This does not include the time it takes to match a child to you.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.
Costs: Dependent on country.

9: Begin immigration process

Contact the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to begin the immigration process to allow your adopted child to enter and remain in Australia.
Estimated time and costs: Please contact the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for information.
Who’s responsible: You.

10: Travel to meet the child

Travel to the child’s country of birth to accept their placement and complete any overseas adoption and immigration requirements or court proceedings. The length of time you will need to spend in the country before returning to Australia with the child varies and is determined by the overseas authority.
Estimated time: Dependent on country.
Who’s responsible: You
Costs: Travel and accommodation.

11: Finalisation of the adoption

The legal process of transferring parental responsibility will either happen overseas or in Australia depending on the country you adopt from. For adoptions not finalised overseas you will need to lodge an adoption order application with the ACT Supreme Court 12 months after the child enters Australia. You will attend a hearing where a Judge will finalise the adoption.
Estimated time: Dependent on country.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.
Costs: Legal services, Court fees.

12: Access post-adoption support services

CYPS will provide support and monitoring for the placement for 12 months or until the adoption is finalised, if this is finalised in Australia. CYPS will provide post-placement reports to the country of origin at intervals determined by the overseas authority.CYPS can also provide you with short-term support for identified needs after an adoption order is made. This could include referrals to relevant community services.
Estimated time: Dependent on country. You can ask for help at any time.
Who’s responsible: You and CYPS.
Costs: Post placement reports, plus support services (dependent on support required).

Download a copy of the intercountry adoption process. You are also encouraged to visit Intercountry Adoption Australia – Thinking about adoption.

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Who is involved in the adoption process?

There are a number of people and groups involved in the adoption process. This includes:

How are adopting parents assessed and selected?

People who want to adopt a child are thoroughly assessed and receive training and education on adoption.

Before they are approved as adoptive parents, Child and Youth Protection Services must be satisfied they have the ability to meet the particular needs of the child for the rest of the child's life. To do this a variety of suitability checks and assessments are carried out. These assessments typically include:

Costs

The following table provides the costs for activities coordinated by Government agencies in relation to adoption. Private costs, such as legal services are determined by the provider you select, if you choose to use them.

The costs listed are as at May 2017.

Activity

Cost

Two-day education seminar

$333.29

Local adoption application and assessment

$984.53

Step-parent adoption application and assessment

$984.53

Intercountry adoption application

$1626.31

Intercountry adoption private assessor

$2758.58

Intercountry adoption post placement reports

$1119.27

New birth certificate

See ACT Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages – Forms and fees

Court fees

See ACT Supreme Court fees

Immigration requirements

See Department of Immigration and Border Protection – Adoption

Note: If you are applying for both local and intercountry adoption, the local adoption application and assessment fee will not apply as this will be covered by the intercountry application and private assessor fees.

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 adoptions@act.gov.au.