Adoption is a momentous legal process that brings together loving families and children in need of nurturing homes. It represents a heartwarming journey that transforms the lives of both children and prospective parents, creating lifelong bonds of love and care. This article delves into the different types of adoption available, the adoption process, the legal rights and responsibilities that adoptive parents and adopted children hold under the jurisdiction of NSW.

 

Types of Adoption Available

  • Local Adoption (Domestic Adoption):

Local adoption, also known as domestic adoption, takes place within NSW. It involves children who are eligible for adoption within the state’s boundaries. Prospective adoptive parents seeking local adoption undergo thorough assessments to ensure they can provide a loving and stable home for the child.

  • Intercountry Adoption:

Intercountry adoption involves adopting a child from a foreign country into a family residing in NSW. This process requires compliance with the laws of both Australia and the child’s birth country. It seeks to provide children from other nations with permanent homes when suitable adoptive families cannot be found within their home countries.

  • Intrafamily Adoption:

Intrafamily adoption allows a step-parent to become the legal parent of their partner’s child from a previous relationship. This process requires the consent of both biological parents and, depending on their age, the child’s consent as well. Step-child adoption strengthens the legal bond between the child and their step-parent, granting them the same rights and responsibilities as biological parents.

In addition to the previously mentioned types of adoption, there are other distinct forms of adoption in NSW, each catering to specific circumstances and the unique needs of children and families. These include Out-of-home care adoption, Out-of-home care dual authorisation, and Special need adoption.

 

What legal rights and obligations do adoption parents and children have?

Upon the completion of the adoption process, adoptive parents assume full legal rights and responsibilities for the child, and the child being adopted acquires specific legal rights and responsibilities, which include:

  • Parental Responsibility:

Adoptive parents have the same rights and obligations as biological parents. They have the authority to make significant decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, education, and medical care.

  • Inheritance Rights:

Adopted children have equal inheritance rights as biological children within the adoptive family.

  • Change of Name:

The child’s legal name can be changed to reflect their adoption into the new family.

  • Legal Recognition:

Upon adoption, the child is legally recognized as a member of the adoptive family, with all the accompanying rights and privileges.

  • Obedience and Support:

As with any child, the adopted child is entitled to the love, care, and support necessary for their healthy development.

 

How can I adopt a child in NSW?

The Adoption Act 2000 (NSW) is the primary legislation governing adoption in NSW, Australia. It provides a comprehensive legal framework that regulates the adoption process to ensure the best interests of the child are upheld throughout. The Act outlines the procedures, requirements, and eligibility criteria for prospective adoptive parents, adoption agencies, and the Department of Communities and Justice, which oversees adoption in the state.

In NSW, an applicant to an adoption order must be:

  • resident or domiciled in NSW
  • of good repute and fit and proper to fulfil the responsibilities of parenting
  • over 21 years of age
  • at least 18 years older than the child to be adopted.

The procedure of an adoption process includes:

  • Pre-Application

Prior to submitting your application, the Department of Communities and Justice offers an informational resource called the “Thinking About Adoption Factsheet.” This document equips you with essential information pertaining to the adoption process.

An Expression of Interest Form is required to be completed and submitted to the Department of Communities and Justice. This form will undergo assessment to determine if the applicant meets the established criteria for prospective adoptive parents.

For individuals applying to a local or intercountry adoption program for the first time, attendance at a mandatory three-day Adoption Preparation Seminar is necessary. This seminar aims to provide comprehensive preparation and understanding of the adoption journey.

  • Formal Application

Upon the successful completion of the three-day adoption preparation seminar, you will receive an invitation to indicate your preference for local or international adoption program.

Subsequently, the Adoption Services will assess the needs of children who are under consideration for adoption. If deemed appropriate, you may receive a formal invitation to proceed with the adoption application.

During this stage, various essential documents are required to be submitted, including:

  • Medical reports
  • Criminal record checks
  • Personal references
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage certificate
  • Certificate of naturalisation (if applicable)

 

  • Following the submission of your application and documentation, you will be informed in writing regarding the advancement of your application to the assessment phase. Eligibility Assessment

Prospective adoptive parents undergo a comprehensive eligibility assessment, which includes interviews, background checks, home visits, and parenting classes. This evaluation aims to determine the suitability and readiness of the applicants to provide a stable and loving environment for the child.

For most adoption programs, the assessment will be conducted by an independent assessor and usually takes three to four months. Subsequently, an assessment report and a recommendation will be submitted to the relevant Program Manager for the purpose of gauging your appropriateness as prospective adoptive parents.

Upon successful approval, you will be included in the Register of Approved Applicants. In the context of intercountry adoption, the assessment report of applicants will be shared with the overseas adoption program, contributing to the deliberation and determination of suitability.

  • Introduction and Placement:

After identifying the most suitable adoptive family for a particular child, prospective adoptive parents are introduced to the child. This phase allows them to build a relationship and bond with the child before the placement occurs.

During the placement, the Department of Communities and Justice supervises the child’s well-being and the family’s suitability for adoption. This period ensures that both the child and the prospective parents are adjusting well to the new family arrangement.

If there is a significant change of circumstances, the prospective adoptive parents are required to notify the relevant decision maker as soon as practicable, under the Adoption Regulation 2015 c 48(2). The process of allocation and placement differs in the various local and intercountry adoption programs. Throughout this duration, the assessor will make visits to provide both guidance and counsel while also reporting on the placement. Additionally, international authorities mandate post-placement reports.

Generally, the Department of Communities and Justice finalises the adoption within six to nine months.

  • Adoption Court Order:

If the placement is deemed appropriate and in the child’s best interests, an application for an Adoption Court Order will be submitted to the Supreme Court of NSW by Adoption Services or an accredited adoption service provider in a local adoption matter.

Upon satisfying all legal requirements and determining that adoption is in the child’s best interests, the Supreme Court of NSW issues an Adoption Order, provides the Department of Communities and Justice with a certified copy of the order and authorises the NSW Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages to issue an amended birth certificate. This finalizes the adoption, making the adoptive parents the child’s legal parents.

 

What if I want to adopt a child who is over 18 years old?

Under the Adoption Act 2000 (NSW) No 75 s 24, an adoption order may be made in relation to a child who was 18 or more years of age on that date and

  • was cared for by the prospective adoptive applicant as their child prior to reaching 18 years or
  • was under the parental responsibility of the Minister for DCJ and had been in the care responsibility of the prospective adoptive applicants prior to turning 18 years of age.

Different from child adoption which requires the consent of both biological parents or legal guardians, adult adoption requires the consent of the adoptee. Both aim for family connection, while child adoption shapes upbringing and identity, adult adoption is about legal recognition and mutual agreement.

The process of adult adoption is generally simpler than child adoption, with fewer legal complexities. A person who is age 18 or older may file their own adoption application to the Supreme Court of NSW, including the following prescribed forms:

  • Summons for Adoption;
  • Minute of Order;
  • Memorandum of Adoption Order;
  • Affidavit of Proposed Adoptive Parent(s)
  • Affidavit of Referee;
  • Affidavit of Adoptee; and
  • Consent to Adoption.

After a successful application, a new birth certificate will be issued to the adoptee.

Adult adoption can formalise existing relationships, establish inheritance rights, and solidify emotional bonds. It holds legal significance while acknowledging the autonomy and consent of the adult adoptee.

Adoption in NSW stands as a testament to the compassion and love that exist within society. This transformative legal process creates families filled with warmth and acceptance, where children can thrive and grow.

Having a lawyer during the adoption process helps protect the child’s rights and ensure a smooth journey. Adoption involves complex legal procedures, and professional legal counsel can help prepare and submit all necessary documents accurately. A lawyer safeguards your interests, providing valuable advice on potential challenges.

If you’re seeking expert guidance to ensure the welfare of the child and a successful adoption, please call us on 1300 559 888. We offer a complimentary consultation to discuss how we can assist you with every aspect of the adoption process, including applying for adoption, clarifying your rights and the child’s rights, and addressing any other inquiries you may have about adoption.