Thinking about adoption

Below is a step-by-step guide for Australian families considering adopting a child from overseas.

Please be aware that your application will be managed by the central authority in your state or territory and some steps vary depending on which state or territory you live in.

If you require assistance at any stage throughout the process, contact us and we will help point you in the right direction.

1. Make an initial enquiry

Intercountry Adoption Australia can answer your initial questions about the intercountry adoption process. Once you have decided to proceed with an intercountry adoption application, your next step is to contact the central authority in your state or territory by email, telephone or via their website.

2. Attend education seminars and make a formal application

Education sessions and seminars are run by relevant agencies in your state or territory. Some states and territories require you to complete an expression of interest, questionnaire or pre-assessment of eligibility before you attend.

The seminars will cover a range of topics relating to intercountry adoption, including the specific needs of adopted children and information about countries you can adopt from. Education seminars may also occur throughout your application and assessment process. In some states and territories, following the education sessions, there is a time limit for you to lodge your application. Applications are made to the central authority in your state or territory and require detailed information to be provided.

3. Await adoption assessment and decision by your State/Territory

Detailed information on the assessment process, requirements and criteria are available from the central authority in your state or territory.

The approval process may include health, police and referee checks as well as interviews with an adoption assessor (social worker or psychologist). If approved, the length of time your approval is valid depends on the state or territory you live in.

4. If approved, your application is sent to your country of choice for approval

Your adoption application is sent to the overseas country for an approval decision by their authorities. Some applications may not be sent immediately if that country imposes a quota of applications.

If approved by the overseas country, your application will remain on their waiting list, pending a placement proposal (the matching of a child with your family).

The decision to place a child for adoption with a family rests with the overseas adoption authorities and timeframes vary. Waiting times can be affected by the number of children requiring intercountry adoption, the number of applications received by the country, and the resources of the overseas country. In 2013-14, five years was the typical wait time for families who adopted a child from overseas, but it can be much longer.

An updated adoption assessment (see Step 3) may need to be carried out by the central authority in your state or territory, depending on the period you are on the waiting list. This will depend on the state or territory you live in.

5. Placement proposal (the matching of a child with a family) issued by the overseas authority

The overseas authority forwards the placement proposal, including social and medical information about the child, for approval by the central authority in your state or territory.

Once approved, your state or territory central authority will contact you regarding your acceptance of the proposal.

The amount of information included in placement proposals varies considerably across countries, and depends on the child’s individual circumstances.

Under a small number of special needs programs, the state or territory central authority may be asked by the overseas country to assess a list of children in need of adoption and to propose a match with one or more Australian families who are currently approved to adopt a child with those needs. If the overseas country is willing to consider the proposed match, they will seek further information from the relevant state or territory central authority.

6. Commence immigration application process in Australia

The ability of an adopted child to enter Australia depends on immigration requirements being met. The process followed may vary depending on the country involved. You will usually begin the immigration application process before you travel to the overseas country to meet the child.

The role of the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) is to assess and decide applications for visas and citizenship, in accordance with Australian law.

DIBP will provide you with advice on the specific visa and citizenship requirements that apply when adopting through bilateral arrangements and Hague intercountry adoption processes. DIBP has staff dedicated to support you through these processes.

For further information about the immigration and citizenship processes for intercountry adoptions, please see the DIBP’s website.

7. Travel to meet the child

You will be required to travel to the child’s country of birth to accept placement of your child, and complete overseas adoption and immigration formalities or court proceedings. Travel arrangements should not be confirmed until your state or territory central authority advises you to do so.

Some countries specify travel dates and nominate your accommodation, and the timing of this process depends on the child’s country of origin. It can sometimes take a few months.

The travel advice on the Smartraveller website is one of the resources that travellers can use to make informed travel decisions. The service highlights the range of risks that you could face at your destination, whether related to security, safety, health, local laws, entry/exit requirements, or natural disasters.

As part of your planning for any trip, we strongly recommend that you read and subscribe to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Smartraveller service.

8. After you travel and pick up your child

After your child comes home, the central authority in your state or territory may visit your family and prepare update reports on your family and make sure everything is going well. Reporting requirements vary depending on the legal status of the child and the overseas country requirements.

You will generally be visited several times over the first 12 months of the child’s placement. These visits are to supervise the well-being of the child and provide support during the settling-in period. A health screening may also be required during the first weeks of placement, and a full medical check with an appropriately qualified medical professional is recommended as soon as possible on return to Australia.

The Post adoption and support section of our website provides information on resources, community services and/or other specialist services available to assist you through various stages of adjustment. Your state or territory agency can also refer you to a range of resources and services particular to your state.

Some states and territories may also require you to complete brief progress reports at certain stages post-adoption, and some countries require ongoing reports past the initial 12 months. In some cases, you may be required to send reports and photos until the child reaches the age of 18.

9. The legal process

Finalisation of an adoption refers to the legal process whereby you (and your partner) become the legal parent/s of the child. The way in which an adoption is finalised depends on the process used in the country of origin and the procedures of your state or territory.

For some of Australia’s intercountry adoption arrangements, a final adoption order or decision is made in the country of birth. Where an adoption has been finalised in the country of origin, the adoption order may be recognised under Australian law. A period of post-placement supervision takes place after your child enters Australia.

For other intercountry adoption arrangements, the adoption is not finalised in the country of birth. In these cases, the adoption needs to be finalised in line with state or territory processes (usually in a state or territory court) after your child arrives in Australia. This occurs after a period of post-placement supervision.