Challenges you may face

Going through the process of intercountry adoption can sometimes bring up unexpected hurdles. Here, we’ve outlined some things you may not have considered when adopting a child from overseas. You should consider these issues when making an informed decision about whether intercountry adoption is right for you.

Intercountry adoption arrangements can always change

Australia’s intercountry adoption arrangements with individual countries will always be subject to change as circumstances change both overseas and here in Australia. Changes can include increases in fees, longer waiting times, changes to the criteria you have to meet, and changes to the status of arrangements with other countries.

An intercountry arrangement may be active, suspended, placed on hold or closed at any time. The status of an arrangement with another country can be affected by:

  • the number of children eligible for adoption
  • the number of applications received across the world
  • the resources a country can devote to intercountry adoption
  • a range of social, political and cultural considerations within overseas countries.

No guarantee that a child will be placed with you

An overseas country’s decision to accept your application to adopt does not provide a guarantee that a child will be matched with your family. While State and Territory central authorities try to provide the best information possible, there may be occasions where a decision is made to place a hold on applications, suspend or close an arrangement with another country. Similarly, an overseas country may indicate that it no longer requires an arrangement with Australia. In some cases, where changes have occurred, you may be notified that you no longer meet a particular country’s criteria.

You can view the countries with which Australia currently has intercountry adoption arrangements by visiting Partner countries.

Unpredictable timeframes and waiting periods

Timeframes for intercountry adoption are unpredictable. Waiting times are long, can depend on the circumstances in the overseas country, and can be extended without prior notice. Australian central authorities appreciate that this must be frustrating for families, but it is not respectful or ethical for Australia to pressure an overseas country to speed up the intercountry adoption process.

Limited or inaccurate information about a child’s background

Ideally, you should be provided with accurate and detailed information about the child that has been matched with your family. However, it’s important to understand that this information may not always be available. Also, information provided by the country of birth about the child’s background, age and health may not always be complete or accurate.

Some overseas countries have limited capacity to investigate and assess a child’s social and medical background. In some cultures, there remains a social stigma about children born to unmarried parents. This sometimes leads to children being abandoned and/or a lack of information being recorded to protect unwed mothers. This, in turn, opens the way for a child’s circumstances to be misrepresented, based on the notion that a younger child with an uncomplicated social and medical background has a greater chance of being adopted.

State and Territory central authorities will provide you with all available information on a child’s background, and encourage overseas partner countries to maintain the highest possible standards. As changes occur over time, it is possible that further information may become available which clarifies, adds to, or even contradicts the information available at the time a child was matched or placed.

Your adopted child could arrive with undiagnosed medical, mental, emotional, social, behavioural and/or developmental problems or conditions. Sophisticated tests may not be available in the child’s country of birth, and enquiries regarding medical information can take much longer in some overseas countries than in Australia. While you may receive some medical information and/or have the opportunity to discuss medical conditions and risks with a physician of your choice, medical tests can be unreliable and a child’s condition may have changed since the time of the exam.

Potential for the adoption to break down

There may be complications with bonding and attachment between you and your adopted child. Although research has shown that intercountry adoption generally works out positively for most children, there’s always a chance things may not turn out as families expect. Unfortunately, adoptions can and do break down.

If you are currently in need of support, please visit Post adoption and support for some guidance on where to go for help. You can also contact us.