The adoption process
There are several steps involved in the process of adopting a child:
1. Initial enquiry
Please note, during the COVID-19 pandemic, progressing some of the steps as outlined below will be limited.
Please review the relevant information outlined in the steps below, before ordering an Adoption information package and paying the relevant fees.
The first step to begin the adoption process is to understand DCJ adoption procedures and requirements, and some of the issues facing adoptive parents and adopted children. This information is included in our Thinking about adoption factsheet.
When you have considered this information and want to learn more, complete the Adoption information package order form included in the Fact Sheet and return it to DCJ’s Adoption & Permanency Services with the relevant fee.
If you are considering the adoption of a child in your care, please also speak with their caseworker.
2. Expression of Interest for inclusion in adoption programs - local or intercountry
The Adoption information package includes the information booklet ‘Considering adoption’ and an expression of interest (EOI) form. When you have read ‘Considering adoption’, you may wish to complete the EOI form and return it to DCJ.
Your EOI will be screened to see if it is likely that you meet the criteria for adoptive parents.
A decision is then made about your suitability to progress to step 3.
3. Preparation for adoption seminar
If you are first time applicants to the local or intercountry programs, you are required to attend the Adoption Preparation Seminar. These 3 day seminars are held in Sydney.
4. Formal application for adoption
When you complete the adoption preparation seminar, you will be invited to nominate which adoption program you are interested in applying for.
Following receipt of this nomination, Adoption Services will review the needs of children for whom adoption is being considered and may invite you to formally apply to adopt.
5. Initial screening of application
Your application will be screened to see if DCJ can proceed with your adoption assessment.
The screening occurs after all the required documentation is received (such as medical reports, criminal record checks, personal references, birth and marriage certificates and if applicable certificate(s) of naturalisation).
You will receive notification in writing about whether your application is able to be progressed to an assessment.
The assessment reflects the legislative requirements of the NSW Adoption Act 2000, and identified predictive placement risk and success factors from adoption research.
There are specific assessment requirements in relation to the adoption of children over 24 months of age, the adoption of sibling groups and the adoption of a specific child or children in permanent care.
What is the assessment process?
The assessment will take a minimum of three months, and usually takes three to four months. This length of time allows for a fair and thorough assessment of your suitability and also gives you the opportunity to explore the prospective adoption from all angles under the guidance of an adoption specialist.
Who conducts the assessment?
An independent assessor will evaluate your suitability for most adoption programs.
7. Determination of your suitability to adopt
The completed assessment report and a recommendation from your assessor is then forwarded to the relevant Program Manager, who will determine your suitability to adopt.
If approved, your names will be entered on the DCJ Register of approved adoptive parents.
If your application is not approved, you will be informed of this decision and the reasons for it. The decision is a ‘reviewable decision’ under the Adoption Act 2000. You will be advised of the procedures to have the decision reviewed.
Once an application for intercountry adoption is approved, your approved assessment report/s will be sent to the overseas adoption program for consideration and their determination of your suitability. You will be advised of additional procedures and documentation required by the country you are applying to adopt from. Learn more about Intercountry adoption.
8. Next steps
The process of identifying the most suitable adoptive family for a particular child and the placement procedures differ in the various local and intercountry adoption programs. You will be advised of the next steps for your specific program.
It is your responsibility to maintain your eligibility for adoption at all times, until a court order for the adoption is granted.
The Adoption Regulation 2015 (clause 48(2)) requires an approved applicant to notify the relevant decision maker as soon as practicable, of any significant changes in their circumstances.
An updated assessment report may be required if there is a significant change in your circumstances.
The placement procedures differ in the various local and intercountry adoption programs and placement timeframes can vary.
All placements are preceded by an interview, during which prospective adoptive parents will receive all the relevant information DCJ holds about the child and their social and medical history.
The length of time taken to introduce a child to his/her adoptive family will be determined on a individual basis to ensure the process is suitable for the individual child’s circumstances and in their best interest.
10. Post placement stage
The placement of a child will bring adjustments for you, your family and, of course, for the child. The assessor will visit during this period to offer support and advice, and to report on the placement. Overseas authorities also require post placement reports.
For local adoptions, until an adoption order is made in NSW, the parental responsibility for your child will rest with the Secretary, DCJ.
DCJ generally proceeds to finalise the adoption about six to nine months after the child's placement.
11. Adoption orders in NSW
In NSW, the Supreme Court is responsible for effecting adoption orders.
In local adoption matters, Adoption Services or an accredited adoption service provider lodges the application at court. Where it is necessary to make an application to the Supreme Court, intercountry adoption applicants may prepare the application themselves or engage a private solicitor.
Following the making of an adoption order in NSW, the Supreme Court provides DCJ with a certified copy of the order and authorises the NSW Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages to issue an amended birth certificate to recognise the child as a member of the adoptive family.