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Applying for adoption information if you're under 18

A child needs information about their background to develop a healthy sense of their own identity. While not all adoptions involve contact between birth and adoptive families, it is still very important to maintain openness within the adoptive family to discuss adoption issues.

Although identifying information about the birth family is not available until the adopted person turns 18, birth families, adoptive families and adopted people may still be able to communicate, meet, and build relationships while the child is under 18, as long as everyone agrees.

This requires the permission of the adoptive parents or guardian and the willingness of the adopted person and birth parents to be contacted. Even if it's been a while since families were last in contact or contact has never happened, it's often possible for the Adoption Information Unit (AIU) to obtain and pass on current information.

Each person has different feelings about how much contact or news they would like. The Adoption Information Unit can assist birth and adoptive families to stay in touch, for example, by facilitating the exchange of letters, emails, sending photographs or by face to face meetings. Read Services for adopted children under 18 and their families factsheet for more information

The exchange of news and contact usually begins with the support of the adoption caseworker involved, but can progress to direct contact between the parties if everyone agrees.

Services offered by the Adoption Information Unit

Exchange of Information

AIU can co-ordinate the exchange of information such as letters, emails, photographs, cards, small gifts videos and DVDs. Birth parents can be reassured about the health and progress of their child and adoptive children can keep in touch with what is happening in their birth family. This helps relationships to develop between the two families.


AIU may be able to help arrange meetings between birth and adoptive families.

This service may also be provided for intercountry adoptions - facilitating contact between the adoptive family and the adoption service provider or foster family in the adopted person's overseas country.

The privacy of all persons is respected however positive relationships can develop when people decide to exchange identifying details. In this case, people can stay in touch without AIU’s involvement. AIU Caseworkers can continue to support and offer any assistance if needed.

Contact after a long time - seeking current information

Even if there has been no contact between the adopted person and birth family for a long time, it may be possible for AIU to obtain and pass on current information about the other person and/or establish arrangements for ongoing correspondence exchange or meetings. AIU will discuss your request with you.

Outreach for teenagers

AIU receives many enquiries from adoptive parents of teenagers as well as independent enquiries from young people. There are a number of reasons for requesting information at this time:

  • As at any age, an adopted person might want to know that their parents and siblings are alive and well, to see them or to have photographs and information about them.
  • An adopted person may have difficulty coping with a particular aspect of their adoption and may need some answers from their birth parents.
  • Sometimes a young person may no longer be living with their adoptive parents and this situation might serve as a trigger for wanting to find out about their birth family.

Outreach for medical information

Outreach for medical information  can be made when:

  • Adoptive parents or the child’s doctor have a need for information about the child’s medical history to help with diagnosis or treatment of a medical condition.
  • An adopted person develops a medical condition which is not part of the original birth family history provided, and it is important for the birth family to find out about it.
  • A birth parent becomes aware of medical information in their family some time after the adoption has occurred and there are implications for the future well-being of the adopted child.


There are a variety of situations in which counselling is offered:

  • After a period of time has passed since the adoption, birth parents may seek assistance from AIU about dealing with ongoing feelings of loss or sadness about the adoption or other adoption related issues like telling their spouse or other children about the adoption.
  • Adoptive parents may need support in telling their child of his/her adoption, passing on difficult information, or in dealing with their child’s sadness about being adopted and separated from their birth family.
  • When adopted children reach adolescence, adoptive parents find this to be a time when they need support and advice from AIU.

The counselling service in AIU is limited and referrals will be made, where appropriate, to other services that are experienced in helping people with adoption issues.

Adoption plans

If the Adoption Order was made after February 2003, there may be an Adoption Plan to which the birth family and adoptive family have agreed. The Adoption Plan is part of the adoption application that is lodged at the Supreme Court at the time of the adoption.

The Adoption Plan outlines how contact between the birth and adoptive families will take place including how information such as letters and photos will be shared and how meetings may occur. Where there is no adoption plan, AIU can help families to arrange contact and exchange information that is agreed on by everyone.

Non-identifying information

AIU can provide non-identifying information compiled at the time of adoption:

  • for birth parents, this is information about their child’s health and placement and some details about the adoptive parents
  • for adopted children and their adoptive parents, this is information about the child’s background, including all medical information available

Inquiry form

The inquiry form for adoption information if a person is under 18-years-old is on pages 5-6 of the Initial enquiry where adopted person is under 18

Contact the AIU

Adoption Information Unit
Department of Communities and Justice
1300 799 023
02 9716 3005

Postal address
Locked Bag 5000
Parramatta NSW 2124 

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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019