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Adoptions before 2010: applying if you're under 18

How to find information about past adoptions that occurred before 2010, for people with direct entitlement and are under age 18.

Applying for information about overseas adoption if you're under 18

The Adoption Information Unit (AIU) offers services to adopted people and adoptive and birth families where Communities and Justice (DCJ) was involved in arranging the adoption of a child through the Intercountry Adoption Program. Adopted people, adoptive parents and birth parents are all eligible to apply for information about the overseas adoption.

Services provided by the Adoption Information Unit

  1. Provision of information from Adoption Files – including copies of the documentation received from the adopted person's country of origin at the time of placement
  2. Passing on letters, photos, small gifts and cards between adoptive, birth or foster families – where an agreement has been made with the country of origin
  3. Contacting the country of origin on behalf of adoptive families – where a number of years have elapsed – to request any current information and if possible, contact with birth families. Note: Most countries do not provide information until the adopted person is over the age of 18.
  4. Supporting families who are planning a meeting with a birth or foster family in the country of origin
  5. Support and guidance about any aspect of adoption including telling their child about their adoption, including conveying new or different information provided by the Agency or birth family.
  6. Referrals where appropriate to other support services.

Services provided by the country of origin

All countries of origin have informed the NSW Central Authority that they prefer all enquiries about post adoption services to be directed to them through the Adoption Information Unit.

Due to limited resources it is not unreasonable to expect a long waiting time for a response from the country of origin to any requests to their service.

Most countries of origin require the adopted person to be 18 years or older before they will assist with requests to locate birth parents or members of the birth family.

As most birth family members do not read or speak English, correspondence needs to be translated into the language of the country of origin at the expense of the adoptive parents or adopted person, prior to sending it.

Families requesting contact with a birth family must be committed to possible ongoing contact. From previous experience we have found the birth families are anxious to hear from the adoptive families regularly.

Adoptive families need to consider cultural differences, sensitivities and challenges affecting the circumstances of the birth family which might make contact difficult. Post adoption services may not be available in these cases.

If the country of origin is Korea

Adopted people must be 13 or older before Easter Social Welfare Services (ESWS) will accept a request from an adoptive family to make an approach to the birth family.

When adopted people under 18 visit ESWS requesting birth family contact or to research their birth background, they must first obtain a permission letter from the adoptive parents or AIU if they are not accompanied by their parents.

Where contact may not be possible

It may not be possible to make any contact in some particular circumstances. Here are some examples where contact may not be possible:

  • Where mothers were young single girls who kept their pregnancies secret from their families. In most cases they have probably married and not told their husband about their past. If the secret is revealed, it could cause serious problems for the mother.
  • If the parents stated “No Contact” at the time of the adoption.
  • Where there is insufficient background information to locate family members, for example, the child was abandoned at an orphanage.
  • Where there is false information recorded from the parent, in order to conceal their identity.

Application form

Please read the information and use the application form for Information about intercountry adoption - under 18 yeras of age.


The country of origin may charge a fee for post adoption services.

Travelling to the adopted person's country of origin

Many families visit an adopted person’s country of origin in the hope of having contact with birth family members, the Agency that arranged the Adoption, Orphanage and/or foster carer.

As you can appreciate, a large number of people request assistance from AIU and the country of origin, so there may be a waiting time of several months for this service.

For this reason it is important to contact AIU with your request as early as possible - at least six months prior to your intention to travel.

In most cases this will allow time for us to contact the overseas country and allow them time to make whatever arrangements or searches they may need depending on what you have requested. Unforeseen circumstances may delay the finalisation of the arrangements.

Travelling where the adopted person is under age 18

Adoptive parents should complete the Initial Inquiry Form on pages 4-6 and advise the intended dates of travel and what they would like to achieve when they are there.

You are strongly cautioned to not confirm any travel plans - including booking and paying for flights and accommodation - until arrangements with the country you are visiting have been confirmed in writing.

Contact the AIU

If would like to speak with a Caseworker at the initial stages of your plans to travel please contact AIU and ask to speak with the Duty Caseworker.

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

Postal address
Locked Bag 5000
Parramatta NSW 2124 

Federal government services

An alternative to DCJ' Adoption Information Unit is the The Intercountry Adoption Tracing and Reunification Service, which provides free specialised search and reunion services to intercountry adoptees and adoptive parents, including those adopted through expatriate adoption arrangements. The service is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services and is delivered by International Social Service (ISS) Australia.

Intercountry Adoption Tracing and Reunification Service
1300 657 843

Intercountry Adoption Australia
1800 197 760

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Last updated: 04 May 2022