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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 

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: 24 Sep 2019