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Institute overview

Open adoption can provide a permanent and safe home to children and young people who can’t safely return to their families or live with kin. However, in NSW only a small number of children or young people in care are being adopted each year despite the research showing the benefits of adoption.

The NSW Government is working to increase the number of open adoptions from care in NSW. While adoption is not appropriate for all children in out-of-home care (particularly Aboriginal children), more can be done to ensure it is considered as an option when it is in the best interests of the child.

What is the purpose of the Institute?

As part of these reforms, the NSW Government has committed $2.85 million to help establish an independent Institute of Open Adoption Studies. The Institute will:

  • lead local and up-to-date research on adoption practices
  • support organisations that work in adoption
  • establish and encourage a change in culture within the child protection sector around permanency planning and adoption
  • build on reforms that support permanency and safety options for children and young people in care
  • conduct applied research on open adoption from out-of-home care
  • increase awareness about the benefits of adoption from out-of-home care
  • develop resources, training and education programs to help the sector better understand and practice open adoption
  • provide expert reports to support decision making around permanency planning
  • improve support services for people involved in open adoption.

This research will inform how the NSW Government develops adoption policy and practice.

Who runs the Institute?

The University of Sydney maintains the Institute as an independent, not-for-profit organisation.

How is the Institute be funded?

The NSW Government committed $2.85 million over three years to establish the Institute.

As the Institute builds its profile it will source its own revenue through research grants and donations.

Why open adoption?

The following videos provide a snapshot of the experiences of children and young people who have been adopted.

SBS Insight

Making Adoption Easier’ (March 2014)

Barnardos ‘Talking About Adoption’

Watch adoptees and their families share their experiences with Barnardos about open adoption over the past 30 years.

More information on Barnardos and their role in adoption can be found at www.barnardos.org.au

FACS ‘Fostering to Adopt Panel’

This video is a panel discussion at the FACS Office of the Senior Practitioner Practice Conference (2014). It features NGO and Family and Community Services (FACS) adoption experts discussing adoption research, the Safe Home for Life legislative reforms and adoption practice in NSW.

Community consultation on the Institute of Open Adoption

Written feedback

Following the release of the Issues Paper on Establishing an Institute of Open Adoption, we received submissions from individuals, community groups and service providers.

Thank you for everyone who took the time to comment.

These submissions are available below:

Community consultations

We also received general feedback on the adoptive process in NSW. During the consultation period, we met with a range of stakeholders to discuss the proposed Institute.

View the discussion notes from meetings with community stakeholders.

Institute of Open Adoption Studies FAQ's

Why is an Institute of Open Adoption needed?

Open adoption is an important way of providing a permanent and safe home to children and young people who can’t return to their families or kin. Although adoption is not appropriate for all children in out-of-home care, greater effort is needed to consider adoption when it is in the best interests of the child.

An independent review commissioned by the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) in 2013 highlighted the need for education and resources  to encourage adoption as an option to provide children with a safe and stable home for life.

With this in mind we are looking to establish an Institute of Open Adoption to bridge the knowledge gaps around the benefits of open adoption. This institute, which is the first of its kind in Australia, will improve both the practices and policy development around promoting and using open adoption in NSW.

What is the difference between adoption and open adoption?

Adoptions that occurred in the last century have not been open. Open adoption, which is practiced today, seeks to sustain positive communication between birth parents, adoptive parents and the adopted child or young people, when it is in the best interests of the child or young person.

Open adoption is an important move away from previous policies of forced adoption which existed in conjunction with the Stolen Generation and the Forgotten Generation.

How will the Institute change the current adoption system?

As a part of this approach, adoption is being considered earlier and with greater priority than in the past.

How will the Institute be funded and for how long will it be funded?

The NSW Government will commit seed funding of $2.85 million over 3 years to establish the institute.

As the Institute builds its profile it will create its own revenue through partner organisations, research grants, donations, fee for service evaluations of programs as well as providing expert reports.

How will the Institute help prospective adoptive parents?

The Institute will be a source of information about what open adoption means and how it works. This information will be available to people interested in adopting and will help inform their decision making.

It will also consider assistance services to help children and their families after adoption.

What will the Institute do?

The Institute will lead the way in research and best practice in open adoption and will contribute to improved outcomes for children. It will do this by:

  • conducting applied research on open adoption from out-of-home care
  • increasing awareness about the benefits of adoption from out-of-home care
  • developing resources to help the sector better understand open adoption and provide expert reports to support decision making around permanency
  • improving support services for people involved in adoption

FACS recently sought feedback on the ultimate role and responsibility of the Institute.

When will the Institute commence?

The tender process will be completed this year and the Institute will be operational in 2016.

How will the Institute benefit the sector?

Sound, objective information (relevant to children in NSW) will be available to everyone thinking about, or already involved in, adoption. This will help them understand whether adoption is the most suitable option for the child.

As an independent entity, the Institute will be in a strong position to provide impartial advice on adoption practices.

The Institute will conduct research, provide advice and resources, contribute to policy and practice as well as form partnerships with important stakeholders to combine quality information.

What happens to the feedback received from the issues paper?

Responses to the questions raised in the issues paper are available on the Community consultation on the Institution of Open Adoption page.

The responses to the issue paper will help inform the objectives, functions and structure of the Institute.

How will the issues paper help the tender process?

Responses to the questions raised in the issues paper will be used to help formulate the selection criteria that will need to be addressed by those lodging a tender.

A selection panel comprised of people independent of government and FACS will advise on these selection criteria.

Is the government seeking to use the issues paper to change legislation so as to increase adoptions?

The issues paper was released in order to seek information from the sector in order to help form the Institute.

One of the purposes of having a research institute is to better use the legislative changes.

If legislative changes are needed to allow the Institute to perform its functions, those changes will be subject to wide consultation and debate with the sector.

If the Institute is required to undertake research and fee for service work, will the fee for service activity take priority?

Currently in Australia there are institutes such as the Australian Institute of Family Studies that successfully undertake research as well as fee for service activity.

One of the questions raised in the issues paper was – What is the best way to structure the Institute or direct what it does to equally achieve both objectives?

Our intention is for both objectives to be achieved together and we are currently collating the feedback received.

The issues paper stated that the Institute is unlikely to be an advocate – will its research lead to advocating ideas?

The Institute needs to be independent and objective to achieve its goal of providing support and advice to the sector. It also needs to be able to satisfy the codes for expert that apply in courts. The Institute may however strongly support a research outcome that is clear about a particular approach or where best practice is identified.

Can the Institute look at casework files of OOHC agencies?

The Institute’s ultimate functions have not been finalised and the issues paper sought feedback on this topic from the sector. This information is published on the  .

Will the Institute be able to look at post adoption support for birth families, or for those who have been adopted?

The objectives of the Institute are that it must be relevant to people in NSW and be connected with adoption. Any topics that you think should be included in this list can be sent to openadoptioninstitute@facs.nsw.gov.au.

The issues paper sought comment on whether there should be limitations or requirements about what the Institute should research. This feedback is currently being collated and will be published on the Community consultation page .

What about the adoption of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children?

Adoption is not usually considered suitable for Aboriginal children, however legislation allows for the adoption of Aboriginal children as a final preference following parental responsibility to the Minister. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principles still apply.

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Last updated: 24 Sep 2019