Children. For some, the thought of having children or having to care for them is a scary thought. For others, it is one of the greatest experiences life has to offer.
For whatever reasons or stages in life you’re in, you’ve decided it’s time to think seriously about having children. However, whether it be the inability to bear children of your own, the preference to not go through pregnancy yourself, or the heartbreak of having to see a child go through life without a parent, the prospects of adopting a child become a real possibility.
To adopt is, “To choose and accept as one’s own”. In other words, adoption is not something to be taken lightly. Adoption is a legal process which transfers the legal rights and responsibilities for the child from the child’s birth parents to the adoptive parent(s).
At the forefront of all decision-making in the adoption process is the child and their best interests. Adoption gives the child the opportunity to be with a family who will genuinely give them the love, support and care their birth parents cannot give them.
If you genuinely believe that you are able to care for a child, adoption could be one of the biggest, yet best, decisions you will make in your lifetime.
Am I eligible to apply for adoption?
Before the adoption process even begins, there are standard legal requirements you must ensure you satisfy.
- You are a single person or a couple (same-sex or different sex; married or de-facto);
- You are a resident or domiciled in NSW;
- You have a good reputation and are fit and proper to fulfil the responsibilities of parenting;
- You are over 21 years of age; and
- You are at least 18 years older than the prospective adopted child(ren).
What type of adoption program do I apply for?
Depending on your situation, the type of adoption program you should apply for can vary.
For example, you might have an eagerness to adopt from a developing country. Or maybe you already take care of your step-child and think of them are your own, but have no legal rights and responsibilities for them, and wish to adopt them to become yours.
Regardless of your reason, there are various adoption programs you should carefully consider and apply for the one which most suits your situation.
- Local adoption – adopting a child from NSW, whose parents are making an adoption decision for their child.
- Out-of-home-care adoption – adopting a child in NSW from out-of-home care (such as foster care).
- Intercountry adoption – adopting a child from overseas.
- Special needs adoption – adopting a child with disability or special needs.
- Intrafamily adoption – adopting a step-child or child within your family who also lives in NSW.
What exactly is the adoption process?
The entire process of adopting a child isn’t a walk in the park. Given the seriousness of its nature, there are strenuous and lengthy steps in place to ensure that the child goes to a family that is rightfully suitable for them. The adoption process roughly takes 3 to 4 months, however, depending on the situation, can go on for longer.
Step 1 – Initial Enquiry
- Go through the Family 7 Community Services (FACS) Adoption Procedure and Requirements
- Make sure that you properly understand the nature of adoption and make sure that you genuinely believe that you are a suitable candidate;
- Complete the Adoption Information Package Order
- Return it to FACS’ Adoption Services.
Step 2 – Show your Expression of Interest
- Complete the Expression of Interest (“EOI”) form.
- FACS screens the EOI form to determine your eligibility as an adoptive parent.
Step 3 – Attend and successfully complete the Adoption Seminar
- All first-time applicants for local or intercountry adoption programs are required to attend a 3-day seminar.
Step 4 – Make a formal application for adoption
- Once you have successfully completed the Adoption Seminar, you will be given the opportunity to make a formal application for the specific type of adoption program you wish to be considered for.
- Once FACS receives your application, they will review it and consider the needs of the children, then invite you to formally apply to adopt.
Step 5 – Initial application screening
- FACS will screen your formal application and determine whether your application satisfies the requirements to proceed further.
- Documents that are required to be lodged for assessment include:
- Medical reports;
- Criminal record checks;
- Personal references;
- Birth and marriage certificates; and
- Certificates of naturalisation (if applicable).
Step 6 – Assessment
- The assessment process is the lengthiest stage of the adoption process. The assessment process on average takes about 3 to 4 months, and assesses the suitability of the adoptive parent to a child or children.
- Depending on the situation, specific assessment requirements are in place for:
- The adoption of children over 24 months of age;
- The adoption of siblings; and
- The adoption of a specific child or children in permanent care.
Step 7 – Determination for the suitability of prospective parents
- Once the assessment is complete, is it forwarded to a Program Manager.
- The Program Manager then determines the suitability of parents to adopt, and will either approve or reject the application.
- If approved, the names of the prospective parents are entered into the FACS database of approved adoptive parents.
- For intercountry adoption:
- If approved, the assessment report is sent to the overseas adoption program for further consideration and determination of your suitability.
Step 8 – Next steps
- Depending on the type of adoption program you have applied for, the next steps will vary.
- Generally, it will involve the parent being paired with a child or children based on the suitability and needs of the child.
Step 9 – Placement
- Placement involves an interview process, whereby parents are informed about the child, and other details including the social and medical history.
- The interview process and introduction length varies – this ensures the best suitability, and that the interests of the child(ren) are met
Step 10 – Post-Placement Stage
- The Post-Placement stage takes place once the child goes to their new home.
- During this stage, regular visits are scheduled for an assessor to come to the family home and visit the new adoptive family – this applies for both local and intercountry adoptions.
Step 11 – Adoption orders
- All Adoption Orders are applied for through the Supreme Court of NSW
- The main difference between local and intercountry adoptions is how the application is made:
- For local adoptions: the application is made and lodged directly by Adoption Services or an accredited adoption service provider.
- For intercountry adoptions: the application is made by the parent(s) themselves or their legal representative.
- Once the Adoption Order is made:
- A certified copy of the Adoption Order is provided to FACS;
- An amended birth certificate is issued by NSW Registry of Birth, Death and Marriages – the amended birth certificate recognises the child as a member of the adoptive family.
If you have read the above and believe you are still ready to commit, contact our office today. Having an experienced solicitor throughout your adoption process will ensure that you are aware of your rights and obligations, and provide you with legal advice should you hit any obstacles along the way. A solicitor will also be able to advise you in relation to leaving an inheritance for the child.