If you are pregnant and considering adoption, there are a number of things that you might be thinking about, and this can be an overwhelming and uncertain time.
If you're considering adoption, you can contact Adoption Services at any time during your pregnancy or after the birth. Whilst Adoption Services are able to provide you with information about the processes required in order to place your child for adoption, it is not possible to begin the adoption process until your child has been born.
You are also encouraged to talk to your doctor, or a social worker at the hospital where you intend to give birth, and talk to them about your current circumstances. This will ensure that they are aware that you are considering adoption and can provide you with support throughout your pregnancy. A social worker may be able to assist you with making a birth plan that you feel comfortable with and will be able to talk to you about how things may proceed if you wish to consider adoption following the birth of your child or if you wish to make alternate arrangements (such as caring for your child yourself or alternate family arrangements).
For a child to be adopted, both parents must be provided with information about the adoption process, receive pre-consent counselling and a copy of an adoption consent form and a revocation of adoption consent form, before they consent to their child’s adoption. This information must be explained to parents and provided in writing.
Pre-consent counselling is a process where a departmental officer meets with parents considering adoption to explain what adoption is, to discuss the alternatives to adoption, supports available and possible short and long term implications of adoption so that parents can make an informed decision about adoption. Parents will also be asked to consider any preferences they have for their child’s adoption and adoptive parents.
During pre-consent counselling, parents are also asked to provide personal information about themselves, their family and their family’s health which may be provided to the child and adoptive parents, should the adoption proceed.
Pre-consent counselling usually takes place over a number of interviews with a departmental officer. Pre-consent counselling often occurs over a number of weeks or months depending on individual circumstances. This is to ensure that parents have enough time to consider all of their options, including adoption, for securing permanent care for their child.
Whilst parents are engaged in pre-consent counselling, they may decide to care for their child whilst they consider adoption or they may choose to enter into an Adoption Care Agreement. An Adoption Care Agreement is a voluntary agreement with the department, which allows a child to be placed with an approved carer, whilst parents are receiving pre-consent counselling. The parent continues to be the child’s guardian and is able, and encouraged to have contact with their child during this time, if they wish. Parents can end the Adoption Care Agreement at any time by providing two days’ notice in writing.
Adoption Services cannot enter into an Adoption Care Agreement, or continue an agreement that has been entered into with one parent, if the other parent does not wish for the child to be cared for under the adoption care agreement.
There are additional considerations for pre-consent counselling process for parents of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child, parents under the age of 18 and adult parents who appear to have impaired decision making. Please contact Adoption Services for further information if any of these circumstances affect you.
Both parents must give their consent in order for a child’s adoption to proceed. This can only take place after pre-consent counselling has been finalised, and must be at least 30 days after the birth of the child.
In some cases, the child’s mother will be able to provide sole consent, and Adoption Services will not be required to contact the child’s father about the adoption. This includes when the pregnancy was a result of sexual assault or where there would be an unacceptable risk of harm to the child or mother if the father was made aware of the child’s birth or adoption. Where it has not been possible to obtain both parents’ consent, Adoption Services may apply to the Children’s Court to remove the need for that parent’s consent so the adoption can proceed.
We sometimes talk to women who are concerned about the birth father being able to 'stop' the adoption and force her to parent the child. Whilst no one can force another person to parent a child, you are encouraged to contact Adoption Services if you would like to discuss your particular circumstances regarding the involvement of your child’s father in the adoption process.
After signing a consent form, a parent has 30 days to revoke (withdraw) this consent if they change their mind.
After the 30 day revocation period has ended, Adoption Services will proceed with arrangements to locate a suitable adoptive family for the child.
Placing the child
Once the 30-day revocation period ends, Adoption Services will make arrangements for a child’s adoption. Adoption Services will consider couples who have been approved as suitable adoptive parents to select the best possible adoptive parents who are able to meet the child’s needs and any preferences provided by parents during the pre-consent counselling and consent process. Parents also have the opportunity to review non-identifying information about the couples considered best able to meet their child’s needs and their preferences, and contribute to the placement decision. The average age that a child is placed with prospective adoptive parents is typically around 9 months.
In some exceptional circumstances, it may not be possible to secure an adoptive placement for a child and the child may instead be cared for by approved carers in a long-term foster care placement. In such circumstances, Adoption Services will let parents know of any issues that may arise when attempting to secure a suitable adoptive placement for a child and discuss the alternative long-term care arrangements that may need to be made for the child. It is exceptionally rare that a child, including a child with complex health or medical needs is unable to be placed with adoptive parents, though it may take a little longer to arrange a placement for children with complex needs.
Openness in adoption
Openness in adoption is promoted and supported by the Adoption Act 2009. This can mean that there might be contact between the child and the birth parents and adoptive parents, but can also relate to the child, adoptive and birth parents to know each other and the circumstances of the adoption, to help the child understand where they come from and their identity.
The degree of openness between the child’s birth family and the adoptive family can be set out in an adoption plan. An adoption plan is a written document entered into between a child’s parents and prospective/adoptive parents to document an agreement about the level of contact they may wish to have with each other, and any other matters that affect the child’s wellbeing, up until the child turns 18 years of age.
An adoption plan is not legally enforceable and will not alter the adoptive parents’ role as the child’s only legal parents, but it lays out the type and frequency of contact the adoptive parents and birth parents have agreed to. Even if direct contact is not planned, it can detail the parties’ agreement to exchange non-identifying information through Adoption Services after the adoption order is made. An adoption plan can be updated and amended as requested and agreed to by all parties.
In some cases, an adoption plan is mandatory. This includes cases where the child to be adopted has been subject to a Child Protection Order, where birth and adoptive parents wish to have in-person contact or where an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child is to be placed with prospective adopted outside of his or her community or language group.
Contact between birth parents and the child and adoptive parents is not mandatory.
Parents are encouraged to name their child following their birth. This is because a child’s birth must be registered by their parents within 60 days of birth, and the child’s name on the birth registration form is their legal name until an adoption order is made by the children’s court.
When an adoption order is made, the Court may also make an order about the child’s name. The Court can consider whether a child’s wellbeing and interests would be promoted by keeping the first name given to the child by their parents, and may consider the inclusion of a second name (middle name) if requested by the child’s adoptive parents.
When an adoption order has been made, the department advises the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages of this, and the Registry is responsible for registering the adoption and issuing the child with a new (amended) birth certificate. This new birth certificate names the adoptive parents as the child’s parents.
Adoptive parents are always encouraged to maintain a child’s given name, however the law does not prevent changes to the child’s name after an adoption order is made. The department will always endeavour to place a child with prospective adoptive parents who intend to retain a child’s name where this has been requested by parents.
For parents who have already placed an older child for adoption and are considering adoption for a subsequent child, every effort will be made to place the child with the same family. If this is not possible, the department will seek to place a child with a family who is committed to ensuring there are ongoing opportunities for contact between siblings.