Adoption Placement and Requirements
Eligibility for Local Adoption or Intercountry Adoption
In the case of a child who is subject to a general consent – i.e. a local adoption or an inter-country adoption, an adoption order is usually only made in favour of a married couple. Their relationship must be of at least three years duration, but that period can include the time the couple resided together in a stable continuous relationship before their marriage. However, the court may make an adoption order in favour of one person if it is satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist in relation to the welfare and interests of the child which make it desirable to do so (s20(4), Adoption Act).
The applicants must also be at least 18 years older than the child, although the court may also waive that requirement (s22).
The court may not make an adoption order unless each of the applicants fulfils the prescribed requirements relating to approval. These requirements are contained in the regulations and may be amended from time to time.
The court must be satisfied that the adoption order would promote the child’s welfare which is the paramount consideration and that any wishes expressed by the consenting parents in relation to the religion, race, ethnic background, etc of the adoptive parents have been considered by the Secretary of the Department of Health or principal officer.
Very few local children are offered for adoption. Some of these may be older children or have special needs. Every effort is made to select the most suitable available parents who will best meet the needs of the particular child. The consenting parent may also be involved in the selection process and may express wishes about on-going contact or information about the child. Where both the consenting parent(s) and the adopting parent(s) agree, they may choose to meet each other and to maintain contact. This is known as “open adoption”.
Intercountry adoption is the most common form of adoption these days, although the number of children available is decreasing. A fundamental principle of intercountry adoption is ensuring that the best interests of children needing adoptive families are met. This is in line with Australia’s international obligations.
Intercountry adoptions are part of State-Federal cooperation. The Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department ensures Australia meets its international obligations, and is responsible for the various intercountry adoption programs in different States and Territories. State and Territory governments are responsible for the processing of individual adoption applications.
Families who seek an intercountry adoption must meet standard assessment criteria as well as the specific requirement that the prospective adoptive parent has an understanding of, and interest in, the culture of the child’s background and the capacity and commitment to facilitate maintenance of positive links with that culture (Reg 18(g)).
In addition to these criteria, the applicants must also meet the criteria set by the child’s country of origin.
Private adoption is illegal in most States and Territories. Adoption must be in accordance with the Adoption Act or satisfy the requirements for expatriate adoption. This is where an Australian abroad has adopted a child according to the laws of the country from which the child originates.