Adopting a child

This is a general guide for people in NSW who are thinking about adopting a child. It can help you understand the different types of adoption, how to adopt and link you to support services.

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Deciding to adopt

Adoption is a legal process where the legal rights and responsibilities for a child are transferred from a child’s parents to the adoptive parents.

Adoptions that currently take place in NSW are done under the principle of open adoption.

Adoption can only happen when it’s in the child’s best interests and the adult is assessed as capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of a parent.

In NSW, open adoptions are finalised by the Supreme Court when they make an adoption order.

Some non-local or intercountry open adoptions are finalised overseas with the adoption order made in the overseas country. 

Who can adopt?

An individual or couple can adopt a child. This includes gay and transgender people. 

A couple includes 2 people who are married or de facto partners.

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Understanding adoption

Adoption is a service to benefit the child rather than the adult hoping to adopt them. 

A key principle of current adoption procedures in NSW is open adoption.

Open adoption

Open adoption recognises the importance for a child to maintain relationships with their parents, extended families, their heritage and culture. This can strengthen the child's sense of who they are and where they fit in the world.

In open adoption, a child understands that they have two sets of parents and families. Relationships with the child’s parents and family are encouraged. 

This helps to provide a sense of belonging, safety and permanency to a child.

Adoptive parents are assessed and trained to make sure they understand and support open adoption.

Part of this includes adoptive parents contributing to and following an adoption plan that has been agreed to by the child’s family. The plan outlines the ways the child will be connected with their family members and their culture.

Throughout the open adoption process, a caseworker provides support to the child, family, carers or proposed adoptive parents.

The caseworker makes sure that everyone understands what open adoption means and that their views are heard. 

Different types of adoption in NSW

The types of adoption in NSW, are:

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How to adopt a child

To give a child the best possible outcome, the process to become an adoptive parent is thorough and can be lengthy. 

It involves an application and assessment to make sure that the person is capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of an adoptive parent.

The need for permanent carers and adoptive parents is greatest for children who are in out-of-home care. 

Out-of-home care adoption

You can apply to become a proposed adoptive parent and have children placed with you who would benefit from open adoption rather than foster care.

Find out more about foster-to-adopt programs at My Forever Family NSW

Learn about the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) Permanent Care program by calling 9716 3003 or email them

Many children who are adopted in NSW are first cared for by foster carers, who intend to care for rather than adopt a child. 

In these instances, a foster carer may be able to apply to adopt the child, if the child has lived with the foster carer for at least 2 consecutive years and returning to live with their family isn’t appropriate.

If you're a foster carer who is thinking about adopting the child in your care, contact your DCJ or non-government organisation (NGO) caseworker.

Local and special needs adoption 

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) works with parents who are considering open adoption for their child and families who want to adopt.

You can find out more about the local adoption process at Department of Communities and Justice

There are a number of accredited, non-government organisations (NGOs) that also provide open adoption services, including local and special needs adoption.

Each NGO has a different approach to open adoption including eligibility and assessment criteria as well as costs. Some of the organisations are faith-based while others are not.

It is important to research every organisation’s processes and understand whether it’s right for your situation. 

Intercountry adoption

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) is the only organisation in NSW that arranges intercountry adoptions.

It is illegal for anyone to try to arrange intercountry adoptions privately.

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Costs

The NSW Government sets the fees for local and intercountry adoptions as well as permanent care in NSW. 

Out-of-home care adoption costs

There are no fees for foster carers who adopt a child in their care.  

Local adoption costs

The approximate cost for local adoptions in NSW can exceed $3,000. This amount includes both departmental and legal fees.

Non-government organisations (NGOs) that offer local adoption services in NSW set their own fees. You will need to check the costs with each organisation. 

Intercountry adoption costs

Fees for intercountry adoption are approximately $10,000. 

There are also other costs involved, such as:

  • airline travel
  • overseas accommodation
  • preparing documents including translation and legal fees

Costs also vary between the overseas countries involved in an adoption.

The Department  of Communities and Justice (DCJ) has a Hardship Policy that helps lower-income families with the expense of adopting a child from overseas.

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Financial support for children and families

There is a range of government support and payments available to help with the costs of raising children. 

Guardianship allowance

The Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) provides an allowance to help children who are adopted from out-of-home care.

The allowance aims to support children who would benefit from adoption and assist adoptive families who might require financial support to meet the child’s needs.

You can also check with your DCJ or non-government organisation (NGO) caseworker about specific payments or allowances you and your child may be entitled to.

    Other government payments

    Adoptive parents may also be eligible for Centrelink benefits, concessions and family payments to help cover the costs of raising a child, including:

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    Get support

    There is a range of government and non-government support available before and after a child is placed with an adoptive family. 

    Pre-adoption support

    • If you're interested in becoming a foster carer, guardian or adoptive parent there is support, training and advocacy services available at My Forever Family NSW
    • Support is available for potential adoptive parents with guidance about the assessment process at Family Spirit, Anglicare, Barnardos, and the Department of Communities and Justice
    • Parenting programs, guides and support to help you navigate parenthood are available through the NSW Government at Resourcing Parents 
    • Learn more about the open adoption process by calling the Open Adoption Hotline on 1800 003 227
    • Find a range of resources to help guide you through the process of intercountry adoption at the Australian Government information and referral service Intercountry Adoption Australia

    Post-adoption support

    The Adoption Information Unit (AIU) is part of the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) and helps children and their birth and adoptive families, with:

    • supporting positive relationships
    • counselling and referrals to services
    • assist a child to find out information about themselves and their birth family

    You can download the factsheet - Services for adopted children under 18 years and their families - to learn more about the Adoption Information Unit (AIU).

    You can also call the AIU on 1300 799 023 (local call within Australia) or email them

    • Information, counselling, intermediary services, therapeutic groups and support if you've been adopted or are part of an adoptive family is available through the Post Adoption Resource Centre at the Benevolent Society
    • Free post adoption support including counselling, information and guidance is available through the Intercountry Adoption Family Support Service at Relationship Matters
    • Assistance for Aboriginal people who have been fostered, adopted or raised in institutions including research and reunions at Link-Up NSW
    • Intercountry social work and family support is available for families involved in intercountry adoption through the not-for-profit organisation, International Social Service Australia
    • Find play and social groups as well as specific intercountry adoption support groups at the Department of Communities and Justice
    Health support

    Family support

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