Whilst popularity and public understanding of adoptions in Australia has steadily increased in recent years, the pathway to adoption through the Court system in NSW can still be quite complicated and confusing for adoptive parents. Also confusing for parents, is figuring out where to start, and figuring out where to best source information about expanding their family.

The primary sources of information about adoptions in NSW are not always easy to find, and this blog, attempts to put some of those useful points of reference in one place.

1. Adoptions of relatives and adult adoptions in NSW – The adoptions of relatives (which includes stepchildren, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters) or the adoption of a child over the age of 18, are perhaps the hardest to get information on. The reason for this is because they are less common than adoptions that take place through the foster system, and also because they are usually conducted privately (through a private legal representative, as opposed to via the government or a not-for-profit organisation).

The website of the Department of Communities and Justice is a very useful source of information if you are just starting to think about the process. The mandatory information relating to adoption published by the Department of Communities (for both children and parents) and Justice is relevant to all adoptions in NSW, and reviewing those documents will provide you with a great deal of insight into how that process is conducted through the Court system. Separately to the Department of Communities and Justice, it is recommended that you obtain legal advice relating to any circumstances specific to your own family.

2. Fostering a Child or Adopting a foster child in your care – The website of the Department of Communities and Justice contains brochures, and links to important contacts relating to adoptions in NSW. Those brochures include information about how that process is different depending on the age of the child, the extent to which the biological parents should be involved in that process (and their rights in contrast to the rights of adopting parents), and courses and contacts that are required to commence the process of the adoption of a child within the foster system, or the registration as a foster parent in NSW.

In addition to the Department of Communities and Justice, there are multiple not-for-profit organisations in NSW that manage and deal with adoptions. Examples include Barnardos, Anglicare, and Family Spirit Adoption Services. Those organisations act as accredited agents for the government relating to the placement of children in foster care, and in some circumstances, the adoption of those children. Their websites and organisations are a useful resource for information as to the timelines and process involved of adoptions in NSW.

3. Adopting a child from overseas – If you are attempting to adopt a child from overseas that is not known to you via a friend or a relative, those adoptions are handled by the Australian Federal Government, or Intercountry Adoption Australia. The Australian government actively works to negotiate agreements and schemes with other countries relating to the adoption of children. It is important to be aware that there are limited countries participating in those schemes at any one time, and there are waitlists and other restrictions that vary from country to country.

If you wish to adopt a child from overseas that is known to you, you may be able to deal with that process privately. Parties can apply directly to the Supreme Court of NSW for adoption orders relating to children that qualify as a relative, provided all of the legal forms and documents are submitted. It is important to note, however, that if there are any issues with that process, there can be serious implications that relate to that child's eligibility for residency or citizenship in Australia. As such, it is recommended that you get advice from an adoption and/or immigration lawyer before proceeding (and well in advance of any decisions about travel).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.