For children that have spent all or part of their childhoods in the foster system in NSW, finding a permanent placement and having discussions with their family about the potential to pursue an Adoption Application is a very emotional time.
There are many circumstances that the agency that facilitated the foster placement, or the Department of Communities and Justice (formerly the Department of Family and Community Services), will directly fund and facilitate families pursuing an Adoption Application through the Supreme Court of NSW. However, there are other circumstances where either the foster family, the foster child, or the relevant agency/government department will determine that an adoption application is not suitable, for reasons including but not limited to the following:
- The biological parents of the foster child are opposed to the adoption proceeding, and threaten to engage in the process in such a way that would be disruptive or upsetting to the child and/or the foster family involved;
- The child who wishes to be adopted, or the foster parents that are wishing to pursue an adoption, are concerned about the implications of contacting the biological parents of the child (as even in cases that do not require the biological parents to formally consent to the adoption, there is usually a requirement for them to be notified that the adoption is taking place);
- The child that is wishing to be adopted would find the involvement of a third-party psychologist and the Department of Communities and Justice (as is required for adoptions of foster children that are under the age of 18) stressful and intrusive to their family life; and/or,
- The adoption agency or Department of Communities and Justice do not consider that the child who is wishing to be adopted has been in the care of the foster parents for a long enough period of time to fund/support the adoption application.
For matters that fall into one of the above categories or matters where a formal Adoption Order was not pursued due to other personal factors, an adult Adoption Application becomes an option for families as soon as a child turns 18.
An adult adoption takes place via the Supreme Court of NSW, and results in a Court Order that is legally identical to those achieved for applications for children under the age of 18. The Application involves the preparation of legal documents and applying formally to the Supreme Court of NSW for Orders that, once made, will result in the adopted person's birth certificate changing to reflect their updated family circumstances.
The key differences in the process of an adult adoption for foster children (in contrast to applications pursued before reaching the age of 18) are:
- Rather than the application being commenced and managed via your foster agency or the Department of Communities and Justice, you can commence the application personally (with the assistance of a legal representative, should you choose to engage one);
- Third party agencies are no longer required to prepare a 'report' or a 'care plan' relating to that adoption Application; and,
- The Court places less emphasis on the requirement to notify or engage with biological parents, in circumstances where the child is over the age of 18 and can prepare their own legal statement in support of the adoption proceeding (so long as they have capacity to do so) .
The above differences result in a faster and more streamlined process for families to formalise their emotional relationships into legal relationships.
If you are considering Adult Adoption as an option and feel it would benefit your family, or you would like to speak to an experienced lawyer regarding your options for adopting a child that you have cared for through the foster system (or a child that you have cared for generally), please do not hesitate to contact Family and Adoption Lawyer Kirstie Barfoot, who would be more than happy to assist.
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.