How does adoption work?
Parenting Relationships


What is adoption?

Adoption is a procedure that permanently transfers all of the legal rights and responsibilities of being a parent from the child’s birth parents (their biological parents) to the adoptive parents.


Different types of adoption

There are 2 main types of adoption in Australia.


  • Intercountry adoption is when a child is adopted from an overseas country and taken back to Australia to live.


  • that is when the child to be adopted was born or is permanently residing in Australia. The adoptive parent (for example, a stepparent) may already know the child, or may have no previous contact or relationship with them.


  • Local adoption is when the child adopted was born or is permanently residing in Australia.


  • This is when a child is adopted from an overseas country and brought again to Australia to live. The Australian attorney-general’s department can assist in arranging intercountry adoptions with the child’s country of birth. They also work with the relevant state and territory departments. For intercountry adoption, you have to first be authorized to adopt by your state or territory government. Then, your application could be sent to your nominated overseas country for his or her approval. In case your application is accepted by the overseas country and a child is found for you, you will be sent an official document with an offer, referred to as a placement proposal. If you accept it, you’ll need to go to the overseas country to collect your child and formally adopt them there.

It can often be an extended process for people wanting to adopt from distant places. The number of children available for Australian families to adopt is declining. This could be due to the fact it is becoming easier to place the children for adoption in their own countries.

visit the Intercountry Adoption Australia website for more information on intercountry adoption programs. It also outlines the possible waiting times and charges.


You can also consider adopting a child with special needs or a baby you already have a relationship with, such as a stepchild or other relative. this is referred to as ‘known adoption’.


What is the legal process for adoption?


If you plan to adopt a child, you will need an adoption order. This document legally transfers all parental rights and obligations from the birth mother and father to you as the adoptive mother and father.

Any legal rights that the child has in relation to their birth parents, such as inheritance, are removed. the child can also get a new birth certificate recording the adoptive parent or parents’ names, as well as the child’s new name, if this was changed.

Each Australian state and territory has its own legal requirements for adoption. For more information about legal requirements in your state or territory, contact the government agency in your state or territory.


How long does adoption take?


There is no information currently available about how long it takes for local adoptions to be processed.

In 2020-2021, the median time for an intercountry adoption was 3 years and 4 months. This is from when an adoptive parent becomes approved by an Australian state or territory to when the child was placed. However, it can also be an extended and complicated process to get approval in Australia. Each state and territory is different.


Am I eligible to adopt?


To adopt a child you need to meet the eligibility requirements set out by the Australian state or territory where the application is being lodged. this may cover:


  • If you are an Australian citizen
  • Your age
  • If you live in the same state as the child you want to adopt
  • If you are pregnant
  • How long you have been in a relationship, if you are looking to adopt as a couple


you may also need:


  • Criminal, violence, traffic and child protection records checks
  • Check ups concerning your health
  • Interviews with you, your family and other adult household members


Each state and territory has different eligibility requirements for adoption. 


Resources and support


To find out more about adoption in your state or territory, contact your local government agencies:

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