All states and territories are legislated by their own adoption laws and Queensland is specifically governed by the Adoption Act 2009. Adoptions in Australia occur through the administrative processes associated with the Department of Child Protection or Child Safety. Adoption is thus an administrative law issue and not a family law issue.
The Adoption Act provides that a child may only be adopted in circumstances where both birth parents have offered their express consent. Adoption may also be an option available to a child where their parents have been unable or unwilling to provide long-term care.
The Queensland Government facilitates and assists the adoption processes through the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services. This department supports parents/people who are expressing a desire to adopt a child, aid those who need adoptive services and assist individuals who have been involved in adoption to lodge contact statements.
To begin the process of adopting in Queensland, an expression of interest needs to be recorded. To be eligible to express an interest in adopting you need to be an adult, either you or your partner (if necessary) are an Australian citizen, reside or domicile in Queensland, if you are female you are not pregnant, you are not an intended parent under a surrogacy arrangement and you do not have a child aged under 1 year or a child who has been in your custody for less than 1 year.
Once the expression of interest has been lodged the department will provide notification of whether the eligibility requirements have been satisfied. If the eligibility requirements are satisfied, the expression of interest will then be entered into a register where your names are then elected for selection for assessment.
If you are selected for assessment, the Department will obtain as much information as possible about you, including; criminal, domestic violence, traffic and child protection history checks and gathering information about your health. The assessment also involves home visits for assessment interviews and talking with you and your partner (if applicable), children and other adult household members and nominated referees if required.
The aspect of adoption with which the Family Court is involved in, is step-parents. A person who is a step-parent to a child and wishes to formally adopt the child, must receive leave from the Court. This can only occur if the adopting parent satisfies all eligibility conditions raised above (and outlined in the Adoption Act 2009).
After an assessment has been completed, a recommendation is made by the department whether a couple is suitable to be an adopted parent. If you are assessed and found suitable to be adopted parents, your names are entered in the suitable adoptive parents register. For couples who have been entered into this register and you have expressed a desire to adopt overseas, the department provides your file to the relevant overseas adoption authority.
For Queensland adoptions, the department decides which couple from the register best meets the child needs and interests. When a placement situation is made you will be provided with all information related to the child to decide if this match is right for you. If you accept the placement you will become the child’s prospective adoptive parents under the interim adoption order. A child must be in your custody for at least 12 months before a final adoption order is made.
For intercountry adoption you will be notified by the department when the overseas adoption authority makes a placement proposal. Similar to Queensland, you will be provided with all information in relation to the child to assist and support your decision about accepting the placement proposal.
An adoption plan is an agreement between the birth parents and the prospective adoptive parents that support the child’s wellbeing and interest. It is not legally enforceable and does not alter the adoptive parent’s role as the child’s legal parents. These plans are only usually considered for Queensland adoptions.
After a final order is made by the Children’s Court you become the child’s only legal parents. For intercountry adoptions, the majority of adoption orders are made in the overseas country however some countries require the final order to be made in Queensland. For both Queensland and intercountry adoptions, you will be supervised for a minimum period of 12 months to ensure the interests and wellbeing of the child are met.
If you would like legal advice on adoption or any other family law matter contact Armstrong Legal on 1300 038 223 or send us an email.