Introduction: Adoption and the law

Children needing care outside the family must be placed by an adoption agency. Most of these children go into permanent care rather than adoption.

Adoption is a social, psychological and legal process through which a child is given the legal status of a child within a family unit other than their birth family. The primary objective of adoption is to provide a family for a child who cannot be cared for by their immediate or extended family. Adoption can provide security, love, protection and nurturing for such a child. These days about 20 healthy infants are adopted each year.

Most of the children who need care outside their birth family have special needs, such as intellectual or physical disabilities or emotional difficulties, or they have experienced abuse or neglect, and are not able to remain safely in the long-term care of their birth families. These children are likely to be placed in a permanent care placement, rather than adoptive placement.

In fact, approximately three-quarters of the children placed each year by adoption agencies are likely to have their placement legalised by an order other than adoption. The Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) (“CYFA”) provides for permanent care orders to recognise these arrangements.

In addition, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“FLA”) provides for the granting of parenting orders. For further information, see Parental responsibilities and child support.

In most cases agreements for ongoing access and information-sharing between the child and birth-family members form part of both adoption and permanent care orders.

Adoption and permanent care applicants may express an interest in either adopting or providing permanent care for a child, or in both.