Adoption is a social, psychological and legal process through which adults who are not a child’s birth parents are given the legal status of being the child’s parents. The primary objective of adoption is to provide a family for a child who cannot be cared for by their immediate or extended birth family. Adoption can provide security, love, protection and nurturing for such a child.

Many of the children who need care outside their birth family have special needs (e.g. intellectual or physical disabilities or emotional difficulties) or they have experienced abuse or neglect and can not safely remain 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.

Most of the children placed by adoption agencies have their placement legalised by a court order, rather than adoption. The permanent care orders in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) (“CYF Act”) recognise these arrangements.

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“FL Act”) provides for the granting of parenting orders. Parenting orders can give people the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority that a parent has at law, but they cannot change the legal status of a child’s carer to that of a parent.

In most cases, agreements for ongoing access and information-sharing between the child and birth-family members form a condition 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 both.