Settlement Guide

Here's what you need to know about adopting a child from overseas

Lo que necesitas saber para adoptar un niño del extranjero Source: Getty Images/10'000 Hours

For those seeking to adopt a child from overseas, Australia has intercountry adoption agreements with several countries, or they can adopt through expatriate adoption.

Australia currently has active adoption arrangements with 13 countries, allowing Australians to adopt children through the intercountry adoption program.

Key Points:

  • Out of 334 adoptions finalised in 2019-20, only 37 were intercountry adoptions.
  • Expatriate adoption requires the adoptive parents to live overseas for a minimum of 12 months for reasons other than adopting a child.
  • In 2019, the India-Australia intercountry adoption program was restarted, but in Queensland and Northern Territory. 

The 2019-20 Adoption Australia report shows that out of 334 adoptions finalised in 2019-20, there were 37 intercountry adoptions, marking the 15th consecutive year of decline in overseas adoption numbers.

At the same time, the wait for intercountry adoptions has increased because many partner countries are now prioritising local adoptive families.

Also, over the years, some governments have tightened regulations around the adoption process.

How to begin the process?

Prospective parents in Australia need to contact their state and territory central authority or STCA. The authority may ask the parents to fill out an expression of interest or complete a questionnaire for pre-assessment of eligibility.

The STCA may also require them to attend interviews with an adoption assessor and undertake health, police and referee checks. 

Man holding adopted daughter in kitchen
Australia currently has active adoption arrangements with 13 countries.
Getty Images/ 10'000 Hours

Single parent Deb Brook applied to adopt a child from China as it allowed single-parent adoptions. She ended up waiting for over a decade, during which she began helping others through an adoption support group on Facebook. 

Ms Brook says the part of the process that takes the longest is after the application has been approved while the adoptive parents wait for an overseas country to match them with a child.

I have heard of people getting through in a few years but it’s extremely rare.

For the 37 intercountry adoptions in 2019-20, the average waiting period was just under three years, but it varied considerably across countries.

Dad teaching his daughter to dance
The most prolonged waiting period is after your application is approved while you wait for an overseas country to match you with a child.

Australian states and territories have different lists of requirements for prospective parents who must also meet eligibility requirements set by the overseas country. 

There can be limitations around age, health issues, finances, family composition, fertility, education, cultural background etc.

“You have to able to afford a child financially; they are looking at how many fines you’ve got, even like speeding tickets," Ms Brook says. 

"If you have too many of those, you are ruled out. It does vary per state, and it varies per referring country because they also have their own criteria. So, you have to meet Australia’s requirements plus whatever your selected country’s requirements are as well.” 

The report, Adoptions Australia 2019-20, shows that most adoptive parents are aged 40 to 44. 

Once the child is adopted or the adoption process has started, the adoptive parents can apply for Adoption Visa, Subclass 102.

Mom and her special needs son play in the living room.
Children with special needs may be denied a visa if there is a likelihood that their condition will cause a significant cost to the community.
Getty Images/SDI Productions

Principal Solicitor at the Immigration Advice & Rights Centre, Ali Mojtahedi, says that all children migrating to Australia must meet health requirements.

If the child fails the health criteria because they have special needs, it may be possible for the minister to waive some requirements.

He points out that the Minister for Immigration can also ask for an assurance of support.  

If the child comes to Australia and they access Centrelink services then the person who provides the assurance would be liable to make the repayment. 

Australian citizens or permanent residents living overseas can adopt a child through an overseas agency or government authority through an expatriate adoption.

With this option, the Australian Government's only involvement is with the visa application after the adoption process has been finalised overseas.

Mr Mojtahedi says that if the adoption through the expatriate adoption, the adoptive parents would need to have lived overseas for a minimum period of 12 months.

However, they would also need to show that the purpose of their stay in an overseas country was not to get around the intercountry adoption process but that they were living there for another legitimate reason.

Indian girl playing with toys
In Australia, all overseas adoptions are only facilitated if the principles and standards of the Hague Convention are met.
Getty Images/Mayur Kakade

In Sydney, Srini Lakhani wanted to adopt a child from India.

We wanted to adopt a child from my relatives in India but because of regulations in Australia, the process didn’t go through.

In 2010, the Federal Government suspended the inter-country adoption program with India due to child-trafficking concerns.

Mr Mojtahedi says that in 2019 Australia reactivated the India-Australia intercountry adoption program, but it is not available in all states.

It’s only available for adoptive parents from Queensland and the Northern Territory.

In Australia, all overseas adoptions are only facilitated if the principles and standards of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption are met, which means that the adoption must be in the best interest of the child.

Contact details for the state and territory central authorities can be found at Intercountry Adoption Australia


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