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It’s the right time. You’ve already got the dog (or the cat) and now you want to start family. You’re at a stage in your life where you’re in a committed relationship or you’re a financially stable single. Either way, you want kids. So as a queer person in Australia, what are your rights when it comes to adoption and foster care?
Nick Adams

23 Sep 2016 - 3:54 PM  UPDATED 23 Sep 2016 - 3:54 PM

Local adoption in Australia

As of August 31 2016, adoption of children by same-sex couples is legal in Victoria and recent moves are also being made to see same-sex adoption legal in Queensland and in South Australia. Adoption by same-sex couples is also currently legal in the ACT, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australian. It’s not legal in the Northern Territory. In some states, religious organisations are allowed to deny adoption to unmarried, singles and same-sex couples. As a queer individual you can apply to adopt everywhere in Australia except South Australia. Those are the basics.

For the most part, that means that Australian rainbow families that currently exist can gain legal recognition by going through the appropriate channels. But in terms of actually adopting a child and starting a family, where do you begin?

Many adoptions in Australia are the result of pre-arranged IVF treatment and surrogacy among friends and family. If you are looking to go down this road, it’s best to seek legal advice. Even if your relationships are strong at the time of deciding to start a family, things can change over time and it’s best for the child to have everyone’s parenting role and rights in writing.

Adoption of an unknown child in Australia is extremely rare, with long waiting lists (think years) and an intensive assessment process for straight and queer couples. Since the 1970s, the number of unwanted children put up for adoption has dramatically lowered due to increased access to welfare and abortion. In the period of 2008 to 2009, only 68 local adoptions occurred nationwide. This makes adoption of an unknown baby very difficult.

If you want to pursue a local adoption, it can be sought at a state level, through the relevant state department or through adoption agencies. For information relevant to your situation, you can should contact your state’s relevant department. If same-sex adoption isn’t available in your state, it’s worth contacting the government and letting your feelings be known.

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Overseas adoption

Another option is an overseas adoption. This can be pretty tricky for same-sex couples, as most countries do not allow same-sex couples to adopt. Intercountry Adoption Australia can help you make enquiries to the relevant agencies in your state and provide heaps of information about the process of adoption in different countries. 

While Australia has a relationship with 13 partner countries, only one of these countries - South Africa - is open to same-sex couples adopting. Several partner countries allow singles to adopt, but most only allowed married couples to adopt. All partner countries met the standards of The Hague Convention which aims to protect children and their families from illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions.

If you are considering overseas adoption it’s potentially easier to apply as a single person as opposed to a same-sex couple, as many more countries allow individual parent adoptions. It’s best to seek legal advice before pursuing anything that could potentially breach the law.

Overseas adoption costs can range from $6,000 to $25,000 whereas local adoption fees are more likely to cost around $2,000.


Foster care

Becoming foster carers is the easiest path same-sex couples can follow to make a family, not to say that actually being a foster parent is easy; it’s a lot of hard work. It’s also important to note that foster carers are not the parent of the child and do not have parental responsibility - the relevant state department retains that.

Before considering foster care know that it can be extremely difficult and that you’re probably not going to be looking after these kids forever. In saying that, while not only fulfilling your dream of having a family, you’re also having a positive impact on the community, and these vulnerable kids’ lives. That’s what being a parent should be about.

Same-sex couples are encouraged to become foster parents by a range of agencies throughout the country, and if you are a queer single, you are also eligible to become a foster carer depending on your situation.  Depending on the circumstances of your care arrangement, you may become eligible to adopt the child or become known as their legal guardian, but it’s best to have realistic expectations when starting out.

If you’re interested in becoming foster carers, you can contact a relevant organisation in your state. You can find an example for each state below.  

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Where does that leave you?

This all sounds very complicated, and it is. But for good reason. Starting a family is serious business and not a decision that should be taken likely, unfortunately it’s more difficult for LGBTIQ couples and singles.

Options outside of unknown adoption and foster care are available, such as surrogacy, sperm donation and IVF, and are commonly used by same-sex couples. So if you’re serious about starting a family, it’s worth investigating all options that are available. Support can be provided by a range of agencies including Rainbow Families

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