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Overseas adoption

Information about when and how a child can be adopted from outside Australia.

  • The law changed on 6 May 2024
  • This content will be updated as soon as is possible

In the interim please consult the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia website or the Victoria Legal Aid Website.

There are long waiting lists for Victorians who want to adopt a child from another country. Even though children may be living in orphanages overseas, their birth country will look for placements so that children can grow up within their own culture and country first.

According the Department of Health and Human Services' website, only 56 children were placed with families in Victoria during the 2014-15 year. Children who are available for adoption from another country are generally older than 4 years old and may have significant and complex medical and psycho-social needs. Adopting a child from another country is also expensive.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for making adoption orders for people who want to adopt children from other countries. The Australian Central Authority, a Commonwealth Government body, is also involved as it liaises with governments in other countries.

The Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs (DHA) must approve visas for adopted children. It will not grant a visa unless the adoption has been approved by the Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria.

Adoption is organised under the Hague convention or by agreement between governments

There are 2 different types of processes for adopting a child from overseas:

  • under the Hague convention on the protection of children and co-operation in respect of intercountry adoptions
  • under separate agreements between Australia and other countries.

As is the case with Victorian children, the primary consideration is the best interests of the child. The Department of Health and Human Services must be satisfied that the child's parents have freely consented to the adoption and that the law is followed in the country of the child's birth. Each country makes its own rules about the types of people who are suitable adoptive parents.

Can people apply to adopt privately?

No. Private adoption is not possible.

For more details about intercountry adoption see Department of Health and Human Services—Adopt a child from overseas(opens in a new window).

A child living in Victoria can only be adopted by a person in another country with approval from the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services or by an approved agency.

The overseas agencies must be authorised to arrange for overseas adoption of children from or to that country.

See s. 115—Adoption Act 1984 (Vic) (opens in a new window)and r. 9—Adoption Regulations 2019 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Adoption Act 1984 (Vic)

  • Part lVA—Adoptions under the Hague convention
  • Part IVB—Bilateral arrangements for intercountry adoptions
  • s. 115—arrangements for adoption of children outside Australia

See Adoption Act 1984 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Adoption Regulations 2019 (Vic)

  • r. 27—application for accreditation—Hague Convention
  • r. 28—accreditation—Hague Convention
  • r. 29—prescribed overseas jurisdiction
  • r. 30—prescribed adoption orders
  • Schedule 1, Form 7—Statement of witness in whose presence the form of consent is signed when consent is given to an adoption in a country outside Australia
  • Schedule 2—Prescribed persons and organisations for intercountry adoption arrangements

See Adoption Regulations 2019 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Reference

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)

This Victorian government department has information about when and how a person may adopt a child from another country. There is also an intercountry adoption kit.

See Department of Health and Human Services—Adopt a child from overseas(opens in a new window).

Attorney-General’s Department (Cth)

The Commonwealth Attorney General site has information about adopting a child from overseas.

See Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department—International family law and children(opens in a new window).

Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption (HCCH)

See HCCH—Convention on the protection of children and the cooperation in respect of intercountry adoption(opens in a new window).

Updated