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Information for parents considering adoption of their child by a relative or relatives


If you are considering consenting to your child being adopted by their relative or relatives, it is important that you understand all the choices for the care of your child, including adoption.

Adoption is permanent. It is important that you consider all options before making a decision.

This booklet is mainly about adoption, but it covers other arrangements for providing additional security to your child. 

Your adoption counsellor will assist you to understand this booklet and give information to help you decide about your child’s future.

History of Relative Adoption in Victoria

Before the current adoption legislation was introduced in 1984, adoption of children by their relatives was more common than it is today. In 1981 there were 1422 stepparent or relative adoptions in Australia. As the popularity of stepparent and relative adoptions rose, so too did questions and concerns in the community about the appropriateness of stepparent and relative adoptions as a means of establishing the legal status and family relationships of children.

As a response to widespread community consultation across Australia at the time, changes in legislation were introduced which enshrined into law the preference for families to use other methods of legally recognising non-biological relationships in families, namely orders made through the Family Law Act 1975.

As a result of this change in legislation, adoption by relatives in Victoria is extremely rare.

Requirements of the Adoption Act 1984 

The Adoption Act still provides for the adoption of a child by a relative. However, in considering such an application, the court must be satisfied that three conditions are met. These are:

a. that an order of the Family Court would not make adequate provision for the welfare and interests of the child; and  
b. exceptional circumstances exist which warrant the making of an adoption order; and  
c. an adoption order would make better provision for the welfare and interests of the child.

These requirements reflect that parenting orders under the Family Law Act are considered the most appropriate way to provide legal recognition to care-giving arrangements within families. 

Choices in bringing up your child

If you are thinking about adoption for your child, there are several different arrangements you might want to consider for raising your child. One of these arrangements may be best suited to you and your child.

These arrangements include:

  • raising the child yourself using supports and financial benefits available in your community
  • temporary care by another family (including your extended family) until you have set up living arrangements, income benefits and other supports
  • stable and long-term care of your child by relatives without any legal order
  • stable and long-term care of your child by parents who are relatives with a legal order such as a parenting order. These orders transfer some or all of your legal rights as a parent
  • stable and long-term care with parents who are not relatives of you or the child.  

More details of these arrangements are given on the following pages. This booklet cannot give sufficient information for you to assess which choice will suit you best, as circumstances and preferences will not be the same for all parents. Your counsellor will be able to give more detailed information and discuss the benefits and difficulties of each choice as they apply in your situation.

What is an adoption order

Adoption Orders are usually granted in the County Court.

The granting of an Adoption Order means that the child’s adoptive parents become the legal parents.

The order will affect the child’s birth certificate, and may affect their name and inheritance rights. Please note, these can both be changed without an Adoption Order. 

The term natural parent refers to the biological parents of the child. 

The Adoption Order usually includes arrangements for contact between the child and the natural parents, and/or exchange of information about the child.

Application may be made to the court to establish or vary conditions around ongoing contact or information exchange.

For relative adoptions, the order can only be made if Adoption Services provides a report to the court, which will comment on the proposed adoptive parent’s fitness and propriety to adopt as well as the child’s views and understanding. 

Considering adoption for a child


Under the Adoption Act 1984, both parents must receive counselling before consenting to the adoption of their child.

A counsellor from the adoption service will discuss with you all the possible options for caring for your child. Written information is given, in the form of this document as well as the ‘Notice to parent considering placing a child for adoption’. Referrals to other agencies or services may be arranged. You will be given all the time you need to consider your options.

The purpose of counselling is to assist you in making an informed decision about options for the care of your child by providing support and information, and by assisting in exploring relevant issues. The counselling process can feel challenging for some parents who would like to quickly ‘move on’, but it is important for both yourself and your child that the profound effects of adoption are thoroughly explored. 

Your counsellor will want to obtain information from you for the child later in their life. It is considered to be in the best interests of children to know as much as possible about their parents, their extended family and heritage. Any information provided by you will be extremely valuable for the child if they are placed for adoption, as it is common and natural for everyone to want to know about their origins. Family medical history is also valuable for the child. 

Adoption is complex, as it involves the complete severing of the legal relationship to the natural parents, and one side of their extended family, as well as a change in identity for the child. Children who are adopted will gain a new birth certificate, with their new adoptive parents listed as their parents at the time of their birth. Their natural parents will not be listed at all. Some adopted people experience this as a significant loss, and wish that their birth certificate more accurately reflected the true circumstances of their birth and heritage.

Adoption in Victoria is voluntary, and requires the consent of both parents, if they are known.

As the child’s natural parent, you will lose all parental rights and will no longer be listed on the child’s birth certificate.

Written information must be given to both natural parents at least seven days before consent is signed. This is to make sure that everyone has enough time to think about all the information in this booklet and to consider the alternatives to adoption.

If you consent to the adoption of your child, it is important that you understand the effects of an adoption order, and that you make the decision without influence or pressure from any other person.

Once an Adoption Order is granted

The County Court makes decisions about adoption orders. The granting of an adoption order causes major legal changes affecting the child’s relationship with their natural parents.

Adoption Information Services

Adoption information services are provided to eligible applicants. These services provide information regarding past adoptions and may also assist eligible applicants to find relatives from whom they have been separated by adoption.

A record of all applicants is kept on the Central Register. Adopted people, natural parents, adoptive parents, natural relatives and adult children of adopted persons may register their wishes regarding exchange of information or contact. They may also apply to receive information about the adoption.

Before information or documents are given to applicants, they will be offered counselling with an approved counsellor.

Adult adopted people receive a copy of the court records pertaining to their adoption (including a copy of their original birth certificate) and any records held by the agency who arranged the adoption.

Adopted people under the age of 18 years need each of their adoptive parents’ or guardian’s agreement in writing before obtaining any information. To obtain identifying information, they need the agreement of their natural parents as well.

Natural parents may obtain identifying information about the adult adopted person. If the adopted person is under eighteen years, the agreement of adoptive parents’ or guardian is required, and views of the adopted child must be considered.

Adoptive parents may obtain information about the adopted person’s background, other than information from which a natural parent may be identified.

Relatives may initially only be given non-identifying information. Identifying information can be provided only with consent of the adult adopted person. If the adopted person is under eighteen years, the adoptive parents’ or guardian must agree and the adopted person’s wishes must be considered.

Adult children of adopted people have the same rights to information as adopted people. However, the adopted person must be informed of the enquiry or evidence of death of the adopted person provided.


  1. David Brodzinsky, Megan Gunnar, and Jesus Palacios. (2022) Adoption and Trauma: Risks, recovery and the lived experience of adoption Child Abuse and Neglect Volume 130 pages 5-7
  2. Amanda Baden, et al (2019) Delaying Adoption Disclosure: A Survey of Late Discovery Adoptees, Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 40(9) ( 1154–1180.)