Position Paper on Adoption Law Reform

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Position Paper on

Adoption Law Reform

March 2013

Department of Health and Human Services

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What is adoption?

Adoption is the legal process which permanently transfers all the legal rights and responsibilities of parenthood from the child's birth parents to the adoptive parents. The parent-child relationship dictates who has the authority to make decisions regarding the child's welfare, such as education and medical procedures and also has important ramifications in relation to inheritance.

The Adoption Act 1988 (the Act) sets out the processes and requirements for adoptions in Tasmania. No person has an automatic right or entitlement to adopt a child. If an individual or couple is seeking to adopt a child, they must undergo rigorous tests and meet stringent criteria. Throughout the adoption application process, the welfare and interests of the child are regarded at all times as the paramount consideration (Adoption Act 1988, Section 8).

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is responsible for the provision of adoption services in Tasmania, sharing responsibility for local adoptions with one approved agency, the Catholic Private Adoptions Agency (Centacare). DHHS is the only agency that may arrange inter-country adoption placements and step-parent and relative adoptions.

Local adoption refers to Tasmanian children who are adopted within Tasmania. Such adoptions are referred to as either ‘known’ or ‘unknown’. In ‘unknown’ adoptions the child has been relinquished by his or her birth parents and is available for adoption by suitable applicants. ‘Known’ adoptions are where a child has an existing relationship with their prospective adoptive parents, such as relatives, step-parents or other carers. Inter-country adoptions involve non-Australian citizen children entering Australia for the purposes of adoption through an established inter-country adoption program.

Who may adopt?

The Act currently provides that only persons who are married may adopt an unknown child, whether local or inter-country.

The Act also provides that couples – either heterosexual or same-sex – who are in a registered significant relationship under the Relationships Act 2003 may adopt a known child, that is, a relative or step-child. The Act was amended in 2003 in conjunction with the passage of the Relationships Act to allow same-sex couples to adopt a known child, who would usually be a child of one of the partners to the relationship.

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