Pregnant and considering adoption for your child?
The Department for Child Protection and Family Support’s Fostering and Adoption Services (FAS) is the first place to call when you are thinking about placing your child for adoption. The Department is the only agency in Western Australia allowed to arrange adoptions. Qualified and experienced staff (social workers and psychologists) from the Fostering and Adoption Services can talk with you about your options and help you to make the best plans for your child. You will be allocated a worker of your own and will be offered counselling and support.
- Why do people relinquish a child for adoption?
- Will I have support while I am making this difficult decision?
- Can I make private arrangements for my child?
- Will my family be told about the baby?
- What happens to my child while I am thinking about adoption?
- Does my child’s other birth parent have to know about the adoption?
- How much time will I have to make a decision about the adoption?
- How are the adoptive parents chosen?
- Will my child know he or she has been adopted?
- Will I be able to see my child again?
- How are arrangements made for ongoing contact?
- How long does my child live with the adoptive parents before the Adoption Order is granted and do you make sure they are good parents?
- Will my child keep the name I have given him/her?
1. Why do people relinquish a child for adoption?
The Department for Child Protection and Family Support recognises that, in most cases, children are best raised within their own families. Sometimes a parent may feel unable, or unwilling to care for their child. Not all birth parents considering relinquishing their child are young and single. They may be in their teens, 20s, 30s or 40s. Many are in a relationship with the other parent of the child.
There are many reasons birth parents choose adoption. It can be due to family and social pressures, often related to the birth parents’ cultural background; not feeling able to take on the responsibilities of parenting at that stage of their life; not wanting to raise another child; emotional trauma related to the conception of the child. For most birth parents, the decision to place their child for adoption has been carefully made. Birth parents usually believe they are doing what is best for their child.
2. Will I have support while I am making this difficult decision?
Making decisions about the long term care options for your child, including adoption, can be very distressing. You may be feeling pressured to keep your child or to relinquish your child. Fostering and Adoption Services staff appreciate the mixed feelings that birth parents have when they are considering relinquishing their child. Your worker can help you to understand what adoption means, what happens in an adoption and what your rights are, and will support you without putting pressure on you to make a decision either way.
Adoption is one option; however, there are a number of options available when faced with having a child, including raising your child yourself with support or with the help of the other parent and/or extended family. It may be helpful to consider placing your child in foster care for a short period, while you consider your feelings, options and receive support.
It is important to take your time when making a decision about whether you want your child to be adopted. The Adoption Act 1994 and Adoption Service staff allow time for you to make an informed decision. If you want to find out more, call the Department for Child Protection and Family Support’s Fostering and Adoption Services (see brochure Considering adoption for your child). You will also be offered counselling to assist with this decision. Staff are required to keep your adoption information confidential; your call will remain private and you will be treated with care and respect.
3. Can I make private arrangements for my child?
It is illegal to make private arrangements to have your child cared for by someone else if this may lead to an adoption. There are serious penalties such as a $25,000 fine and a two year term of imprisonment.
4. Will my family be told about the baby?
Under the current Adoption Legislation (law) in Western Australia, your privacy and confidentiality is to be maintained, and you decide who you tell about the birth of your baby. However, with your permission, Adoption Services will want to be able to explore the possibility of the child being care for by you, the baby’s father, or within your families. It can also be reassuring for your child, as he or she grows up, to know that their grandparents and other relatives know of their existence. Should your son or daughter make contact with you or other birth family members when they are older, it will also be much easier for everyone if your family already know about the child.
5. What happens to my child while I am thinking about adoption?
Your child may be placed with specially chosen and trained pre-adoption foster carers while you decide what to do. You will be encouraged to visit your child when in foster care as this has benefits for both you and your child even if you decide on adoption. Sometimes birth parents are reluctant to have contact for a range of reasons. Staff are happy to discuss your reasons and will not place any pressure on you.
6. Does my child’s other birth parent have to know about the adoption?
When a baby is born, both parents have equal parental rights and legal responsibility for the child. Both birth parents must give their written consent for the child to be placed for adoption. Sometimes it is not possible or appropriate for the other birth parent to sign their consent and a dispensation may be obtained from the Family Court of Western Australia.
7. How much time will I have to make a decision about the adoption?
After signing adoption consents you have a further 28 days to proceed. The technical name for this time is the ‘revocation period’. This time starts from when the Director General of the Department for Child Protection and Family Support receives your consent, and the consent of the other birth parent, for the adoption.
8. How are the adoptive parents chosen?
If you have decided that adoption is best for your child and formally agreed to this, you will be asked to choose the adoptive parents you feel will be best for your child. Your worker will ask you about the important qualities you want in the adoptive parents, as well as preferred lifestyle choices. As far as possible, a match will be made with this information and applicants who have been approved and are waiting on a placement of a child.
There is a process of matching your child to approved adoptive parents. People who want to adopt children in Western Australia are carefully screened. This includes a Police record check, a Department for Child Protection and Family Support internal screening check and a detailed medical report. Adoptive applicants attend seminars to learn about adoption and the particular needs of adoptive children.
After the screening process is done applicants participate in a very intensive assessment. An assessment report is written and then presented to a committee of experts who decide if the applicants are suitable to adopt a child. This committee is called the Adoption Applications Committee.
You will be given profiles of families who are approved to adopt. The profiles will include information on each family’s qualities, lifestyle, religion and medical history, as well as other important information. Usually there are around three or four profiles to consider. From these, you can choose the family you think would best meet your child’s needs.
9. Will my child know they have been adopted?
In the past it was thought that secrecy and anonymity were in the best interests of all involved in an adoption. Over the years social attitudes to pregnancy outside of marriage have changed. It was realised that the secrecy caused a lot of distress to people affected by adoption. Research has shown that many mothers who gave up their children for adoption spent the rest of their lives wondering what happened to their children and grieving for their loss. Research has also confirmed that many adopted people want to know about their original family heritage, without necessarily changing their relationship with their adoptive family. Adoptive families often lived under the strain of feeling compelled to keep the child’s past a secret. This often leads to the child feeling a sense of shame when they found out that they were adopted.
10. Will I be able to see my child again?
Under the Adoption Act 1994 adoptions in Western Australia are ‘open’ as they are throughout Australia. Open adoption means that birth parents can find out about the child they gave up, and children who have been adopted can find out about their birth family. After 1995 most parties to an adoption would have been introduced to each other so there is little secrecy. Now adoptive parents must tell the adopted child about the adoption and in a way that the child can understand. Open adoption means that the three main parties to an adoption; the child, the birth parents and adoptive parents are aware of each other’s identity.
11. How are arrangements made for ongoing contact?
When you have chosen the adoptive parents that you would like for your child and they have agreed to the placement, Adoption Services staff will assist in the preparation of the Adoption Plan, which is a legally binding order from the Family Court of Western Australia. The best interests of the child are considered the priority in an Adoption Plan, which sets out how often and what sort of information will be shared (for example, letters, photographs, videos), by whom and how this will be done. It also states if and how often contact between you, the child and the adoptive family will happen. It outlines how meetings will be arranged and where they will be. Contact can vary from an occasional exchange of information with no contact, to a regular flow of information and frequent contact.
The plan can be changed by agreement between you, the other birth parent and the adoptive family as the needs of the child change. However any change to an Adoption Plan needs to be approved by the Family Court. There are heavy penalties for any breach of the plan.
12. How long does my child live with the adoptive parents before an Adoption Order is granted and do you make sure they are good parents?
When your child has been with the adoptive family for six months, they can apply for an Adoption Order from the Family Court. During the six months a worker visits the family to see how your child is settling in and offers advice and support. The worker will provide information to the Family Court gained during the visits, and this will help the Court when deciding about the granting of an Adoption Order.
13. Will my child keep the name I have given him/her?
The child will usually take the last name of the adoptive parents. However, the child’s first name cannot be changed unless the new family gets permission from the Family Court of Western Australia. If the order is granted and the adoption is made official, the adoptive parents will be the legal parents for your child. Your child will receive a new last name and a new birth certificate.
For support please contact:
FOSTERING AND ADOPTION SERVICES
189 ROYAL STREET
EAST PERTH WA 6004
PO Box 6334
EAST PERTH WA 6892
Telephone: (08) 9286 5200
Free call: 1800 182 178
Fax: (08) 9385 1920