Open Adoption

Fact sheet

What is Open Adoption?

Open adoption is when an adopted child has on-going contact with their birth family. The frequency of this contact depends on the age of the child and their relationship with a member or members of their birth family. Contact includes face-to-face visits, letters, photos and cards. Face-to-face contact may be 3 or 4 times a year.

What does Open Adoption offer children in permanent foster care?

Security and Permanency

Barnardos believe open adoption provides the only real security and permanency for a child who is unable to ever return home after being removed by the courts due to abuse or neglect. Open adoption gives these children the best opportunity for a secure future by finding a safe and stable family for life. Foster care is care until the child reaches 18 years of age.


Open adoption gives a child a strong identity as an adopted full member of a family. Even after years of living with their family in permanent foster care, children tell of their huge relief when their adoption is finalised and they finally “belong.” Adopted children feel accepted in society due to their recognised legal status and do not experience the social discrimination and uncertainty felt by many foster children.


Open adoption means there is no secrecy or uncertainty for the child surrounding their past because adoptive parents commit to maintaining contact with the child’s birth family. Understanding their past is to a child’s development and ongoing construction of identity as a member of an adoptive family.

Better life outcomes and opportunities

Overall life outcomes for children who grow up in the out-of-home care system are poor both in Australia and internationally. Latest research shows the average number of placements for Australian children in out-of-home care is six (Barnardos specialized placement rates are many times lower). Research also shows a succession of placements causes major disruptions to childhood development with care leavers over-represented when it comes to unemployment, homelessness, substance abuse, early pregnancy, admission to mental health facilities and the juvenile justice system.

We believe open adoption provides non-Aboriginal children who have been permanently removed from their birth parents care because of abuse and neglect with the same opportunities in life as the rest of the community.

Is Open Adoption suitable for all children in permanent foster care?

No. Adoption is not suitable for every child, especially older children who do not want to be adopted. We also acknowledge open adoption is culturally inappropriate for Aboriginal children. However, there are thousands of children for whom open adoption could offer a powerful process for change.

How do the “A Safe Home For Life” legislation reforms relate to Open Adoption?

The NSW Child Protection legislative reforms introduced in November 2014 will provide more children and young people in care with safe and stable homes to improve their social, emotional, health and educational outcomes.

The reforms mean Open Adoption will be considered as an option when permanent decisions are being made about their long term future by the Courts.

Incorporated into the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 is a new process to help secure a permanent home for the child. The permanency principles are:

1. Staying with or returning to their parent/s

2. Giving long-term guardianship to relative or kin

3. Open Adoption

4. Giving parental responsibility to the Minister.

The reforms will help streamline adoptions from permanent foster care.*