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3.1.6 Adoption application, assessment and approval

Last Modified: 18-Feb-2019 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021

Purpose

​To guide child protection workers (CPWs) in the roles and processes involved in the application, assessment and approval of a person who is interested in becoming an adoptive parent.

Note: This entry does not apply to carer or relative adoption. For information about foster carers adopting a child in their care, please refer to 3.3 Legal and Court Processes - Carer Adoption.

Practice Requirements
  • ​The paramount considerations to be taken into account in the administration of s.3 of the Adoption Act 1994 (the Act) are:
    • The welfare and best interests of a child who is an adoptee or a prospective adoptee
    • The principle that adoption is a service for a child who is an adoptee or a prospective adoptee, and
    • The adoption of a child should occur only in circumstances where there is no other appropriate alternative for the child.
  • Section 37 of the Act requires that where a person is considering adoptive parenthood, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Department of Communities (the Department) provides them with oral and written information and counselling in relation to adoption.
  • Section 38 of the Act requires a person wishing to adopt a child to make an application to be assessed for their suitability for prospective adoptive parenthood.  An application can be made either by a single person or jointly by two persons.
  • Section 39 of the Act sets out the circumstances under which a joint application can be made and stipulates that an application cannot be made unless the applicant meets the following eligibility criteria: 
    • is an Australian citizen[1], or if applying jointly, one of the applicants must be an Australian citizen, whilst the other is a citizen of a country which provides to an adopted child the same rights as a non-adopted child
    • is at least 18 years of age
    • is a resident or domiciled in Western Australia, and
    • if married or in a de facto relationship, applies jointly with that person and must have been married or in the de facto relationship for at least three years and cannot be married or in a de facto relationship with any other person.
  • Section 40 of the Act requires that where an application is received, an assessment is undertaken by a suitably qualified person, appointed by the CEO, of the applicant's suitability and a report prepared providing evidence that the applicant:
    • continues to meet the criteria of section 39(1) of the Act
    • is physically and mentally able to care for and support a child until the child reaches the age of 18 years
    • is of good repute
    • if applying jointly, has a stable marriage or de facto relationship with the other applicant
    • shows a desire and ability to provide a suitable family environment for the child
    • has not been convicted of a Class 1 or Class 2 offence
    • does not have a pending charge in respect of a Class 1 or Class 2 offence, and
    • satisfies other criteria as prescribed by regulation (there is no additional assessment criterion in the Adoption Regulations 1995 (Adoption Regulations).
  • Under s.41 of the Act, the report prepared under s.40 must be provided to the Adoption Applications Committee (AAC) in order for the AAC to consider the applicants suitability.
  • Under s. 43 of the Act applicants must receive written advice of the AAC's decision; an applicant may also request the reasons for the decision and a copy of their Assessment Report.

Fees

  • Regulation 86(b) of the Adoption Regulations 1994 (the Regulations) that may be charged to each person for the provision of this information.   
  • Regulation 87(a) of the Regulations specifies the payment of a fee for registration of an application.
  • Regulation 87(b) and (c) of the Regulations specifies fees for the preparation of an Assessment Report.

[1] Whether a New Zealand citizen is eligible for Australian citizenship depends on whether they arrived in Australia before or after 26 February 2001.  Contact the Department of Home Affairs for further information and eligibility requirements.

Process Maps

Adoption application, assessment and approval process map

Procedures

  • Overview
  • Enquiries
  • Information sessions
  • Education seminars
  • Expression of interest
  • Pre-screening applicants
  • Invitation to proceed
  • Assessment seminar
  • Application
  • Health assessment and Adoption Medical Panel
  • Fees for assessment
  • Assessor allocation
  • Screening
  • Assessment Report
  • Adoption Applications Committee (AAC)
  • Outcome
  • Right of review
  • Overview

    Adoption is a service that provides a family for a child who is unable, for a range of reasons, to live with their birth parent/s. It is a permanent legal arrangement (finalised by an Adoption Order from the Family Court of Western Australia, or an overseas Order recognised by the Family Court) that terminates a child's legal ties with their birth family. Full parental rights and responsibilities are given to the adoptive family.

    This means the birth parents no longer have legal rights or claims over the child.  The child becomes a full member of the adoptive family. This includes taking their surname and assuming the same rights and privileges as if born to them, including the right of inheritance.

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    Enquiries

    ​Interested people can find general information and information about the application process for becoming a prospective adoptive parent in a variety of ways, such as:

    • Department of Communities' website www.communities.wa.gov.au, click on 'Services' then Child Protection and Family Support
    • via telephone or email, and
    • in person.
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    Information sessions

    ​Information sessions for adoption and permanent care options are held four times per year in the metropolitan area.

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    Education seminars

    ​People wishing to be considered as prospective adoptive parents are required to attend Education Seminars.

    Applicants are required to pay a prescribed fee to attend the Preparation for Adoptive Parenting Education Seminar. This seminar provides information on the benefits and challenges that prospective adoptive parents might face and the implications for the adopted child and birth family.

    If applicants are interested in adopting a child from another country, they are required to pay an additional prescribed fee to attend the Intercountry Adoption Education Seminar.

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    Expression of interest

    ​After attending an Information Session and Education Seminar (may not be applicable for country applicants), people still interested in adoption can complete an Expression of Interest (EOI) Form (in related resources). 

    A Form 395 Record Check Consent Form (in related resources) is sent out with the EOI Form.

    If required, the Department also sends a Query of Citizenship Letter (in related resources) and a request for a De Facto Statutory Declaration (in related resources). The Department does not accept the EOI Form if the applicants have not been together for a minimum of three years (this can be a combination of de facto and marriage).  

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    Pre-screening applicants

    ​Upon receipt of the completed EOI Form and Form 395 Record Check Consent Form, the application is commenced (r.37 of the Regulations). The applicant will receive a letter confirming receipt of the forms and the Form 395 Record Check Consent Form will be sent to the Department Screening Unit for processing.

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    Invitation to proceed

    ​Once the screening is finalised and it is confirmed that the applicants have met all of the requirements under s.39 of the Act, and the applicants have lodged their EOI Form within 12 weeks of completing their last Education Seminar (r.37 of the Regulations), the Department can officially invite them to proceed with their application by sending an Invitation to Proceed Letter (in related resources). Applicants will then be invited to attend an Assessment Seminar.

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    Assessment seminar

    ​Information to help applicants decide whether to proceed to an assessment and to prepare them for the assessment process is provided at the Assessment Seminar. Information provided includes the appointment of an assessor, an outline of the assessment process, the role of the AAC as well as mention of the assessment and review and appeals processes available to applicants.   

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    Application

    ​Applicants are provided with an application package at the Assessment Seminar. If the person lives outside the metropolitan area, the forms are posted to them.  They must be completed and returned to the Department.

    The package includes the following (in related resources):

    • Cover letter outlining what is in the package
    • Form 712 – Adoption Application Form (one form per applicant)
    • Form 711 - Authority to Release Medical Information (one form per applicant)
    • Form 710 – Medical Examination Report for each applicant
    • Schedule 2 Information
    • Definition of Care Needs Document
    • Police Cover Letter and Request for Traffic Infringement History
    • Suitability Requirements
    • Information about the Assessment
    • Project Booklet Information, and
    • Swimming Pools, Spas, and Other Bodies of Water Information Sheet.

    The applicant must submit these forms to the Department if they choose to proceed with their application.

    Applicants who have been foster carers with another agency must complete Form 141 Consent for Release of Information (in related resources).  Form 141 allows the Department to request a copy of their foster care assessment report and information about their time as a foster carer from the other agency.  

    Dual Applicants

    Applicants who are interested in applying for both foster care and adoption are referred to as 'dual applicants'. These applicants must undergo both a foster care and adoption assessment and each assessment report must be submitted to the relevant decision-maker (i.e. Cross-sector Foster Carer Panel for foster care assessments and the Adoption Applications Committee (AAC) for adoption assessments).

    Dual applicants must complete one assessment at a time, that is, complete an adoption assessment before commencing a foster care assessment or vice versa.  For information on the foster care process see chapter 3.1 Foster Care Application, Assessment and Approval.

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    Health assessment and Adoption Medical Panel

    ​All adoption applicants are required to request a medical report from their General Practitioner (GP).

    The applicants' medical information is reviewed by the Adoptions Medical Panel Representative (who is a registered Medical Practitioner).  If required, additional medical specialist reports or test results may be  requested by the Representative before they make a recommendation as to whether the applicant is found fit to adopt or not.  

    If required, an Adoption Medical Panel will deliberate to decide the applicant's suitability to adopt.

    The applicants' capacity to adopt with any identified health issues is a recommendation only by the assessor and/or Adoption Medical Panel after consideration of the information provided by the GP and other specialists. It is the AAC who makes the final decision about an applicant's suitability or not to adopt.

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    Fees for assessment

    Once all the above forms are returned, applicants are asked to pay the prescribed fee to continue to the assessment stage.

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    Assessor allocation

    ​An assessor will be allocated to undertake the assessment and an 'Adoptions' activity tab needs to be created in Assist.

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    Screening

    ​The Screening Unit is responsible for screening all adoption applicants. The applicants and any other adults who live in the home must complete a Form 395 - Record Check Consent Form (in related resources). Children 10 years of age and above who live with the applicants should be listed in the applicant's Form 395 - Record Check Consent Form as a household member.

    The following relates to the applicants and any identified adult household members.

    Traffic Infringement History

    If the applicant's traffic infringement history results identify two or more traffic infringements that include speeding, drink driving and/or suspension of their driver's licence, within the last 5 years, the applicant as per the AAC's Road Safety Policy are asked to provide the a record of their previous 5 years of traffic infringements. The assessor must explore and discuss these offences with the applicant (how and why the offences occurred and how these may impact on the safety of a child placed with them and other road users). Any relevant details must be added into the assessment report.  

    Please see the AAC's Road Safety Policy for further information (in related resources).

    Minor or non-adverse screening results

    The Screening Unit will provide the authorised officer via email, a copy of the applicant's criminal history in a Check Result Report with a Submission Template attached.

    If the authorised officer deems the results minor or non-adverse, the submission is not required and this information does not need to be added into the Adoption Assessment Report. The applicant should be given a copy of the Check Result Report.

    The authorised officer then sends confirmation to the Screening Unit to finalise the process.

    Adverse screening results

    The Screening Unit will provide the authorised officer via email, a copy of the applicant's criminal history in a Check Result Report with a Submission Template attached.

    If the authorised officer deems the results to be adverse, they will discuss the results with the applicant. The applicant will advise whether they consider that the results are correct and accurate and should be given a copy of the Check Result Report. The authorised officer completes the Submission Template provided with the Check Result Report with their recommendation and attaches the Adoption Assessment Report. The information contained in the Submission and Assessment Report will be provided to the assessor and the AAC for their consideration.

    The authorised officer sends the final version of the Submission Template (containing their recommendation) to the Screening Unit to finalise the screening process.

    Adverse Client and Child Protection Records are determined by the Screening Unit.  A memorandum outlining the adverse records is sent to the General Manager Professional Practice Unit and Executive Director Metropolitan Services by the Manager Screening Unit, with a request for approval that the adverse records are not an impediment to the continuation of the adoption assessment.

    When all required screening assessments are completed the Screening Unit will forward a letter via email to the authorised officer confirming the screening check process is finalised and enter the screening unit outcome numbers into Assist.

    Referees

    The assessor contacts a range of referees to obtain further personal information about the applicant, particularly covering their child rearing years if applicable. At least two referees should be contacted for a single applicant and four referees for a couple. The number of referees contacted depends on the need to clarify specific issues and on the quality of the information provided. The assessor should make sure the applicant selects a range of people including family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours etc. At least one referee should be unrelated to the applicant.

    The Form 708 Referee Report for Adoption Applicants (in related resources) is posted to the nominated referees to complete and send back to the Department. The referees are asked to provide evidence to support the applicant's ability to meet the Suitability Requirements. Wherever possible this information is confidential, however this cannot be guaranteed due to Freedom of Information legislation.

    The completed Form 708 must be included in the Part File that goes to the assessor when allocated an adoption assessment.

    The assessor will contact all adult children connected to the applicant/s. However, if there are numerous, then the assessor is required to use their judgement on how many need to be contacted if the reports from several are positive.

    If the applicant is currently working in, or has previously worked in any child-related field, then an employer or colleague should be contacted.

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    Assessment Report

    ​The assessor completes an Assessment Report which outlines the applicant's evidence supporting their competence, skills and abilities to be an adoptive parent, and makes a recommendation. 

    The Assessment Report is completed using Form 704 – Suitability to Adopt Assessment Report (in related resources). The report should be 25 pages or less using Arial Font size 11. Exceptions can be made where the applicant is not recommended or the assessment is complex.

    The suitability requirements outlined in report template (in line with s.40 of the Act) must be met by all applicants. The Adoption Assessment Manual (in related resources) must be used to collect the evidence outlined in the Assessment Report. The report should include analysis of each of the suitability requirements and any relevant issues including the steps the applicant has made to address the issue and evidence of the applicant's degree of insight.

    The assessor will email a final draft of the report (minus the referee report) to the applicants. The applicants can mark any factual errors for correction. If they disagree with any of the content in the report or the assessor's recommendation, the assessor should discuss this with them. The assessor will make any relevant changes to the report. If the assessor does not agree with their suggested changes, the applicants can provide a written addendum to the report and send it to Adoption Services to be included with the information provided to the AAC at the meeting where their application is considered.

    For further information on how to complete an assessment or the Assessment Report Template, refer to the guidance in the Adoption Assessment Manual (in related resources).

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    Adoption Applications Committee (AAC)

    ​Adoption Assessment Reports are considered by the AAC at a meeting held on the first Tuesday of every second month, starting in February of each year if there are sufficient matters to be considered by the AAC to warrant a meeting.

    The AAC can find adoption applicants suitable for adoptive parenthood and approve them either generally, or in accordance with categories of children set out in the Adoption Act 1994, or find them not suitable.

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    Outcome

    ​Applicants are advised in writing of the AAC's decision and reasons after their application has been considered by the AAC. As prescribed under s.43 of the Act, the CEO is responsible for providing the written advice of the decisions of the AAC to the applicant. This task is delegated by the CEO to the Director, Professional Practice Unit, to undertake.

    Approval

    If the AAC considers the applicant/s suitable to become prospective adoptive parents, the AAC will approve the application. A Notice of Adoption Applications Committee Decision and Reasons Letter will be sent to the applicants outlining the approval parameters (e.g. one child born locally in Western Australia or overseas, up to 24 months of age with normal and moderate care needs), the reasons for the AAC's decision (in an attached Statement of Reasons) and details about their Right of Review.  The letter is signed by the Director, Professional Practice Unit and delivered via registered post.

    Non-Approval

    The Adoptions Act requires the CEO to provide the applicant written reasons for the decision as follows:

    • An initial letter that details that the AAC are considering not approving them as suitable to adopt, and why. The letter includes details about their rights and review processes available to them before a final decision is made in regards to their application to adopt. The letter includes information that they have the right to submit an addendum outlining their views about the concerns and that they can attend an AAC meeting in person and speak to their submission
    • decisions to not approve an application, or
    • decisions to approve an application where restrictions on the category of child who can be adopted have been imposed under s.13(2) of the Act, if these conditions are more restrictive than the applicant requested.

    A Notice of Adoption Applications Committee Decision and Reasons Letter will be sent to the applicant/s outlining the reasons for the AAC's decision (in an attached Statement of Reasons) and details about their options including a Right of Review.  The letter is signed by the Director, Professional Practice Unit as directed by the CEO.

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    Right of review

    ​Review of decision by AAC

    The AAC may review its decision to approve an applicant to adopt in special circumstances or if it is of the opinion that there is new evidence that should be considered (s.42 the Act).

    Applicants should be informed, in writing, that under s.42(1) they can submit new evidence which the AAC may take into consideration to review the AAC's decisions in regards to their application and approval/non-approval to adopt.

    Review by CEO

    Under s.110(1) of the Act, the applicant may apply to the CEO to a review of the decision where aggrieved by a decision made by:

    (a) a person to whom the CEO had delegated a function under s.6(1); or

    (b) the Adoption Applications Committee; or

    (c) a private adoption agency,

    The request for a review should be in writing on the form provided by the Department.  The CEO must receive the form within 21 days from the day the applicant received notice of the decision, or such further time as the CEO allows.

    The CEO reviews the decision on the material that was before the person who made the decision, and on additional material (either oral or in writing) that the CEO thinks fit to receive.

    Following review by the CEO, the CEO may do one or more of the following things under s.112(1):

    (a) confirm, set aside or vary the decision being reviewed, or 

    (b) substitute another decision being reviewed, or

    (c) if the decision being reviewed is a decision of the AAC, refer the decision back to the AAC for further consideration.

    The CEO must give the applicant written notice of the decision, the reason for the decision and the person's right of review by the State Administrative Tribunal (s.113 of the Act).

    Review by the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT)

    If the applicant is aggrieved by a decision of the CEO, he or she may seek a review by the SAT (s.113 of the Act).

    The application must be made within 28 days of the date the CEO gave the applicant notice in accordance with s.112(2).  

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