Many prospective parents in Australia’s second most populous state feel the adoption process is unfair, is subject to long delays, and fails to adapt to individual circumstances, a new study finds.

The research looked at the adoption process in Victoria, Australia and investigated first hand experiences of people who apply from Victoria, locally or internationally.

The report, “A long gestation: the adoption process in Victoria” written by Dr. Giuliana Fuscaldo, lecturer in health ethics at the University of Melbourne and Dr. Sarah Russell of Research Matters, was published this week.

Study from Applicants’ Point of View

The Administration for Children and Families said 254,114 children exited foster care during the 2010 fiscal year. Of those, 43 percent were white, 27 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic and the rest were other ethnicities.

Although there has been substantial research and statistics on the history of adoption along with the outcomes for adopted children, this particular study is one of the first to report on the experiences of adoption from the perspective of those who have applied to adopt.

People adopt a child for many different reasons, for some people, it’s the end of a long process of trying to make a family while for others, adoption is their first choice. Some potential adoptive parents don’t have a spouse, while some are with a same-sex partner and wish to raise a child of their own. Others, typically those who are financially successful, settled, and at on older age in life, adopt children to provide them a family and a place to live.

Potential Parents Put Through ‘Wringer’

But the process of adopting a child is not easy.

"Our findings indicate general agreement that access to adoption should protect children's best interests and that some form of assessment of potential adoptive parents is appropriate and necessary," said Dr. Fuscaldo.

"However, there was significant disagreement about the level of scrutiny required and the criteria used to ensure adoptive parents are 'fit' to parent,” she added.

Dr. Fuscaldo said that participants described an anti-adoption culture and felt that they had to jump unfair hurdles in the process of applying to adopt a child.

"A recurring concern expressed by many participants was the length of time required to complete an application to adopt. Participants referred to long delays between each stage and suggested that these delays were due in part to a shortage of government resources. They were also critical of the 'one size fits all' approach to assessment," she said.

While some participants were happy with the current system and as they moved through the process of adoption it forced them to evaluate on their own whether or not it was the right step for them.

The authors wrote that there are an estimated 106 million children around the world who have lost one or both parents, but the waiting list in Australia for overseas adoption is up to 8 years.

In the report, many people who apply to adopt say that they are being made to feel like criminals.


The study opens new doors to review current processes and encourage additional training and support for adoptive parents, social workers, and departmental staff.

The authors recommend that “government bodies review current approaches to overseas adoption to reduce both the waiting lists and the number of children who need parents.”