Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Deciding to give a baby or child up for adoption

10-minute read

Key facts

  • Adoption means giving up all legal rights and responsibilities to your child.
  • Adoption is a big decision, but there’s lots of support to help you decide.
  • Adoption in Australia is a legal process that is different in every state and territory.
  • Alternatives to adoption include looking after your baby yourself, shared care with family or friends, or foster care.
  • If you decide to give your baby up for adoption, an adoption plan can help you and your baby’s adoptive family decide how much ongoing contact you are comfortable with.

What does adoption mean?

Adoption is permanent. It’s a big decision, but there are plenty of ways to get support that will help you. A good place to start is by talking to a social worker at the hospital where you have the baby or to adoption services in your state or territory (listed below).

When you give a baby up for adoption, you are cutting all legal ties to your child. The baby’s adoptive (new) parents will be their legal parents. The baby will have their surname (family name) and inherit their property. You will give up all legal rights and responsibilities for the child.

What is the adoption process?

Adoption is a legal process. Each state and territory has its own adoption laws, so the process is slightly different depending on where you live.

If you are thinking about adoption for your baby, it’s important to get as much information, advice and counselling as you can. You can do this before your baby’s birth, but nothing will be confirmed until after the baby is born. There are also other options you can consider.

Understanding adoption

The intent of the law is to ensure you fully understand adoption before you give consent for your baby to be adopted. You can’t give consent for adoption for a period of about 30 days after the baby is born — the exact time period depends on which state or territory you are in. Before you give consent for the adoption, you must:

  • complete pre-adoption counselling with a registered counsellor
  • read mandatory information about adoption

You can usually have a say in the type of family you would like to adopt your child — for example, their religious and cultural background, age, and whether or not they are a couple or in a same sex relationship.

Both of the baby’s birth parents must both sign a consent form for the adoption. The father has the same legal rights to the child as the mother. Both parents have a right to take part in the legal process, can provide medical information and can have a say about the adoptive parents.

The father’s consent might not be obtained if there is a risk of violence to you or the baby, if you don’t know who he is, or if a crime such as incest is involved.

After you sign the consent form, both parents have a period of time in which to change their minds. This is usually around 30 days, depending on which state or territory you are in. During this time, your baby will usually be cared for by foster parents. You can see the baby during this time if you want to.

If you change your mind during this period, you can formally revoke consent. The adoption agency can advise you how to do this. If you revoke consent, arrangements will be made to return the child to you, and you will have full legal responsibility for them (unless the child is under the care of child protection services).

If you don’t revoke consent, the baby will go to their adoptive parents after this period. The adoption is now legal, and you can’t regain legal rights to the child.

Developing an adoption plan

An adoption plan allows the child, the birth parents and the adoptive parents to have contact with each other after the adoption. This is called ‘open adoption’.

You can decide how much contact you are comfortable having with your child and their adoptive family. Adoption services in your state or territory will be the go-between. They will help you develop the adoption plan.

There are things to think about for your adoption plan:

  • Will you know each other’s names?
  • What information will the adoptive parents have about you?
  • How much information will you have about the child as they grow up (such as important events in their life and health issues)?
  • Will you contact each other? If so, how often?
  • How will you communicate with each other?
  • Will the adoptive parents tell the child they were adopted?
  • If you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander or from a particular ethnic or cultural background, will the adoptive parents help the child stay connected to this community?

Your child’s name

After your baby is born you must register their birth name. This will be their legal name until the adoption.

Adoption services will discuss the name with the adoptive parents. They will discuss keeping the child’s first name (given name), but the child will usually take their surname (family name).

Information for your child

Children who have been adopted often like to know about their birth parents. This includes who you are, your medical history, and your reasons for adoption. You may be asked for some personal information to give your child in future.

In most states or territories, adopted children are able to request access to identifying information about their birth parents when they are over 18 years of age, or at a younger age with their adoptive parents consent.

When do I need to decide to give my child up for adoption?

Whether you have just found out you are pregnant or you have already had the baby, you don’t have to decide right away.

You can’t legally sign consent for adoption for a certain period of time (usually around 30 days) after the baby is born. After you provide consent, you still have a few weeks when you can change your mind.

What are some of the things I need to consider?

Giving a child up for adoption will have lifelong consequences both for you and the child so it’s very important to make an informed decision.

Before you make up your mind, there are some important things to think about.

  • Do you fully understand what adoption means and how it works? Have all your questions been answered?
  • Have you thought about all the other options, such as keeping the child with support from your family, or fostering the child until you are ready to look after them? Which is best for you and for your child?
  • What does the child’s other parent think? If they do not agree with the adoption, they may be able to apply to a court to care for the child instead.
  • How will you feel? What are the long-term emotional effects of giving your child for adoption?

What are the alternatives to adoption?

Even if you don’t think you can raise a baby, there are many alternatives to adoption you could consider:

  • Getting financial support: If financial issues are affecting your decision about whether to have your child adopted, remember there is plenty of government support that can help you, including child support and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, if your child has a disability.
  • Shared care: Someone in your family or wider network may be able to share the care of the baby with you.
  • Foster care: A foster family can look after the baby until you are ready to care for them. This is also known as out-of-home care. The aim is to restore the child to your care when you are ready, if this is in the best interests of the child.

Where can I get help to make the decision?

No-one should pressure you to make a decision. Only give consent to adoption when you are completely sure you are making the best decision for you and the child.

For information and support to decide whether to give your child for adoption, you can speak to your partner, family, friends or other trusted people.

You can also get support and information from:

  • adoption services in your state or territory (see below)
  • your hospital social worker
  • your doctor
  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Adopt Change provides information, guidance and support on giving children a permanent home (including through adoption)

How can I deal with my emotions?

You may feel very emotional while you are deciding whether to give your child up for adoption. You might feel afraid, shocked, angry or sad. You might worry about telling other people. After the baby is born, you might find it hard to imagine being separated from them – even if you know adoption is the best decision for both of you.

Parents who give a child up for adoption often feel isolated and alone. It can be worse if you don’t tell anyone. Even if you find it painful to talk about the adoption, talking to your family, friends or a professional can help.

Some parents feel pain, regret and grief after giving up a child for adoption. You may need ongoing support and counselling to deal with this. Other parents feel sure that they did the best thing for their child. You may be able to have some contact with your child and follow their life. This is helpful for some parents, but not for others.

Where can I find support after the adoption?

Post-adoption support services provide long-term support after an adoption is completed.

Adoption organisations

You can contact adoption services in your state or territory below for information about the adoption process:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

Adoption & raising adopted children | Raising Children Network

When you adopt, you give a child a home and a sense of belonging, security and identity. It’s good to tell children about their adoption as early as you can.

Read more on website

How does adoption work?

If you're considering adoption, you need to know about eligibility, differences between the states' and territories' laws, and how adoption may affect your family.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Adoption of your child | NT.GOV.AU

What happens if you decide to adopt your child, including information on consent, finalising the adoption and your rights after adoption.

Read more on NT Health website

Adoption | Community support | Queensland Government

Adoption Services Queensland responsibilities and contact details for adopting.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Adoption - Better Health Channel

Adoption can give a secure family life to children who can?t live with their birth family.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Foster care & adoption - The Trauma and Grief Network (TGN)

Children and young people who are in foster care, out of home care or adopted can have complex needs

Read more on Australian Child and Adolescent Trauma, Loss and Grief Network (ACATLGN) website

Intercountry Adoption | Department of Social Services, Australian Government

Improving the lifetime wellbeing of people and families in Australia.

Read more on Department of Social Services website

Parental Leave Pay for a child born or adopted from 1 July 2023 - Services Australia

A payment for up to 100 days, or 20 weeks, while you care for a child born or adopted from 1 July 2023.

Read more on Centrelink website

Adopting a pet could protect babies against asthma and allergies - Asthma Australia

If you are expecting or have a newborn baby, new research suggests adding pets to your growing family could protect children from developing asthma.

Read more on Asthma Australia website

Unplanned Pregnancy | I don't want to be pregnant | Adoption | Abortion | Other pregnancy options - Sexual Health Victoria

If you are pregnant and do not want to be it is your choice what you would like to do. Unplanned pregnancy is very common and there are many support services av

Read more on Sexual Health Victoria website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.