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Searching for birth relatives

Once an adopted child turns 18, he or she is entitled to information concerning his/her birth parents held by the relevant government department through the Adoption and Information Service [Adoption Act 1988 (SA) s 27].

The information that can be released includes:

  • the names and dates of birth of the birth parents
  • any other information in the possession of the department relating to the birth parents and the circumstances of the adoption
  • any message, information or item given to the department by a birth parents with instructions to provide it to the adopted child
  • information relating to a sibling (whether whole or half) of the person who has been adopted and who has also turned 18

The information may be given to a lineal descendant of the adopted child if they consent or where they are deceased or cannot be located.

Similarly, where the adopted child has reached 18 years, birth parents may also obtain any information, messages, or items held by the department relating to the adoptive parents or the adopted child.

Adoptive parents may also obtain information, messages, or items held by the department relating to the birth parent or the adopted child, provided the adopted child has reached 18 years and consents.

Where an adopted person’s birth parent was themselves an adopted person and is dead or cannot be located, the adopted person may obtain, if known, the names of their birth parent’s birth parents (i.e. their biological grandparents) and any other information in the possession of the department relating to their birth parent’s birth parent [s 27(3a)].

Restricting access to/Accessing identifying information

Where an adoption occurred prior to the commencement of the Adoption Act 1988 (SA) (i.e. 17 August 1989) an adopted child, adoptive parent or birth parent had the ability to veto the release of identifying information. These vetoes were effective for a period of five years and could be renewed if the restriction was still required.

However, as of 18 December 2017, under the revised section 27B of the Act the power to request a veto will be phased out with all vetoes expiring within five years from the commencement of the new provisions (i.e. 17 December 2022). Existing vetos will remain in effect from 18 December 2017 but they will not be able to be renewed, as was previously the case.

The effect of this is that after five years a party to an adoption can apply for information regarding the adoption except in the following circumstances:

  • where its release would be an unjustifiable intrusion on the privacy of the person to whom the information relates; or

  • where its release would give rise to a serious risk to the life or safety of a person; or

  • in the case of information relating to a person adopted prior to 17 August 1989 – it would not be in the best interests of the adopted person, taking into account the rights and welfare of the adopted person and any other prescribed matter.

A person who has lodged a veto under the old section 27B may, at any time before the expiry day, give the department a written statement setting out their wishes (Statement of Wishes) in relation to contact by another party to the adoption.

Due to the issues that will be raised for many people as a result of these changes the Department of Child Protection is providing support during the transitional period. Support can also be sought from the Post Adoption Support Service of Relationships Australia (SA).

Searching for birth relatives  :  Last Revised: Fri Dec 15th 2017
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