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Adoption and forced family separation

Past project

AIFS has conducted several important research studies on past adoption practices in Australia.

Our research expertise

Before significant social, legal and economic changes in Australia in the late 1970s, young unmarried pregnant women were encouraged - or forced - to "give up" their babies for “closed adoption”. This meant an adopted child's original birth certificate was sealed forever and an amended birth certificate was issued that established the child's new identity and relationship with their adoptive family. 

Past adoption policies and practices in Australia that resulted in forced family separation, has become a key area of expertise for the Institute.

A number of important pieces of research conducted by the Institute have examined issues such as the: 

  • history of adoption in Australia
  • effects of closed and forced adoption policies and practices on affected individuals
  • links between adoption and other family separation practices, and their effects
  • current service and support needs of those affected
  • broader service delivery implications.

Selected publications

Forced Adoption National Practice Principles: Guidelines and principles for specialist services
Sets out the principles of good practice that underpin effective services.

Forced adoption support services: Establishing and building networks resource
This resource aims to assist FASS by providing guidance in developing and maintaining networks that are positive, sustainable and, most importantly, work to meet the needs of individuals seeking support.

Past and present adoptions in Australia
Provides a summary of the ways in which adoption currently operates, past adoption practices, and the potential impacts adoption has on those involved.

Past adoption experiences: National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices 
Presents findings from the National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices.

Impact of past adoption practices: Summary of key issues from Australian research: Final Report
Reviews existing research literature about past adoption practices in Australia.

The National Apology for Forced Adoptions
In 2013 the Australian Government apologised to people affected by forced adoption or removal policies and practices.

Forced adoption support services scoping study: Report for the Department of Social Services
Study undertaken as part of the Australian Government response to the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry regarding the Commonwealth contribution to former forced adoption policies and practices.

Related research

Long-term Outcomes of Forgotten Australians Study

See also Adoption support organisations

Did you know...

It is estimated that 1 in 15 Australians are affected by an experience of ‘closed’ adoption.

Find out more

More information

Research methodologies

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