Background to the formation of the institute

In October 2014 the NSW Government enacted the Child Protection Legislation Amendment Act 2014. One of the principal aims of the legislation was to provide greater permanence for children and young people in out-of-home care. By enshrining permanent placement principles in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998, the Government seeks to make it clear that for non-Indigenous children, restoration to the birth family, guardianship and open adoption are preferred over the long-term allocation of parental responsibility to the Minister and long-term out-of-home care (OOHC).

In January 2015, the NSW Premier announced a $2.8 million package to establish an Institute of Open Adoption Studies to focus on matters relating to open adoption for children and young people in out-of-home care (when reunification with their family is not appropriate). The University of Sydney and Barnardos Australia were selected to form the institute as a joint venture. The institute is an independent centre, and the first of its kind in Australia to be publicly funded. The institute is being hosted by the Sydney School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. The University has committed additional salary support from 2019, as well as the associated infrastructure.

The need for local evidence

There is a substantial body of evidence from international research relating to adoption. The majority of the literature, based on research and statistical analysis relating to adoption, has been undertaken and published in the United Kingdom and United States. Given the considerable variation in adoption legislation and processes across jurisdictions in Australia, the findings from international studies may have limited applicability to adoption practice in NSW and Australia.

Research on the long-term impacts of professional decision-making and the effectiveness of services provided to children has the potential to improve outcomes. Likewise, it will be useful to understand more about the different pathways to permanence for children.

The aim of the institute is to facilitate the timely exchange of information between researchers, families, practitioners in the field, and the courts. The views and lived experience of children, young people and families will be central to the research agenda and the principles by which the institute research community of practice operates.