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Institute of Open Adoption Studies

Researching and contributing to best practice in open adoption
In partnership with Barnardos Australia, we are exploring open adoption policies and outcomes through consultation with adults who were adopted, birth and adoptive parents, and professionals in adoption and out-of-home care.

About us

Open adoption recognises there is often a benefit for children when both their birth and adoptive families remain in contact with each other after an adoption order has been made. Our sole focus is on children who have been permanently removed from the care of parents by Children’s Courts in NSW.

Research into the long-term impacts of professional decision-making and the effectiveness of services provided to children has the potential to improve adoption outcomes, and we aim to understand more about the different pathways to permanence for children.

In January 2015, the NSW government 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.

We are an independent centre and the first of its kind in Australia to be publicly funded. We conduct our research under the governance of the University of Sydney’s ethics process, and we operate with academic independence.

About Barnardos

Barnardos Australia is one of three non-government adoption agencies in NSW. In the past 30 years it has overseen open adoptions for more than 200 children. Barnardos staff are considered national experts in adoption practice and are often consulted to provide expert advice and evidence to governments, courts, and other bodies including the Wood Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW, and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Our aims

The Institute of Open Adoption Studies has four main aims:

  • to study the long-term outcomes for children permanently removed from their birth families because of abuse and neglect and placed permanently with another family, with a focus on scenarios where there has been ongoing contact between the birth family and child
  • to bring about a positive change in the culture, policy, and practice of permanency planning in NSW so that open adoption is seen as a realistic, credible, and evidence-based option that provides a safe home for life for greater numbers of suitable children in NSW 
  • to research the factors influencing adoptions in Australia to understand more about the different pathways to permanent placement for children and support decision-making within a child’s developmental timeframe
  • to facilitate the exchange of information between researchers, families, practitioners in the field and the courts – the views and lived experience of children, young people and families are central to our agenda and the principles by which we operate.

Our research

Understanding open adoption practice in Australia

Investigating how to embed the best interests of children in adoption, and exploring the place of guardianship, kinship care and long-term foster care in providing children with permanency.

Our people

The institute comprises a governance committee and advisory group.

  • Professor Annamarie Jagose, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Amy Conley Wright, Director
  • Judith Cashmore, Professor of Socio-Legal Research and Policy, The University of Sydney
  • Deirdre Cheers, GAICD, chief executive, Barnardos
  • Lynne MoggachExecutive Specialist Adoption, Barnardos

This group provides advice and guidance to the Director. We acknowledge there are diverse views on adoption and thus the need to engage with a range of stakeholders.

The group includes representatives spanning a range of perspectives and expertise in open adoption. It provides a means of engaging stakeholders in the life and work of the institute and ensures the views and lived experience of children, young people and families is central to the institute's research agenda.

We also recognise there are a number of groups with an interest in adoption; unfortunately, it is not viable to include representatives from all of these.


Headshot of Associate Professor Amy Conley Wright
Associate Professor Amy Conley Wright
View Associate Professor Wright's academic profile

Contact us

  • Sydney School of Education and Social Work: Education Building (A35); Education Annexe (A36); Old Teachers College (A22); Manning Road