No form of adoption is currently available to same-sex couples, even of children they might have been caring for as foster carers for years.

Some foster care agencies have long recognised that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, intersex and queer (GLBTIQ) people, coupled or single, can provide loving, stable homes for children requiring short or long term care. Many same-sex couples and single people (including many who already have biological children) welcome children needing foster care into their families. But what if a child on a permanent care order becomes available for adoption?

At the time of writing, same-sex couples are not permitted to adopt in Victoria. The Adoption Act 1984 does, however, make provision for ‘individual’ people to adopt ‘only in special circumstances’. The definition of special circumstances has until recently only been granted to single people who wish to adopt a relative, and in one case a lesbian foster carer who sought to adopt a child with extreme ‘special needs’. In August 2010, a Victorian judge ruled in favor of one member of a gay male couple, who – with his partner – had been the long term foster carers of a child. In this case the child’s birth parents relinquished the child, and had no opposition to the carer adopting the child.

Rainbow Families Council is hopeful that this case will help set a precedent for one half of a gay or lesbian partnership – or a single gay or lesbian person – to adopt a child who is in their care, although each case is decided on its particular circumstances.

Rainbow Families Council hopes that the Victorian government will act on the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission enquiry to extend the eligibility definition to include both members of a same sex couple and single people specifically (see our Adoption campaign). We also hope they will permit all GLBTI people or single applicants to apply for all forms of adoption – including inter-country, infant, familial – and the adoption of foster or permanent care children. We note that the Victorian Government has committed to continuing work on this issue through existing national processes and a review of the Adoption Act 1984.

Gay and lesbian foster carers, permanent carers and kinship carers in Victoria are eligible to join the Gay and Lesbian Carers Support Group, which provides information, telephone support and social opportunities for gay and lesbian carers and their children.