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South Australia - Glossary Term

Adoption (1925 - )


Adoption is the legal transfer of guardianship of a child, relinquished by its natural parent(s), to another person. The first official adoption legislation in South Australia was the Adoption of Children Act 1925. However, informal adoptions occurred before that date. Adoption in SA is now covered under the Adoption Act 1988.


When the State Children's Council was established in 1885, it was given the power to license children for adoption by boarding them out to foster carers without paying a subsidy.

Until 1937 people involved in adoption were free to share information about each other. From 1937 the identity of children was kept secret from relinquishing parents. In 1945 adoptive parents were no longer allowed to know the identity of natural parents. In 1966 total secrecy became possible but not mandatory and this secrecy could be retrospectively implemented.

Pre 1926 records related to adoption can be found among records of children boarded out and records related to the care of wards of the state. This may include foster care, court and maintenance records and printed material such as Police Gazettes. Information may also be available from non-government organisations which are or have been involved in child welfare and adoption.

For access to post 1926 adoption files, an application through Freedom of Information is required. The Find & Connect Support Service at Elm Place can assist with this.

Prepared by: Karen George and Gary George