About the Centre

The Centre for Excellence in Open Adoption is an initiative of Barnardos Australia to provide a framework for research, advocacy and practice development in open adoption.

The Centre’s first major research project was launched by Minister Upton at the “Talking about Adoption – Celebrating 30 Years of Open Adoption Experiences” event in Sydney, which was attended by adoptees, adoptive families and adoption specialists.


The Centre aims to inform and educate governments, welfare professionals and the community about the importance of open adoption for non-aboriginal children who have been permanently removed by the courts due to abuse and neglect. It will demonstrate the best practice process to achieve an increase in the number of children benefiting from this style of adoption.


The Centre will initiate research into open adoption practice and outcomes and hold regular events every six months in order to disseminate research findings and stimulate discussion in the community.

See our latest updates.


The Centre will provide information to lawyers, courts, caseworkers and out-of-home care managers about the importance of open adoption to children and young people to create a family for life.

Practice Development

The Centre will provide information for programs about open adoption in Australia, such as team development, case management, unit costs, legal issues and contact perimeters. Specific training modules will be developed for casework staff.

For more information see our fact sheet.


Talking about adoption - Watch adoptees and their families share their experiences with Barnardos open adoption over the past 30 years.

Patron – Deborra-lee Furness

Deborra Lee Furness

Deborra-lee Furness is an internationally acclaimed actress as well as a passionate supporter of children and defender of their human rights across the globe.

Deborra-lee is Founder and Board Member of Adopt Change. She is A World Vision Ambassador and an executive director of The Worldwide Orphans Foundation, Patron of The Lighthouse Foundtion for homeless youth and Patron of International Adoption Families of Queensland. She is also a patron of The Fight Cancer Foundation.



What is open adoption?
Open adoption means children have regular on-going contact with their birth family. The frequency of this contact depends on the age of the child and their relationship with their birth family, but for many is a contact order which on average would be visits 3-4 times per year. Other forms of contact include letters, photos and cards may also be used.

Why Open Adoption?
Australia has built a dysfunctional foster care system in which too many children never find a forever home.  Too many moves to a succession of placements means ex-foster children are found in juvenile justice institutions, then later, adult prisons and mental health facilities.  Unemployment is very high and homelessness frequent, as is alcoholism and substance abuse.  Early pregnancy is common and often leads to generational deprivation.

Adoption disruption rarely occurs and stability of relationship within a secure family structure offers children the opportunity to develop and flourish. These children tell us they feel accepted in society and do not experience the social discrimination felt by many foster children Stability enhances their life options.

Why is Open Adoption best for children?
Open adoption gives these children the best opportunity for a secure future by meeting their attachment needs and giving them the opportunity to understand their past. This is essential to their development and ongoing construction of identity as a member of an adoptive family.

Open Adoption Outcome research project

The first major research study by the Centre for Excellence in Open Adoption is a landmark research project into open adoption outcomes for more than 200 children and young people who have been adopted through Barnardos Australia over the past 30 years.  The Centre will study the impact of early decision making and the best ways to ensure contact with family of origin.

About the research
The aim of the research project is to study the very long-term outcomes of open adoption of children permanently removed from their birth families because of abuse and neglect and placed permanently with a family. This retrospective study will particularly examine the impact of open adoption in which there is ongoing contact between the birth family and child.

An open adoption study 25 years has never before been undertaken in Australia. It will look at adoptees and their families and assess outcomes at various times of their lives, including adulthood. The research study will contribute to debate on the permanency outcomes for abused and neglected children internationally and in Australia.


  • Children, throughout their lives, highly value the experience of adoption when they have suffered significant abuse and neglect.
  • Children develop in all ways most effectively when in a secure loving environment with consistent adult nurturing.
  • Adoption is most effective when undertaken as early as possible for the child but that planning needs to be intensive and sequential.
  • Openness adds to the adjustment of the child and is particularly important in building a secure identity as an adopted person.

About the researchers


Dr Susan Tregeagle
The research will be led by Dr Susan Tregeagle, Senior Manager – Program Services, Barnardos Australia.


Lynne Moggach
Lynne Moggach has been Barnardos’ principle adoption officer over most of the past 25 years. She is a trained social worker and is in a unique position to undertake this research due to her long standing relationships with adoptive families.


Harriet Ward

Professor Harriet Ward
Barnardos Australia will partner with Professor Harriet Ward, internationally renowned research director and social policy advisor. Professor Harriet Ward is director of the Centre for Child and Family Research (CCFR) at Loughborough University, UK and co-director of the government funded Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre.  In addition, Harriet is responsible for the studies within the 'Safeguarding Children' theme.

Harriet has more than 20 years experience both as a research director and field researcher, as an adviser to policymakers and service providers. Her leadership of the Looking After Children program (1993-2001), from which much of the CCFR research program originally derived, has been a highly influential contribution to government policy and practice in the UK and abroad.