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NSW Special Search Service

Our NSW Special Search Service provides free specialised national and international search and reunion services to people who were separated by government intervention in NSW, for example through adoption, being under the care of the Minister, foster care, or being placed in a children’s home in NSW.

The Service is provided by qualified professional Social Workers experienced in delivering discreet and supportive tracing and reunification services, as well as understanding complex adoption issues.

Download a brochure on the Service here.

Our Special Search Service includes:

  • Information and support
  • Tracing and discreet outreach to direct family member/s
  • Confidential contact facilitation
  • Facilitation of family reunification
  • Emotional support and short-term counselling
  • Referrals to specialised services and support networks, where appropriate

Accessing the Service

If you would like to enquire about or access our Special Search Service, contact us on ph: 1300 657 843 (local call cost) or via email at sss@iss.org.au.

This service is funded by the NSW Government’s Department of Communities and Justice. It is provided free and Australia-wide to anyone (including children under 18 years old) separated by government intervention in NSW, and services can be offered face to face, via telephone or online communication.

To be eligible for the Service a person must have exhausted all reasonable avenues of a standard search. This is because NSW adopts a self-help approach, giving responsibility to individuals to conduct their own searches to make contact. The Special Search Service assists people in situations where, for a variety of reasons, the searches already undertaken have failed to locate the other party.

If you an Adopted Person or Adoptive Parent of a person who was adopted in NSW you will need to complete the steps below before being eligible for the Special Search Service

1. Adoption Information Certificate

Obtain your Adoption Information Certificate (previous known as a Supply Authority) from the Adoption Information Unit (AIU) at the Department of Communities and Justice. The Adoption Information Certificate has identifying details of all the parties at the time of the adoption. This includes the adopted person, birth parents and adoptive parents. The Adoption Information Certificate enables you to apply for other agencies for information.

You can also apply to go on the Department of Communities and Justice ‘Reunion & Information Register’ (RIR); see www.facs.nsw.gov.au/families/adoption/finding-info/reunion-information-register.

Contact the Adoption Information Unit on:

2. Social and medical information

Obtain your social and medical records (previously known as Prescribed Information) regarding your adoption from the Adoption Information Unit (AIU) at the Department of Communities and Justice: www.facs.nsw.gov.au/families/adoption/finding-info/social-and-medica.

3. Carry out your own searches

Search the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for your relative/s – phone 13 77 88 or visit www.bdm.nsw.gov.au/Pages/births/adoptions.aspx.

Search the Australian Electoral Roll for your relative/s – phone 13 23 26 for the address of your closest Electoral Roll office, or visit www.aec.gov.au/Enrolling_to_vote/About_Electoral_Roll/.

4. Write to your relative

If your searches result in you locating an address for your relative/s, you can either write directly to your relative/s or contact a post adoption agency for advice or assistance with mediating contact with your relative/s.

  • Phone ISS Australia: 1300 657 843
  • Phone the Post Adoption Resource Centre: 1800 236 762
  • Phone the Forced Adoption Support Service: 1800 21 03 13

If you are a ‘care leaver’ (i.e. former NSW ward, grew up in a children’s home or were in foster care) you will need to complete the step below before making contact with the Special Search Service.

1. Access your file

If you are a ‘care leaver’ you need to complete this application form and lodge it with the Department of Communities and Justice: Application for Access to Records for Care Leavers

.If you are a family member of a ‘care leaver’ you will need to contact the Right to Information Unit, Department of Communities and Justice, phone: (02) 9716 2662 or email: facsgipa@facs.nsw.gov.au.

If your search relates to a child or young person who is under the age of 18, who was adopted or placed in foster care, the following information applies

The Special Search Service will assist agencies searching for a relative for persons under 18 years old who have been separated by government intervention in NSW.

Examples of such scenarios may include:

  • Adoption: when the adopted child’s relationship and contact with their birth family member/s has ended because the whereabouts of the birth family member/s is/are not known
  • OOHC: when a child in OOHC requires a search for a biological family member (and when the agency has exhausted all reasonable search avenues, i.e. E.R, BDM) so that contact can be initiated

Note: The Special Search Service will not search for the biological family members of a child for the purposes of exploring permanent care options when a child is on interim care orders. This responsibility remains with DCJ or the accredited agencies that have case management responsibility for the child.

To be eligible for the Special Search Service, the requesting agency must have exhausted all reasonable avenues of a standard search for the relative. This includes conducting searches of the Australian Electoral Roll and the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.