There were nine adoptions in the ACT in 2014-15 but none of those was a ‘‘local adoption’’ where the child generally has no previous contact or relationship with the adoptive parents, according to a new report.
The Opposition has questioned why more adoptions are not taking place in the ACT while Barnardos Australia says it is critical more is done to secure a permanent solution for children who have been taken out of the family home due to abuse or neglect.
The nine adoptions in the ACT comprised two inter-country adoptions and seven ‘‘known child’’ adoptions which included adoptions by step-parents, other relatives and carers. The report, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Thursday, found nationally 292 adoptions were finalised in 2014-15, the lowest annual number on record – and a fall of 8 per cent from the 317 adoptions in 2013-14.
In the ACT, the nine overall adoptions in 2014-15 were down from 17 adoptions the previous year and a dramatic drop from a previous high of 33 adoptions in the territory in 2003-04. In the last 15 years in the ACT, there have been 22 local adoptions and 91 known child adoptions.
Barnardos ACT manager Annette Kelly-Egerton said local adoptions generally occurred when a parent relinquished a child and that was more likely to happen in the 1950s and 1960s when there was pressure for single mothers to give up their babies.
Ms Kelly-Egerton said her concern was with ‘‘known child adoptions’’ because those included children who had been put into care because they had been removed from the family home due to abuse and neglect and could not return to their birth parents, or else had no other kin to care for them.
She believed the ACT government was taking steps to address the need for those children to have a stable and loving home.
‘‘The new strategic plan in the ACT, A Step Up for Our Kids, is really aiming to achieve permanency for children, which could be an enduring parental responsibility order or adoption and that’s a very big, key feature,’’ she said.
‘‘We would love to see more children who cannot return to their birth parents being embraced in a family, and permanently in a family.’’
Ms Kelly-Egerton said she believed some parents waited more than a year in the ACT for an adoption to be finalised. ‘‘It is an incredibly thorough process because this is actually taking birth parents’ rights away,’’ she said.
Opposition spokeswoman for family and community services Nicole Lawder said more should be done to address the low number of adoptions in the ACT and the length of time adoptions were taking in the ACT.
In response to a question on notice from Ms Lawder, Minister for Children and Young People, Mick Gentleman, told the assembly in October that an application for a local adoption took an average of 10 to 12 weeks to be finalised by the Community Services Directorate. Mr Gentleman also told the assembly as at October 2, there were two applications for local adoption orders in the ACT court system. Ms Lawder said despite Mr Gentleman’s responses, she had spoken to families who had waited months and even years to adopt a child in the ACT.
‘‘I’m not sure what the problem is and that’s exactly why I’m calling on the government to facilitate the process,’’ she said.
‘‘Other states seem to be able to do it better than we are. And whilst we hope it will improve from next year when a lot of the changes come through, do we really have the confidence it is going to become quicker and easier for people to adopt?
‘‘I speak to many families who’ve already had children in their care for quite some time and it’s taking an inordinately long time for the process to be finalised.’’
In the ACT, the seven known child adoptions were more than in Victoria (5), Tasmania (3), South Australia (1) and the Northern Territory (1). The report also revealed that nationally the main country of origin for inter-country adoption was now Taiwan, where previously it had been China or the Philippines.
(This article was first published in the Canberra Times and was written by By Megan Doherty.)