10 September, 2014
Lynne Moggach, Louise Voigt and Dr Susan Tregeagle.
One of the largest adoption agencies in Australia, Barnardos Australia, is embarking on a groundbreaking study into open adoptions, where birth parents continue to have contact with their child.
Barnardos Australia will soon begin surveying more than 210 people who were adopted as children via the organisation over the past 30 years.
It will look at the long-term life outcomes, the age of adoption and the amount of contact with the birth family.
The chief executive of Barnardos Australia, Louise Voigt, said there were various things the organisation would like to find out: "Do they find a family for life? Does that family for life make a real difference in their futures?"
"We already know from contacts with them that they have more opportunity for education," Ms Voigt said.
"They're likely to overcome any initial disadvantage they had in that way; they begin to expect things all children expect.
"They, too, will go to university. They will get a job later and everybody around them will help them with this."
The agency first became involved in open adoptions 30 years ago, with the main focus on children who were then known as wards of the state.
Lynne Moggach, who was one of the organisation's first case workers, said they were working with school-aged children between the ages of 5 and 12.
"They were all children who were in the care of the state, so where they had Childrens' Court orders until the age of 18," she said.
"Traditionally adoption hadn't been looking at adoption for those sorts of children; adoption was regarded really for very, very young infants, healthy infants."
Ms Moggach said many of the children Barnardos first dealt with in open adoptions had already been placed in a number of foster homes.
"The youngest child I worked with at that stage was about seven and the oldest was about 14," she said.
"Most of the families [who took them in] were families who didn't have children, but then there were also families who already had children of their own and were wanting to extend their families."
Research to inform debate on adoption's role in child protection
Ms Voigt is a strong advocate of adoption as a better option for children than foster care.
She said the research project would contribute to the debate about the role adoption plays in child protection.
"It has a very bad reputation, adoption. Some dreadful things have happened — primarily to birth families, as they have been compelled to give up their children for adoption," she said.
"What we want to do is say the good news in out-of-home care, which is there are ways where children can have families for life.
"It isn't all just hunky dory; we all come with baggage from our past, but it's really good news that things can change."
'It's important for people to have that sense of who they are'
Ms Moggach will be involved in the research project and will carry out in-depth interviews with those who were adopted as children.
She said, based on her work over the past three decades, the most successful cases were the ones based on openness.
"I think one of the key factors is openness, in all senses of the word," she said.
"That openness about what adoption is and making sure that children grow up with that sense of who they are and why they're where they are."
Ms Moggach said there was much to be learned from the way adoptions were handled in the past.
"I think we've learnt a lot from past adoptions where it was regarded as a secret and there was this whole atmosphere of 'you don't tell people they're adopted'," she said.
"You just keep it a secret and they'll never know. They'll never need to find their birth family and no-one will come looking for them.
"We know that you can't keep secrets and it often comes out in the most inappropriate situations.
"I think adoption practitioners have learnt a lot of lessons from that. It's important for people to have that sense of who they are."
The research project will begin later this year and will continue for three years.
Listen to the full interview with Lindy Kerin on ABC News.
(This article was first published on Yahoo!7 on 10 September, 2014.)