29 August, 2014

Leading child welfare organisation Barnardos has backed calls by the nation’s chief family law judges for a review of adoption laws to enable many of the tens of thousands of children in care to find a permanent home.

Barnardos chief executive Louise Voigt told The Australian that unstable foster care arrangements were damaging already vulnerable children, with some switching between as many as 20 homes.

She said many of the more than 40,000 Australian children in care would have better outcomes if they could be adopted and have a family for life.

Ms Voigt yesterday welcomed calls by Federal Circuit Court Chief Judge John Pascoe and Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant for a re-examination of adoption laws. The judges argued some children in care might be better off if they could find a permanent new home.

“I’m delighted to hear what they said in relation to adoption here in Australia,” Ms Voigt said.

“Children from foster care are grossly over-represented in the criminal justice system, in homelessness, in mental health, early pregnancy. This is a group of children who have been originally abused and neglected in their own homes in a tragic way and we then take them into a foster care system which is totally dysfunctional.”

In contrast, she said families were there for the long haul and that’s what adoption could deliver for a child.

Tony Abbott has already vowed to make it easier for Australians to adopt from overseas, including by moving to expand the list of countries from which children can be adopted.

Ms Voigt urged the Prime Minister to turn his sights also to domestic adoption laws, including by pressuring the states to set adoption targets.

She said a significant proportion of children permanently removed by courts from their parents who could not be placed with
family members, were aged under three.

Open adoption provided the best of all worlds, she said, because it provided children with a stable home while providing links to their biological family so they still knew who they were.

(The article was first published in The Australian on 29 August, 2014 and was written by Nicola Berkovic.)