I stood outside my children’s school on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon cradling a chubby 2 week old baby boy and the school Principal walked past. She stopped and looked at the dark skinned baby in my arms and my little blonde toddler at my feet. After a brief exchange of words, she responded to my comment that the baby wasn’t my own but one I was taking care of with, “Oh, so are you going to adopt him?”
The reality is that while there are more kids then ever in the Foster Care System, the number of Adoptions are at a minimum. The system in Australia has swung so far (in my humbly opinion) from the horrors of the stolen Generation and Forced Adoptions to an unsustainable desire to keep children connected with their biological families for longer then is always healthy.
Adoptions do happen but we were told in our training that there are only on average 6 domestic adoptions a year in W.A. (This number may have changed). There are strict guide lines around adoptions that differ from state to state. Here in Western Australia there are no agencies that work towards adoption, only the Department of Communities. Some of the criteria to adopt include; If in a Marriage or Defacto relationship the relationship must be 3 years old. One person of the couple must be an Australian Citizen and aged 45 or under. There are other criteria and for more of those you can click here.
What is so difficult to comprehend is the time it takes for children who have little or no contact with their birth family to even have court orders that make it possible for the child to stay in the long term care of the Department. The difference (that I see) between the US and Australia is that these children are not then able to be officially adopted by a family without much more time (years) and money unless the biological parents sign over their rights. The parents rights remain despite the courts determining that the child is unlikely to ever return to their care. Again, there are exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far between.
I found some much more intelligent reading on this subject and you can read them here and here . These articles tell of the ways families have adopted in Australia or how they are fighting for change with South Australia’s Coroner Mark Johns calling for “Permanent removal to adoptive parents must have a place in the child protection system,”. This call came out after he concluded his investigation into the death of 4 year old Chloe who died in her mother’s care. Chloe is the innocent victim of the “limitless opportunities” given to Chloe’s mother Ashlee as caseworkers tried to preserve the family unit.
AdoptChange is the leading organisation with star studded power that is fighting the bureaucracy resistant to change in Australia. They are on my ‘list’ to learn more about. The answer is not simple to adopt every cute and chubby baby that is in the foster care system, it is far more complicated then that. The balance needs to be struck with supporting families to provide safe homes for children in their family unit and creating permanent options for children who have already experienced trauma.