AdoptChange in Australia

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Thomas Graham

Editor, Thomas Graham, Australian Journal of Adoption

Senator’s Seselja and Lindgren have come out in support of AdoptChange; letters seeking support for family preservation have also been sent to other Senators. Author Thomas Graham, Editor of Australian Journal of Adoption, recently penned his concerns to the above Senators. I urge all concerned to do the same. Read his letter here:

Dear Senator Gallagher

During your time as Chief Minister of the ACT you will recall in 2012 issuing an apology on behalf of the government to people directly impacted by forced adoption. It was a very important day for people like myself—an adopted person—whose life had been impacted by adoption. Further apologies presented by the other states and the national apology delivered by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard in March 2013 were also memorable milestones for me, affected mothers fathers and cohort of adopted colleagues. In addition, the various research projects and reports into past adoption by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) have been both pioneering and deeply important, highlighting adoption does come with harmful effects.

I am sure you are aware that in recent times the pro-adoption lobby through a celebrity driven advocate has created a new organisation AdoptChange to actively encourage quicker, easier and cheaper adoption practices to steadily increase adoption rates in Australia.

AdoptChange has secured the support of the Prime Minister as well as the NSW Baird Government; established a Governance Board with a number of prominent members including Kerry Chikarovski, former leader of the NSW Liberal Party and Helen McCabe, editor in chief of the Australian Women’s Weekly; its appointed a full time professional CEO (Jane Hunt); secured extensive media support through the Nine Network; and drafted a number of ambassadors who are either media personalities, or actors and sports stars with adopted children, to promote their cause. They have embarked on fund raising initiatives in blue ribbon seats to further advance their pro-adoption agenda. They are well organised, well connected and wealthy, with an aggressive agenda to secure children for families.
Last week AdoptChange issued a marketing report they had commissioned, Modern Families: Attitudes and Perceptions of Adoption in Australia, in which they drew attention to low adoption rates and high rates of children in foster care, in the process making a case to begin increasing adoption rates by focusing on children in out-of-home care.
The number of children referred to in their report—over 40,000—who for a variety of reasons currently cannot live with their parents and are in out-of-home care, is a shocking statistic.

There is no question these children need the protection of safe havens, many for extended periods of time. It is an issue deserving of family, community and government support.

That this protection should automatically and speedily extend to adoption as the default solution, as AdoptChange is promoting, is overly simplistic and conveniently dismisses the lessons of the past. It also fails to take into account recent adoption research and investigations by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS). Adoption may appear an ideal solution but few fully understand its ongoing impacts particularly on adopted people. The approach also undervalues other protective options that are less severe.

Adoption is a blunt instrument, legally terminating the relationship between biological parents and their child and transferring full parental responsibility to a new set of parents, forever. In the process a child may well gain a family but it loses one as well—without consent. It’s an adaptation not without challenges or long term consequences that affects the person’s health and wellbeing. Just ask an adopted person.

Permanency orders or guardianship arrangements which are offered in the ACT and Victoria, are better solutions than adoption, as the child does not lose its legal identity and can receive the love, protection and safety when under threat. Adoption when quickly implemented within 6 or 12 months—new NSW Government policy supported by AdoptChange— ignores the long term negative impacts that arise when extinguishing one family in favour of another.

Many children undoubtedly need support, as do their families who endure troubled times. This support needs to continue to embrace people who through their generosity of spirit open their hearts and homes and provide permanency or guardianship arrangements to these children, without the finality of adoption. Given the history of adoption in Australia, speeding up or increasing adoption rates isn’t the solution. We need to favour practices that value original families more, giving them more support in their time of need.

Given your experience and knowledge of past adoption I trust you will continue to support permanency and guardianship arrangements and actively voice them as viable alternatives to adoption, especially as this matter is likely to be discussed at COAG. We cannot go back to the slippery slope of permanently removing children from their families without proper consent or support.

Many thanks

Thomas Graham
Editor Australian Journal of Adoption

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