Adoption in Australia

The institute is aware of the diverse views concerning adoption as a permanency planning option. The lessons learnt from past practices, including forced adoption in its many forms, will help to guide the work of the institute.

The New South Wales Adoption Act acknowledges that adoption is a concept that is absent in customary Aboriginal child-rearing arrangements and is therefore not considered culturally appropriate. We support the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle (the Principle) and the importance of community engagement and consultation around permanency decisions for Aboriginal children in long-term care. The Principle recognises the central place of Country and culture for the wellbeing of Aboriginal children and families, as it relates to Nation and Clan connections.

It is important to note that in NSW at June 30, 2016, nearly half of the children entering care were under five years, and of the 17,800 children in care, 46 per cent were in continuous placements for more than five years. Additionally, 25 per cent were in continuous placements for between two and five years. Even if Aboriginal and Kinship placements are excluded, there is still a large cohort of children for whom adoption may be suitable, particularly as outcomes tend to be best for children who have been adopted early.

While adoption numbers overall have declined in Australia, the rate of carer adoption has been increasing, comprising more than half (54 per cent) of all finalised adoptions in 2016–17. The majority of known child adoptions by carers in 2016-2017 (131 out of 143) occurred in NSW, reflecting the introduction of policies promoting adoption to achieve stability for children in out-of-home care, when family restoration is not considered appropriate.

Their Futures Matter outlines the NSW Government’s key reform directions for the NSW child protection system. These reforms outline major changes aimed at providing more children with a permanent home where they can thrive. The focus of the Permanency Support Program will be on working with families to keep children at home, or find a stable and secure option through guardianship or open adoption (for non-Aboriginal children). In the new system, a child or young person will have a goal for permanency within two years of entering care. The Institute will endeavour to contribute to these reforms through the development of better evidence, based on local experience.