What are the plans for “easier and quicker” adoptions in Australia?

Way back in November 2005, the adoption lobbyists were courting celebrities. Lists of people who were “important / influential / in position of power” were circulated in chat rooms all over Australia. Adoptive parents were encouraged to make contact and convince celebs and politicians and anyone remotely famous who had any connection to adoption to take up the cause. Tony Abbott was considered a good option because it was reported that in his youth he had placed a child for adoption. A few of the names on that list were Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Nick Whitlam. Bronwyn Bishop was already a staunch supporter of lobbyists and an early ‘friend’ of Orphan Angels. Of course, adoption and permanent care is not a problem – it is how this is practised that counts.

Abbott is making his intentions very clear – easier and faster – and is capitalizing on the short cutmedia attention adoption brings. But what does this actually mean and what are their plans for adoption? It is all a bit secretive at the moment. How will it be faster and quicker? We are in a world where celebrity is the source of knowledge and the driver of social policy in this country. Generally, the impression given is that the views of lobbyists reflect a single, uncomplicated view of adoption held by all adoptive parents in Australia. This is not the case and many adoptive parents do not share the views of lobbyists but not too many are prepared to say publicly what they really think.

The adoption community in any country is not made up of only adoptive or would-be adoptive parents and we should unequivocally be hearing from everyone affected by adoption, not to mention developing practices informed by independent research. When changes are implemented, it is so important that past mistakes for which we have so recently apologized and the experience overseas of speedy adoptions in systems that are not working well are not forgotten. The plans for adoption currently need to come out from behind closed doors so rigorous, informed and transparent discussions can occur. It will be interesting to note the events at COAG  in 2014. I suspect it’s already done and dusted – probably over dinner.

My PhD research into intercountry adoption is source of information for this post.  


52 thoughts on “What are the plans for “easier and quicker” adoptions in Australia?

  1. For the record it appears that I may have been amongst one of the earliest group of adoptees referred to as ‘The Berry Babies’ who arrived in The Riverland, SA in 1973.

    Over the last 15 years I have been involved in various volunteer groups within the adoption community. More recently I was a board member for National Adoption Awareness Week and an individual member on the NSW Committee for Adoption & Permanent Care.

    My views are mine and I do not profess to represent any other individuals or groups. We all travel very different journey’s in life and no two experiences are the same.

    I am going to take a very simplistic view on Tony Abbott’s speech. Reform to streamline for a national process has got to be a step in the right direction. The State and Territories should follow the same administrative process and this cost should not differ based on your postcode. The length of time it takes to go through this process should also be the same. Sweden & The Netherlands lead the way on adoption process whilst maintaining integrity and due diligence.

    So forgive me if I sound excited and not at all suspicious of Tony Abbott’s commitment to form a task force to review ICA. As an ex-board member of NAAW I was extended an invitation to hear this announcement. It was the greatest honour to have been there. This was an announcement only so clearly no decisions have been made. Between now and April 2014 it is up to the adoption community far and wide to contribute towards recommendations. We need to work together and not against each other for a common outcome.

    Celebrities & causes are engrained in our society. The higher profile your celebrities plugging your cause the more funding and visibility you get in the community. Deborra-lee Furness chose the adoption community and despite her negative campaigners she has remained strong and committed to get the wheels in motion for reform of current adoption practices. For that I personally say “thank you”. Love her or hate her she has been able to start something which we have all wanted for many years. ICA is within the minority so we need to embrace this opportunity to contribute in anyway we can to reform current practices.

    Every child deserves a family and after all avenues have been exhausted and adoption is the only option available then the process surrounding this need to be robust and uniform no matter where you live in Australia.

      • To all

        A general announcement
        I welcome all comments on this blog and thank you to those who have made a contribution thus far. However, I will no longer be responding to comments – I will let your comments speak for themselves. Your views are welcome but please ensure your comments remain polite and are free from flaming, abuse and personal attacks. I look forward to reading your responses as I continue to post in 2014.

        December, 2013.

  2. I will take the lack of answers or responses to my repeatedly and polite questions as an inability to provide acurrate answers ( or lack of knowledge of the ICA system in OS countries) and therefore an admission that you have written wrong and hurtful comments about ICA and will therefore retract them. ( Whilst recognising that you have made some vailid points – one we are accutely aware of already) Merry Christmas from me and all my children (whose history i am confident in knowing)

  3. May I ask what experience you have with overseas countries in relation to adoption programs with Australia and or their agencies?
    Have you visited an overseas agency or tried to find out how they really work?
    Have you ben to the sums in a third world country or experienced what street kids go through?
    Have you been to or talked to staff at an overseas agency?
    Have you adopted ?
    I can answer yes to all these questions but for comments in press and in conversations suggest probably no to all ? That is why people think you are anti adoption

    • Dear Bones I really don’t think so. Your logic says that as most people trying to adopt would answer no to most of those questions they would therefore be ‘anti-adoption’. I did ask you what specifically in my research is anti-adoption. I would appreciate the answer. I will answer you in the next few days I am stopping now for tonight – it is 10.30pm

      • Logic doesn’t say that at all – because PAPs dont put themselves out there as an expert. Let me expand – they think you are anti adoption/ adoption groups / adoptive parents because you make these unsubstianted comments about the life of orphans etc and relinguishing mothers being conned etc etc –
        You didnt ask what in your research was anti adoption – you asked why I thought you were anti adoptoin and something about this being very old news ?? Quite different – and I answered, citing about 6 quotes from the conversation piece why we the ICA community think that – several of those answers though have been deleted – but even the tile of the article is inflamatory ! Sorry but I have answered this very well

    • HI Bones, have you ever been adopted and had numerous discussions with other adoptees both international and local about the effects adoption has had on them over their life into adulthood and beyond ? You need to talk to a range of adult adoptees in their 40s to 60s to get a proper perspective of the effects. If not do you really know what you are doing ? Lets switch subjects :There are quite a number of papers written on the fraud and corruption within the ICA industry internationally. You may not accept the conclusions but you need to answer why a number of countries have closed or restricted their adoption programs. Possibly you may wish to discuss why international surrogacy has taken over from adoption as the preferred method of making babies for infertile couples in Australia when IVF has failed for them (from 2011 the numbers of international surrogacies exceeded intercountry adoption by a significant margin). The world has changed possibly for the worse where children are mere commodities to be bought or grown but adoption is rapidly being relegated to the past. A postscript: Have you purchased a copy of “The market in babies” recently published by Monash University Press. If not I can recommend this book and no doubt you will find the many references most enlightening.

      • Phoenix, my are od concern is specifically Intercountry adoption ( im not adopted but I had a close relative give up a baby in the 70s – the closest i can claim any experience in that area)
        The oldest inter country adoptees are in their mid 30s and yes I have speoke to many of them, some are good friends. I have also adopted overseas twice.
        As I pointed out here – some of those papers draw their info from TV. There are of course genuine stories – very sad but quite rare – Julia Rollings a friend of mine wrote a book of her own families experiences. so yes I do believe but i also know how agencies work in many countries and how a childs history is documented before adoption. In the Philippines for instance there is an exhuastive process before a child can be nominated for adoption. ( no chance of duping mothers) – there is no profit for an orphanage to adopt out a child so that arguemnt is also nonsense – also demeaning and insulting .
        There have been big problems with some programs in some countries – NON Hague countries – and Australia does not and has not dealt with these countries .
        Like the tiltie of Patricia’s article ( … dirty tactics of the adoption lobby) – the title of the book is inciteful – for that reason I will not buy it – I have read hours of documents and am perfectly aware without the need to contribute to MUP profiting from the cause.
        Yes there are problems – but the option of thousands of kids growing up in an institution far out ways the risk – ( we dont ban cars because of crashes ) what we need to do is continue to monitor the system but leave out the wrong info and stick to the facts and be wary of the tall poppy syndrome .
        I have spoken to dozens of orphanage administrators who provide loving caring homes but all agree a permanant family is a better option – ( own family is best option)

      • Dear Bones just to add to that – the first child is reported to have been adopted into Australia in 1969 – there are likely to have been children before that not counting child migrants post world war 2. In fact most of our adoptions were from countries who were not signatories at the time or had ratified – these are two different processes. Today yes Hague ‘compliance’ with conventions is more important. I would hope everybody reads all information particularly research with an open mind – it is not really about what we agree with or not – it’s about gaining a full understanding which I think all parents would want – in order to deal with questions your children may ask at the very least – it might mean at the end of the day everyone works together not in opposition

  4. Why have my responses and comments disappeared ? apart from the name conversation – it was all relevant and polite – now its gone ?

    • You berated me for using your name and I said I would delete all comments to protect your privacy – it will be in your email box notified from the blog if you did not see it before being deleted – do you really think your last comment is polite and relevant? I would really like to answer everyone but personal attacks are not on. Keep it polite and I am happy to respond

      • i did not berate you – i pointed out that you had used my name that is all .
        as for the comments being in my email box – that doesn’t help other interested parties to know what else is said
        Absolutely my last comment was polite and most defiantly relevant – you asked why i thought you were anti adoption – one mildly sarcastic comment – no more than your dinner comment – the rest was quoting your own work and responding – couldn’t be more relevant ! Perhaps though you really didn’t wan the answers?

      • Bones

        please read the associated articles and links provided in the piece you are referring to (I think it was one of the article in The Conversation?)- your answers are there. You need to understand a blog post is different to say a post in the conversation or an academic work – you seem to be under the impression my comments are aimed at you. Anyway good night for now

      • The KUMFA interview – the lady later admitted making up the story and it was widely reported , several weeks later and nothing was taken down.
        “tactics” Citing your own work is not proof either ?
        “trafficking” – yes ther has been one or two children kidnapped in (i.e.) india and then adopted in Australia – but this research paper was I understand by a student who used an ABC TV show about USA adoption practices as a major source of information – the myth continues to grow as it is cited in articles like yours – it was fact on ABC it isnt fact now
        “adopted children are other peoples…” correct and most ICA families are open about birth parents – but most of these kids were orphans !! – link broken but just plain wrong
        “Orphanages are often created to feed the adoption industry “- completely false and shows a lack of understanding of the processes – many dont even adopt! also highly insulting to the people who build, fund and run the homes
        “Children are often placed into orphanages temporarily during hard times for families,” – correct!! and if thats the case they are NOT asopted out –
        “Reports of parents coming to get their children (sometimes after saving up to pay the fine) only to find them adopted overseas are many” can we have just one?
        “The politics of ‘orphans’ and the dirty tactics of the adoption lobby” NOT just me but every person invoved in ICA adoption I know – was upset by this comment – especially those who trusted you during their case studies
        I think Ive answered pretty well why we think your anti A – and I have checked every link to the article

      • Dear Bones

        Yes I am sorry – my mistake – I made the comment to Justice about the research not to you – but there have been quite a lot of emails from you so you’ll have to forgive me for the confusion. I am very happy to answer any question about my research from anyone provided all conversations/ questions are civil. I think you will find if you read my work I talk very positively about adoptive parents and adoptive parents groups. Yes, I am critical about the goals of lobbyist and the tactics used. I certainly do not lump parents all in together nor I do I believe they all hold the same opinions – even of me! I still get lovely unsolicited emails from parents who actually know me updating me on their families.

        Yes children have been trafficked into Australia. It is noted in a law report from the University of Queensland by the Human Trafficking Working Group. I think there is a link in the conversation article. There are numerous newspaper reports about the news that broke about India several years ago – here is one of them http://news.smh.com.au/national/child-trafficking-allegations-hit-qld-20080822-408m.html. In fact, Julia Rollings, an adoptive parent, wrote a book about her experiences – it is reported here on Foreign Correspondent http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2009/s2493505.htm. It should be in the Qld group’s library.

        In terms of parents thinking their children are going away for an education or finding them gone when they come for them are so numerous from so many countries and it is well documented in many people’s research e.g. China (Johnson) and Romania (Dickens). It is most prevalent in countries that are not well regulated or Hague compliant (which of course is not a guarantee but is a safeguard). I am currently on leave and do not have all my books etc with me so I can’t readily dig out more references for you but I do believe it is reported in relation to Ethiopia in the UQ report available online. Bad things do happen in adoption (NB – I did not say it happens in all adoptions) – that’s why it is so important to have measures in place to prevent them and ensure ethical practices – which is not ‘anti-adoption’ and it is really quite dangerous to ignore these risks. No parent wants to lose their child that way, no adoptive parent wants to find out that the adoption has been untoward and no child deserves to find out they have been trafficked. Most children in orphanages in the world do have families (see UNICEF’s) and of course there are also orphans. They also have extended family just as we have grandparents, aunts, uncles etc. Poverty is usually the reason why children end up in institutions (and yes this is backed up). Alongside adoption it would be great to see more work done in community development to address the real causes of family breakdowns (and should not be considered a threat). It’s like treating a thorn in your foot by putting a fresh bandaid over it every day. It reminds me of the upstream/ downstream analogy used in health – I found the story here on a blog http://kghealthylifestyles.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/upstreamdownstream.html. And finally I’m sorry parents do put themselves forward as experts and many do actually have considerable experience and expertise and served on NICAAG http://m.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbott-disbanded-expert-adopt-advisory-group-weeks-before-pledging-action-on-the-issue-20131220-2zp3u.html.

        It might be good to save up your comments for one email – there’s been about 40 from you tonight. I would appreciate that – one a day would work. Hope all that answers your questions.

    • Patricia – sorry for the number of emails I was trying to follow threads but Im not a blogger. We and many others do great work within OS communities as well and you must understand a child is only nominated for adoption after all family , including extended family options are exhausted. The pointof whether one or both parents are around or a dad has shot through is really not relevant to the childs plight and journey to adoption – any more than it is for a child relinquished locally _ ( it is incredibly sad but a reality)
      Actually I dont think you have addressed my questions at all specifically regarding first hand knowledge of institutions or agencies overseas
      I know JR and her book is on my desk and in the qld library – and as I said to phoenix there are real cases, yes.
      My real objection is all the other points I raised – The ABC FC story , the recant of the Korean story – they are not reliable citations but keep being raised as evidence. The other is the accusations against support group – which yes I do take personally.

      • seriusly Patricia> you havent answered many of my questions and I have poured through the entire blog. I did see one passing reference to having visited a home in China but that harldly answers the questions about seeing the plight of children or orphanages in third wolrd countires or having first hand knowledge of agencies (such as ICAB) There is still no response to the recant of the korean story or the citing of the Ethiopian Forign correspondant story by a student ( now that story is cited as proof!)
        Yes the has been scouting in Ethiopia and Haiti by americans. Not australians. Our group has members from 22 countries – genuine adoptions where every one of those kids are in a better place than they were.
        Having earnt an income from assessing those parents we just cant see why you a zoning in on the ( few ) sad bad cases.
        Nor have you answered to me or Justice why you are so critical of support groups.
        As for when ICA adoption started – okay we can all find a rare one – 1969 – again majoring on the minors! – that person is still only 44 not the 50 or 60 yo – i was asked about – It is widely accepted that ICA adoption in Australia started in 1975 with operation baby lift.
        and again – i didn’t berate you about using real names . apparently Justice didnt either and you wouldnt have needed to delete our posts under privacy for we didnt include our own names in our own posts – you would only have needed to delete your own posts ???
        In closing I have seen nothing form me or any one that delserves this comment “Don’t forget how you behave in a public forum like this reflects on all adoptive parents unfortunately.” and BTW none of these posts are in my inbox unless the boxes are ticked and they are not – so i have no other record to refer back to.
        Good Evening

  5. “a single mother is encouraged by an adoption agency to send her child overseas for adoption and then when she changes her mind and returns the next day, she is told it is too late” or “the family who does not understand what intercountry adoption really means and thinks their child is leaving to go to school” or “some children adopted into Australia have been trafficked”.
    & THIS – emotive rubbish with no facts to back it up
    “So what does the research say? Most adopted children are not orphans – they have families. ” where is this research ?

  6. What are the intended changes to the adoption regulations ? This is a very good and relevant question and one that Tony Abbott needs to answer. Why does he presume to know that there is a need to make any changes without consulting those involved ? Yes every child should have a secure home , preferably one with biological relatives and within their original culture. The question of how long someone needs to wait before they can adopt is not really all that relevant. If there are no children needing adoption because alternative and preferrable arrangements are working then that is an excellent outcome for the child concerned. It is supposed to be about the welfare of the child.

  7. I would think this attention to adoption would be a wonderful opportunity to promote your independent study. You certainly use yourself regularly to reference your articles. Although to be fair you also use your like minded fellow researchers within your own university. Go team.

    • thanks:-) would love to know which part of my research you have a problem with or are you researching too? If so, then you would know all good research is independent i.e. without conflicts of interests. I would hope you and others would be adult in this blog and not resort to personal abuse – please contribute something substantial – I would love to hear it. Also please be accurate – I have not co-authored an adoption article with anyone at my university – I have national and international writing collaborations. Don’t forget how you behave in a public forum like this reflects on all adoptive parents unfortunately.

      • May I ask why my response has been removed? It was written respectfully and discussed your work. It appears there is a conflict of interest with your independent study if you are unwilling to allow alternate viewpoints to remain as public as your own. I offered the opportunity to discuss more substantial issues as you requested above however I can now see this is not the forum for a genuine discussion.

      • Dear Justice
        Perhaps you missed my comments (it will be in your in box) that were directed to you and Bones. You both berated me for using your names as a breach of privacy – it was unintentional so to protect your privacy I deleted all with your names on it as I said I would and did alert you both prior. Please do send me genuine questions that contribute – they should still be in your inbox.

      • An example is your article The Politics of ‘orphans’ and the dirty tactics of the adoption lobby. The title is inflammatory in itself. Within the article you write ‘Orphanages are often created to feed the adoption industry…’

        In your blog, while not a formal research article, you use words like ‘secretive’ and ‘behind closed doors’.

        I agree that finding the best way for children to remain in their family of birth is paramount. But for the children who genuinely cannot remain in their birth family we need, as a country, to improve our current adoption processes. This doesn’t need to be an either/or issue. Let your research stand for itself without stirring up excess emotion.

      • Ok let’s work through them. You will appreciate there are word limits on short articles of that type and much of it gets edited out. I am also talking generally here not about specific cases.

        1. Ok, you don’t like the title. Do you think it is just might possible that this statement is true and dirty tactics have been used?
        2. Re orphanages: – note I said ‘often’ not ‘all’. It is very well documented in many researchers’ work that orphanages are a western invention. Orphanages are not all the same – they differ from country to country, who runs them and very much which receiving country they actually deal with makes a huge difference. I also believe Australia has always ensured as best as they can that the orphanages they deal with are above board but as we know this has not been foolproof. And there are still many issues to be dealt with that occur before adoption takes place and often it is not a case of two choices only – children and their families’ needs are very individual whether they live in Australia or elsewhere. Some adoptive parents/ groups are putting more energy and resources into supporting children and their families in other ways. Many orphanages have indeed arisen to feed a market in adoption –Ethiopia and Haiti are two examples often cited in the literature – work has been done by African researchers – I think links are provided in the article you are referring to and with regards to Haiti a recent on-line article http://ohrh.law.ox.ac.uk/?p=3617. In many cases (usually associated with private agencies), ‘scouts’ actually go out and convince families to give up their children. When proper assessments are done it is not uncommon to find out that parents/ parent did not understand. Many orphanages or children’s homes as they prefer to be called do not engage in intercountry adoption and concentrate on providing good upbringings for children, providing an education and maintaining connections with their families. Increasingly some children’s care homes facilitate contact and reunification with birth families when trafficking has been discovered. I know of one children’s home in particular who discovered all their children had been trafficked and are doing just that. There is no standard ‘orphanage’ either in purpose, size, staffing or the way they run and most children (but not always, do have family) – and of course there is a great variation in standards and care. To use one example, when I visited a particular orphanage in China they were appalled when I asked whether they engaged in intercountry adoption whereas this was not the case in others. The children lived there long term and were there to receive services such as physiotherapy. Many were children of single mothers. The term ‘orphanage’ does tend to be used as if it represents the same thing.
        3. Current plans have been behind closed doors and are secretive and not transparent. We are still waiting to hear but I believe the focus will be on making children in care available not necessarily intercountry adoption in any big way. Governments know numbers of children legitimately available through intercountry adoption are declining world wide as more knowledge is generated. More countries are preferring to find their own solutions. And we are a signatory to the Hague Conventions which bears considerable responsibilities.
        4. I agree it should not be an either or issue. Do take some time and read some of my papers in full you will see that is exactly what I have written. And yes I agree the system can be improved – the issue is how and on what these decisions are based. For fear of being inflammatory, I also have to say that some people need to take some responsibility for their own emotions. I have seen people attacked mercilessly for not saying intercountry adoption is 100% positive and what really disturbs me is some adoptees are among that group have been subjected to what I can only describe as lateral violence and badly bullied for discussing their experiences. Labels can be loosely tossed around like ‘just angry’ rather than listening to what they have to say. Adoptees have wide and varied experiences just like adoptive parents. Change is urgently needed in the Australian community around this issue as well.

        Thank you Justice I appreciate your comments and I hope this answers your questions

      • Hi Patricia, Thanks for your response. I do plan on replying but will do so in a couple of days once the Christmas rush eases. Merry Christmas.

  8. Tao – is correct but there is a right for every child to have a family.
    Most groups I know of do have a broad spectrum of people on committees and there was on nicaag before it was destroyed by AG staff . One of the largest support groups I know of has parents, parents to be and adult adoptees in its midst – Its kind of hard to give a child in an overseas orphanage a voice , don’t you think?

  9. What everyone seems to forget and I doubt it is any different in Australia….there is no “right to adopt” a child… hopefully Australia keeps the high ground and doesn’t end up in a race to the bottom like other countries are actively working on.

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