P.O. Box 1030
Woden ACT 2606
The Hon. Tony Abbott, MP
Prime Minister of Australia
Dear Prime Minister,
The Adoptive Families Association of the ACT (AFA) is the Australian Capital Territory's peak adoption support group for adoptive and permanent care families. The AFA welcomes your Government's proactive position on streamlining inter-country adoption processes in Australia. The AFA is grateful for the opportunity to provide input to the Interdepartmental Committee (IDC) tasked to provide policy advice to the Council of Australian Government (COAG) regarding inter-country adoption in Australia.
As overarching principles the AFA considers that Australia's inter-country adoption system must:
- have the child and the child's needs as the primary focus, both pre-and post-adoption; and
- adhere to rigorous, transparent, efficient and timely processes.
The AFA identifies a number of problems with the current system and makes recommendations to the IDC to address those problems.
Few bilateral agreements exist between Australia and sending countries in which active programmes operate.
That Federal Government seeks to establish mutually suitable inter-country adoption agreements or arrangements with additional sending countries which have children in need of a family through inter-country adoption.
The current system is complex, disjointed and slow.
That a new, adequately funded and harmonised, national inter-country adoption system be developed that is facilitated by reputable, not for profit NGOs which have experience in child protection and/or inter-country adoption. Accreditation of such NGOs could be granted and supervised by a federal government agency, with the assistance of State and Territory governments. Any accredited NGO must not rely only on adoption fees for its financial viability.
That the IDC investigate best practice in inter-country adoption systems in other countries such as Norway, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The current system does not provide the 'whole-of-life' service that adoptees are entitled to as envisaged in the Hague Convention. This service seems to be limited due to the lack of national leadership, harmonised processes, motivated staff and/or adequate funding.
That where children are genuinely in need of families, government, through Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), facilitate ethical, harmonised adoption processes that focus on the needs of the child first and foremost.
That a more comprehensive approach to inter-country adoption services be implemented where an NGO would not only facilitate adoptions but also either provide or source/procure appropriate pre- and post- adoption services for all members of the adoption triad.
There are major bureaucratic delays, obstacles and additional costs if parents begin the adoption process in one state and then relocate to another state and wish to continue with their adoption application. Each state and territory has different legislation, policies and criteria.
That a harmonised adoption process be implemented so that families can transfer from state to state without any further expenses being incurred.
The lack of post-adoption support services is a serious disadvantage for many parents who face a range of challenges in helping their adopted child adapt to an alien and unfamiliar environment, or deal with physical disability or psychological trauma, as well as identity issues in adolescence which usually occurs years after the adoption.
That post-adoption support services be provided by suitably qualified and trained professionals.
Currently adoptive families do not have access to all government incentives, benefits and financial support provided to biological families.
That equal government benefits be provided to families of adopted children as are provided to biological families. This includes equal financial incentives for adoptive families. For example the 'baby bonus' should apply to newly adopted children of all ages and 'adoption leave' should equal maternity/paternity leave entitlements.
The costs associated with creating a family through inter-country adoption are much greater than for other forms of family formation. A number of countries provide tax benefits to adoptive families to offset the costs of adoption.
That tax subsidisation be provided for the costs involved in the adoption process.
There is high cost and inequity involved in the immigration process to bring adopted children home to Australia. Children who have adoptions completed in their birth countries are not currently eligible for an Australian birth certificate in many jurisdictions.
That a streamlined immigration process into Australia be implemented for adopted children and that immigration visa fees be waived for adopted children to help reduce the financial burden of adoption.
That all children adopted from other countries be automatically entitled to an Australian birth certificate upon arrival in Australia, thereby providing all Australian children with equal rights in this country.
The AFA thanks you for the opportunity to provide advice to the IDC. We look forward to further communication in the future.
Jo Schell (on behalf of the AFA Committee)
Adoptive Families Association of the ACT
18 February 2014