Saturday, February 6, 2010

ABC Online - “Adoption double standards rile locals” by Annie Guest

Advocates for adoption want the Government to consider anomalies in the law that seem to give a special advantage to Australians living overseas.

New figures on adoption show that Australians are continuing to adopt more children from overseas countries than at home.

For people living here and adopting overseas there is one set of rules, but if you live elsewhere for a year or more, Australia's adoption laws do not necessarily apply.

Adoption advocates are using the new statistics to renew calls for more liberal laws, including allowing same-sex and single parents to apply.

A Federal Government review is currently underway.

It is well-known that there are many more Australians who would like to adopt children than there are children available for adoption.

But if there is any doubt, the situation is made clear in the latest report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Institute Child and Youth Welfare unit head, Tim Beard, says the number of children available for adoption has dropped significantly.

"The number of children overall - not just in Australia but also inter-country - has fallen quite dramatically from a peak of around about 10,000 in the early 1970s," he said.

"Now there's only just over 400 overall. There's a range of reasons and it's quite a complicated set of situations.

"But there's things such as more effective birth control available nowadays than there was say 25 to 30 years ago, also family planning centres and sexual education classes are becoming more prominent.

"There's also changing social views on the ideas of parenthood and raising children. For example, the idea of raising children outside of marriage in Australia nowadays is much more acceptable.

"And also there's the development of things such as IVF."

He says of the 441 children available for adoption, only about 40 per cent were born in Australia.

Foreign country adoptions

Australia has inter-country adoption arrangements with 14 foreign governments, with most of the children coming from four places.

About a quarter are adopted from China, 17 per cent from the Philippines and the same from South Korea, and about 14 per cent are from Ethiopia.

"Since about the mid 1990s we've seen fairly stable trends in those countries," says Mr Beard.

"That's really due to the formal arrangements that we have in place with those countries that have been set up through the policy departments."

However adoptions from Ethiopia were suspended by the Federal Government late last year after concerns about a request from Ethiopia that Australia enter into a formal aid agreement as part of the arrangement.

It has left a lot of prospective adoptive parents very upset.

'Stolen children' scandal

The Government says a review is continuing, as is an examination of arrangements with some providers in India after a scandal over alleged stolen children.

Adoption advocate Trevor Jordan from the group Jigsaw supports the Government's caution.

"While the parents are experiencing a great deal of anxiety, child-centred policy is very important in this area," he said.

"Our experience in the last 10, 20 years of inter-country adoption is that if we don't attend to good process and market forces take over, people will exploit the situation."

Meanwhile, there is another statistic not included in the figures: another 112 children adopted from foreign countries.

That is achieved by people living overseas for at least a year and therefore not being governed by Australian law. It might include same-sex couples or single people.

Mr Jordan says the laws should be more liberal here anyway.

"In places like the US for example same-sex couples and single parents have stepped up to the breach to provide permanent families for those children," he said.

"People make general rules about what's desirable for a family, but if the overall goal is to see that adoption is about finding families for children and not children for families, then we look at our eligibility criteria somewhat differently."

[Source: Original Article]

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