• Push for government to speed up adoption process
The Federal Government is being urged to speed up law reforms to help more parents adopt children.
10 Nov 2015 - 11:20 AM  UPDATED 10 Nov 2015 - 12:00 PM

But the call by adoption advocates has sparked debate about the merits of adoption as a means of helping needy and disadvantaged children.

It took five sometimes humiliating, soul-destroying years for Teresa Love and her husband to finally realise their adoption dream.

 

"Unfortunately, my story is not unique and definitely like many Australian couples who've tried to adopt locally. It was not easy. In fact, it was extremely difficult."

 

Ms Love says she was subjected to a succession of what she calls "interrogation sessions" by adoption agencies.

 

"There were questions such as why don't I leave my husband and have my own child? Or how will I be able to continue to maintain my appearance -- that is, wearing make-up and high heels?"

 

The Federal Government has just announced agreements allowing Australian families to adopt children from Poland and Latvia.

But actor Deborra-Lee Furness laments the slow pace of change in making it easier for would-be parents.

 

"We've got to establish a streamlined system and get all the states on the same page. That's number one (priority), getting all the states on the same page."

 

Almost 30,000 Australian children who cannot live with their immediate families have been in some form of out-of-home care for more than two years, mostly without a relative.

Visiting British adoption adviser Sir Martin Narey has helped oversee a streamlined, six-month application process in his country.

 

"We now have a new assessment process which takes six months. Crucially, it tries to sift out the people who are unlikely to be adopters very early. I've never seen anything, never seen anything remotely like adoption for its potential to transform the lives permanently of some of the most disadvantaged children in England."

 

As a result, British adoption numbers have increased by as much as 76 per cent, to more than 5,000 annually.

In contrast, there were just over 200 Australian children adopted last year.

But with Adoption Awareness Week running this week in Australia, child-welfare advocates in the country have warned against adopting the British model.

While adoptions have increased there, so have the number of breakdowns between children and their adopted families.

Social worker Penny Mackieson has written a book on her own experiences as an adoptee and helping others.

 

"Adoption should be the very last resort, because it's the most invasive. We know what the negative effects are. When a child's adopted, they don't just lose their parents. They lose the whole extended family and their ... you know, their identity."