‘Federal MPs and senators, under the influence of the strong anti-adoption movement, are in danger of endorsing the mistaken idea that we should “never again” remove children from even highly dysfunctional parents, because this is akin to the forced adoption practices of the ’50s-’70s.’
If Australia had the adoption-friendly practices of, for example, the United States, 5,000 children could be adopted each year. Yet in 2010–11, fewer than 200 children were adopted, despite more than 37,000 children being in government-funded care placements, and more than 25,000 of these children languishing in care for more than two years.
‘The under-responding to child maltreatment in Australia should be scrutinised as part of the national apology,’ argues Dr Sammut.
‘Permanently removing children from unsafe homes into suitable adoptive families should be supported so that the current toxic approach to child welfare becomes history.’
More confused thinking and writing from Dr Sammut, which does nothing to help promote better child protection practices. He makes so many points which put together things which don’t belong together. For instance the National Apology was an apology for past adoption practices which were abusive, traumatic and damaging. It is nothing to do with current practice and never will be, no matter how badly we think the system is operating and how ‘under-responding’ our State Governments are to ‘child maltreatment’. Trying to distract from the significance of the Apology for those affected by forced adoption by attempting ‘add-ons’ is short-sighted, offensive and confusing. Dr Sammut clearly demonstrates that he has not understood the content or purpose of the Apology.
For the children in Government funded placements, it cannot be assumed that adoption is a suitable option for all; it is not for a variety of reasons. Some children are in family connected placements, some have maintained links with family which will continue, some are unadoptable (contentious but true), some would be considered ‘unsuitable for adoption’ because of their connections, behaviours etc and would not meet the requirements of those who wish to adopt. It is true that ‘under-responding’ to the treatment of children should be ‘scrutinised’ because Child protection Agencies are seriously hampered by lack of funds, resources and personnel to carry out all the investigative work, court work and protective and preventative work that could be done and done more effectively with better funding, better support and better understanding of the dysfunctions, the dilemmas, the disabilities and the distresses which family life can entail. The Courts rarely take the rights of children seriously or engage in what might be in their best interests, instead ensure that the rights of parents are upheld, even when that is to the detriment of children and does not assist Child Protection Workers to do their job effectively. It is disgraceful that this should be the case, but it is and the frustration for CPW’s in being unable to do their work to the best of their ability because their hands are tied by constraints which are not in the best interests of children.
Of course some children who are in unsafe environments, which are not going to change, should be removed swiftly and permanently to stable adoptive families. Legislation and practice do not always make this possible and children languish in unsuitable placements when they could have stability, permanency and safety. That situation is nothing to do with any anti-adoption movement, as anyone who has any knowledge of child protection and current practice would understand. It is to do with current laws, the ignorance of legislators and of the legal profession and it’s administrators. Children cannot be kept safe if the law does not allow it, make suitable provision for it and train those who administer it effectively.
Sometimes parents are capable of change and need the chance to make changes. Many parents are given multiple opportunities, support and assistance to make those changes but choose not to do. It is required by law that they be given the chance. In the meantime children suffer either in home placement or in out of home care with contact. Many CPW’s are frustrated by their inability to act swiftly, decisively and in the best interests of children.
‘adoption is illegitimate’ says Dr Sammut, whatever that means! For those who understand adoption, it is certainly true that adoption is considered by many to be the bastard child of an industry which has become powerful, profitable, unethical and with a greed and all consuming interest in turning more and more children into adoptees for profit, to satisfy a lucrative market and an ever growing demand. Those who are anti-adoption are often anti this lucrative money-making machine, particularly in America, where it has been created, built and honed to a slick piece of marketing, has convinced mothers that they are doing something beautiful and empowering in ‘gifting’ their babies to the childless. That offensiveness gets in the way of enabling people to view adoption clearly for the necessary action it sometimes is, in order to save children from abuse, dysfunction, neglect, abandonment and the multitude of other unfortunate circumstances which befall children at the hands of adults as they are growing up. Children deserve better, they deserve the very best we can do, which is most countries is a damn sight better than we are currently doing or have done in the past.
Those who have the luxury of research jobs in Think Tanks funded with public money, have the added responsibility of producing useful research which might have some chance of implementation. It would be interesting to know how many ‘thoughts’ of think tankers make it into legislation, practice and common use! I agree with much of what Dr Sammut espouses and have held similar views on some aspects of child protection for many years. However someone in his position has a responsibility to produce reports which are not the product of muddled and confused thinking. In that he seems to have a long way to go!