Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 September 2015) . . Page.. 3106 ..
MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (3.50): Thank you, everyone, for your contributions to this motion. I think we all agree that what we are looking for here is to look after the best interests of children and to provide permanency and long-term stability for those children. Permanency for a foster child generally has two options: adoption or ensuring parental responsibility. The anecdotal information and evidence that my office has received is that an EPR, an enduring parental responsibility, once approved and allocated a solicitor, can take two to three months. Perhaps that is the seven-week time frame that Mr Corbell was referring to earlier, because there are people waiting for adoptions for whom the seven weeks is not what they are experiencing.
The anecdotal evidence I have received is that an adoption once approved can take two to 2½ years. It is two court processes often: dispensation of parental consent and the adoption order. Typically, adoption orders for foster children do not have parental consent, so seeking dispensation is the first court process, and this often takes quite a length of time. What I also hear is that some carers are choosing EPR for their foster children to get them out of the system quicker, to try to provide that certainty for the child even though adoption may be the preferred option for those families. They are choosing this because of the anecdotal information they receive from other prospective adoptive and foster parents, from other organisations involved, telling them about the lengthy time frames involved with adoption.
One of the issues is that many carers do not understand the system enough to understand that they need to apply for a permanency assessment. They believe that they already have that under their specific parenting authority and that the child who gets an 18 years order makes the parents automatically the child’s long-term legal guardian. So there is a bit of an unmeasured need amongst foster carers to understand and get to the permanency assessment itself. Typically, carers who do get to the permanency assessment are those who are more knowledgeable about the system and more able to advocate on behalf of their foster children.
It appears that with the announcement of the new strategy a number of detailed web pages from the department’s website have been taken down and now there is only very high level information on the website, making it even harder for people who would like to undertake adoption to understand what permanency options are available to them, how to go about it and what options will best suit their circumstances.
There are no public numbers on how many people are waiting for a court hearing for adoption or for an EPR to be given approval, how many people are currently undergoing assessment and how many people are not even getting to an assessment yet. These are things that we appear to be lacking here in the statistics that Mr Corbell used this morning about from listing to lodgement, and lodgement to an order. What I hear from many prospective adoptive parents who have been through the process is that their paperwork is not being lodged, so it is not captured by the statistics that Mr Corbell cited earlier today.
What we are concerned about here is the impact on families. The children are exposed to long-term instability about their family and their security. The carers, the parents,