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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 16 September 2015) . . Page.. 3100 ..

Adoption is a life-defining moment in a child’s life, as it is for the adoptive family and birth family as well. Adoption effectively breaks a young person’s biological ties with their birth parents and changes their surname forever. Working through the process to ensure adoption is in the best interests of a child and sustainable in the long term takes time and a number of important factors need to be considered in that adoption process, including the individual circumstances of each child or young person such as the length of time they have spent in a stable placement, the quality of the relationships that have developed in the placement, the capacity of the adoptive parents and whether contact with the birth family is established.

Where dispensation with the birth parents’ consent is required, this causes additional legal work and extends the time frames for completion of the adoption process. Understandably, where a birth parent is not in agreement or indeed may not be available to provide consent, very careful consideration has to be given. Consistent with the lessons learned by the 2012 Senate inquiry report into forced adoption practices, dispensing with parental consent is only recommended in limited and specific circumstances prescribed by the Adoption Act 1993 and is not endorsed without due consideration of the rights and interests of all parties.

All these complex matters need to be given full consideration and resolved prior to making a submission in court. A comprehensive level of work needs to be conducted so the matters can be settled quickly through the court process and reduce the risk that the adoption order will be contested when the matter is brought before the court for consideration.

All these factors are individual to the specific circumstances of each child subject to an adoption application. This necessarily means it is not possible to provide a precise time frame for finalisation of individual adoption and enduring parental responsibility from the point at which adoption or enduring parental responsibility is first considered. It is, however, possible to say that in recent years the rate of adoption in the ACT has been well above the national average. From directorate analysis of national data in 2013-14, the adoption rate for local and known adopters in the ACT was 8.3 per 100,000 children, compared to the Australian national rate of 3.9 for 100,000 children.

Where adoption is in the best interests of the child, the ACT government is stepping up to achieve this outcome for the child and will always seek to work collaboratively with prospective adoptive parents, whilst at the same time acknowledging some of the very difficult and complex issues that need to be addressed and worked through during the application process.

This government is committed to improving children’s access to timely, stable and permanent care arrangements. That is why our new out of home care strategy—a step up for our kids: one step makes a lifetime of difference—transforms the way we support vulnerable children, young people and families. Under a step up for our kids this government is introducing legislation in this sitting period to facilitate improved permanency outcomes. Permanency allows children and young people in care to feel secure and allows children, young people and carers to enjoy autonomy as a family unit.

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