Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2016 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 3 August 2016) . . Page.. 2191 ..
DR BOURKE (Ginninderra—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability, Minister for Small Business and the Arts and Minister for Veterans and Seniors) (11.03): I start by thanking Ms Lawder for bringing on this very important motion this morning. The adoption of a child is a significant moment in the life of the child, the adopted family and the birth family. For some families, adoption is the opportunity to create or complete a family. For some children, it offers a long-term opportunity to be part of a loving family for life.
Adoption permanently changes a child’s identity by changing the identity of a child’s birth parents. Adoption therefore is not always appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children; nor is it appropriate for those children in kinship care, where changing birth parents on a child’s birth certificate is not acceptable.
The decision to progress with an adoption is not a decision taken lightly, and not one that should be made without full consideration of all parties involved and the understanding that the best interests of the child should be paramount. Adoption decisions need to be undertaken carefully and thoughtfully to prevent future conflict within families.
I would like to note that adoption is not the only way of achieving long-term stability and permanency for children and young people in the ACT. Enduring parental responsibility orders provide a way for parents to build families and achieve permanent family arrangements for children. Enduring parental responsibility transfers the director-general’s parental responsibilities to the carers. The director-general has no further involvement in the child’s life and the carers are responsible for all parental responsibility decisions.
In many cases, enduring parental responsibility can be preferable to adoption. As already mentioned, for example, having kinship carers apply for enduring parental responsibility rather than adoption avoids confusing changes to biological relationships like changing an existing grandmother relationship to a mother relationship.
A step up for our kids, the ACT government’s out of home care strategy, is committed to improving children’s access to timely, stable and permanent care arrangements. A step up for our kids is emphatically child focused. It is about reunifying children with parents as quickly as possible or, for those who cannot safely return home, securing a permanent alternative family as soon as possible. This recognises the importance of providing long-term, secure, loving relationships for healthy emotional development. This is particularly important in very young children.
In order to support more timely permanent care arrangements where it is appropriate, we have introduced a raft of legislative changes over the past 12 months. These give effect to the range of system and operational changes required to deliver a system of care that gives vulnerable children and young people the most stable, productive lives possible.