What’s Wrong With Adoption in Australia?

I’m so overwhelmed by everyone’s feedback following my last post. It’s astounding to me that so many of you are actually making the time to read my ranty rants amongst your busy lives. It’s just so touching – I can’t really describe how supported it makes me feel. Thank you.


As promised I am sticking to the topic of adoption this week as it is National Adoption Awareness Week here in Australia.

It would seem that I am quite a slow learner because I bothered to read the comments left on yesterday’s Herald Sun article featuring Deborra-Lee Furness. There is just so much negativity around adoption! I mean I definitely think an honest dialogue about adoption is absolutely necessary, but it just has to be constructive – adoption is not blanket “good” or blanket “bad”. Just as there are some biological families that don’t get it right, there are adoptive parents that don’t either, but this doesn’t make the whole concept wrong or evil.

The reality is that adoption always involves suffering. For an adoption to occur, there has to have been some form of breakage or separation first. This is, of course, not an ideal situation at all, but as we know we don’t live in an ideal world. Adoption, in my humble opinion, can be a beautiful pathway towards restoring what was lost, like healing a wound though the scar may remain. It’s for this reason I believe it should be embraced and celebrated.

To be honest I’ve re-written parts of this post so many times now, trying to balance directing my thoughts at the (very vocal) anti-adoption lobby, and just sharing my own honest feelings and experience. It’s hard because the whole topic is so complex; what goes for local adoption may not be relevant to intercountry and so on. But at the end of the day I think to most people it’s pretty obvious – every child deserves to grow up in a family.

In fact a rule of thumb is that for every three months a child resides in an orphanage, they lose one month of development. It is well documented that institutionalisation is detrimental to the physical, social, and psychological well-being of children. I am planning to talk more about my time in orphanages and my passion for family reunification and community-based solutions to orphan care later, but the bottom line is that we should be ensuring that children grow up within families. Adoption is one way to make this happen.

Except… The Australian government doesn’t seem too keen on this. Last year there was less than 150 inter-country adoptions for the whole of Australia, despite thousands of hopeful couples. This is not because there are no orphans in the world, but rather because we have an outdated and clunky system designed to discourage adoption at every turn, even local adoption.

Believe it or not, but you can’t be on both local and inter-country adoption lists at once, even though the process is likely to take years. And, in Victoria at least, you can’t do any reproductive treatments while waiting to adopt. All in all it makes for a very frustrating and heartbreaking situation where both children and potential parents miss out. There just has to be change soon.

Thank you Deborra-Lee and Hugh for your advocacy work 🙂

As Deborra-Lee says in the article: “The system is broken here. There are children who need families and we need a system that works.” It’s my hope that by sharing my personal journey, a greater awareness of the need for reform is gained.


6 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Adoption in Australia?

  1. Yes, all children have the right to be loved and given a family so why do governments make this so hard. I wasn’t medically able to have children and have not the funds for fertility treatment or to even consider adoption. This really is so unfair.

    • Hi Liz, yes money is another huge part of all this that I’ve barely touched on! I’m sure I’ll have a good rant about that at some point! Thank you very much for your comments x

  2. Having worked in an organisation that includes a fostering system, I can say that the system (that is to say, government policy) IS flawed. I really don’t care what people will say, I have seen it with my own eyes. The organisation I worked for had the honourable mantra of family reunification and worked hard towards this possibility… BUT, while foster carers do a phenomenal job, and I believe in family reunification to a degree, there are still children in the system languishing from foster home to foster home and then onto teenage residential care, because their family/parents simply aren’t rehabilitating “quick enough”. Why should a child whither without the promise of a solid home, the comfort of a parents love or the routine of family support, while waiting, and waiting, and waiting? Adoption is clearly an answer for some of these children who would undoubtedly be better off within a permanent family situation (as all children deserve).

    I share some of your frustration, LB, at the way Australian policy has thrown shade on adoption. Especially after hearing and seeing the desperation in some of these children for attention, and the promise that you wouldn’t leave them. It breaks my heart.

    (Note: I respect the hard work done by residential care unit workers, lead tenants, foster parents and social workers. I just believe adoption is another way).

    • Exactly! No-one is saying that it should be the first or only option, but it should be AN option. There needs to be better congruency and flexibility between the different care programs. It’s astounding to me that you could foster a child for a year or more, express your desire to adopt that child when family reunification is ruled out, but be denied because you’re not on that list! It’s crazy – how can that be about the best interests of the child?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s