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Navigating the World of Adoption

It’s been an illuminating past few weeks for my husband and I. We have been in negotiations with the four different agencies that facilitate adoption in NSW, and having our initial interviews with each, as potential adoptive parents. It seems that not many people know much about this process, so I thought a quick post on the situation, as it currently stands, would be useful.

The four agencies who facilitate adoption in NSW are Barnardos, CatholicCare, Anglicare and the Department of Family and Community Services. There are several differences between these organisations. Barnardos is the only agency who exclusively deal with children who are forcibly removed from abusive or neglectful parents. These children are often traumatised, and require continuing contact with their birth families, who are also given the opportunity to repair their lives, and have their children returned to them. Adoptive parents with Barnardos need to consider the significant added difficulties of adopting a child who may not remain with them permanently, and who needs to have continuing relationships with birth families who may not be in the best situation in their own lives.

Anglicare and CatholicCare both deal exclusively with children who are voluntarily given up for adoption by their birth parents. Anglicare is currently not accepting any applications from adoptive parents, as they have many parents and not enough children to meet the demand. CatholicCare is accepting applications, but they have only had two children in the last four years to place. There are many reasons for the decline in the number of children offered for adoption, and we are now at a moment in history when there are less unwanted children and more people desperate to be parents than ever before. Contraception, abortion, welfare services for new mothers, increasingly accepting societies of mix-raced and mix-culture children and increased numbers of women delaying having children until they have established careers all mean that there are actually very few children who do not stay with their birth families.

The Department of Family and Community Services is the only government-run agency of the four. They are also the only agency which facilitates intercountry adoption. The current average wait period, from putting in an initial application, to taking home a child, is six years. There are also age limits on being adoptive parents, usually in the early 40s, and it is not uncommon, across all four agencies, for parents to be ‘aged out’ of the program, just waiting to be assigned a child.

The other thing to consider is that once adoptive parents decide to place an application with an agency, they can only apply with ONE, and are entered on a statewide register of potential parents to ensure that this is the case. For this reason, most applicants go to the Department of Family and Community Services, as they have the most number of children offered each year. Across all four agencies, only 20 children were voluntarily given up for adoption in NSW in 2014, and more than 15 of them were with the Department of Family and Community Services. The Department is also rather chronically understaffed and underfunded. The Abbott Government has made some effort to try to increase support in this area, introducing a new service, Intercountry Adoption Australia in May 2015. However, this is primarily a counselling and support service to comfort potential adoptive parents DURING the wait, rather than an actual fix to the bureaucracies that cause the wait. The hard truth is that adoption takes time, whether it is local or international, to be processed through the courts and for birth families to be given all their appropriate rights.

Brendan and I are just at the beginning of this journey, and have much more research to do, but I hope this quick summary has given some insight to others who are thinking about the process, and considering their options.


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