Adoption – Navigating The Mine Field
Talk to anybody who has attempted to adopt a child in Australia and you will hear the same story; its not easy. The process can be long, costly and emotionally draining, and the reality is that many couples eventually give up long before achieving success.
That said, the last couple of years have seen some positive changes in the law. Lobbying by adoption groups, with support from well-known Australians like Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness, has helped.
So what is the process for adopting in Australia?
There are two avenues. The first is to apply to adopt a child locally. The second is to apply for an inter-country adoption.
The Department of Community Services (DoCS) handles local adoptions in NSW, or you can go through one of their approved adoption services. With statistics showing that only 10-20 children are adopted each year in NSW, the odds of success are not high.
To adopt locally, you must be at least 21 and a NSW resident. Single people and couples can adopt. The cost to enter the program is $2,782 plus legal fees, and you will have to undergo a rather personal adoption assessment. Among other things, this includes health, age, police and financial checks, and an assessment of your skills, life experience, and ability to provide a stable environment for a child.
Inter-country adoption is even tougher. You must go through DoCS in NSW, which costs $9,700. Add to that the cost of legal fees, plus travel expenses, translation fees, and immigration application fees. Most couples who have been through this process claim it cost them upwards of $40,000.
Australia is party to the Hague Convention, an international treaty which aims to protect children. Australians can only adopt from countries that have signed this treaty, which rules out many that have not. And each approved country has a long waiting list. Even when your name has reached the top, you still have to go through that countrys legal process. It can be a frustrating experience.
Recent changes in NSW law have helped to speed up proceedings a little. For example, couples can now apply directly to the Supreme Court for an inter-country adoption order, supplying a report from a private assessor instead of relying on DoCS.
The Rudd Government has created a federal peak body to oversee inter-country adoption, advising them about relevant issues, and working to make adoption rules consistent in all states.
Many argue that far more should be done to ease the cost and reduce the length of time it takes to adopt in Australia. Suggested solutions include providing tax relief for adopting couples, and the allocation of government resources to assist more countries to join the Hague Convention.