Adoption Act Review – South Australia

 

We are a group of adults who are adopted. We wish to have input for consideration in reviewing the Adoption Act.  We believe some comments are also relevant to the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission and ask that you forward our submission to Commissioner Nyland.

As adoptees, the adoption process is supposed to act in our best interests, and for our welfare.  Yet as adult adoptees, we have found it very difficult to be fairly represented in the debates about adoption.   We believe the adoption industry has hijacked the debate to provide children for adults who find they cannot live their lives without children.  We question which children need to go into any care arrangements outside their extended families?  We also question the suitability and imagination of adults to take an authoritarian charge of another woman’s child simply because they find their lives are ‘incomplete’ without children.

We note ‘In all proceedings under this Act, the welfare of the child to whom the proceedings relate must be regarded as the paramount consideration.’  We pose the question:  What research has been done on adult adoptees to determine the long term welfare interests of the adopted child?  And further ask at what age an adoptee may take on the full legal status of other adult humans, and be entitled to their own identifying information, and to claim and embrace their whole history.

The current debate about making adoptions easier, concerns us greatly.  We do not support using adoptions to privatise foster care for children whose parents are unable to care for them. These debates do not consider the unanticipated costs of adoption to the adoptive parents or to adoptees over their life-time, because they are private expenses the individuals themselves have to meet.  The costs to government and their legal liability are reduced when foster care numbers are reduced.  Then there is no incentive for governments to improve foster care so that children do not have to experience numerous placements.    Most importantly there is no incentive for governments to strengthen family networks that are fragmenting or disintegrating in a market based economy, which is creating bigger divisions between those with wealth and educational opportunities, and those in poverty.  Governments need to alleviate the poverty and provide the education and infrastructure to deal with affordable housing, mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems and intergenerational child abuse.   When children are asked by the media, whether they would rather have been adopted instead of fostered, the children are responding to a mythological presentation of adoption; that adoption will provide them with security in a happy family without problems.  There is little research available to show the ongoing impacts and outcomes for Adoptees.  The children are never asked if they would prefer that their parents get the help they need to be able to successfully care for them.

The construct of adoption.

Adoption has been used as a social solution to provide children for adults who want them.  It severs the child’s birthright identity.  Yet it is couched in a model that defines ‘angel (sometime ‘celebrity’) rescuers saving deserving children from the tyranny of dysfunctional families.  In times past women were demonised for being unmarried mothers.  Currently we understand the demons are often drugs and alcohol.  Wars and disease in poverty stricken areas of the world are a convenient source of ‘orphans’.  Many children would be able to be kept by their mothers and extended families if the families received suitable support to deal with such problems as poverty and possible histories of illness, invasions and abuse.  Children’s best interests and welfare would be best served by supporting their families wherever possible, not in searching for new families.  There will always be more children in need of care than places for them to move to, and only the youngest, prettiest and smartest will be chosen by the ‘saviours’ who want to ‘help’.  What of the others; where we allow some to be chosen, there will always be a majority who are not chosen.  There is a need for a model of child welfare that supports all children in families through poverty alleviation and education.  This model would be in the interests of the children and the nation.  It would leave childless couples, instead of acquiring someone else’s child, in a position if they so wished, to use their ‘philanthropic’ instincts to give time and finances to child centred programs, in the manner of ‘maiden aunts’ of times gone by.  For the cost of adopting a child they could support whole villages of children.

The welfare of the child’.

 When we enter into discussions about the welfare of the child, how do we define the terms – child, and welfare?  Under the current adoption laws an adopted child remains an adopted child sentenced for life.  The child never attains an age where it can become entitled to its own identifying information, history, ancestory, family medical anomalies etc.  The term ‘welfare’ raises more issues than the term ‘child’.  If we look at the immediate issues of removing a child from danger – which must obviously be done, does that amount to the same as removing a child from that danger for the rest of its life?  How do we define ‘danger’?  I believe many of us were removed from the ‘dangerous’ stigma of being raised by a single mother when Church and State deemed single mothers to be a danger to male authoritarian power.  Do we now remove children from parents who are drug and/or gambling addicted even though the State fully supports and profits from the sale of drugs and proceeds of gambling?

Adoption is not just about re-housing children; it is about creating new identities.  With the current knowledge of embryology, neurobiology and psychology adoption can no longer be framed as ‘being in the best interest of the child’.  We know a child at birth is not a ‘blank slate’ waiting for a stranger to write their own story onto.  We know adoptees have always been over-represented in juvenile courts, detention centres, adult prisons and mental health facilities, yet State authorities and most professional counsellors draw no relationship to the status of adoption. In our view adoption as it has been practiced is child abuse and needs to cease.  We remain powerless in the face of an adoption act that binds us to an identity that is not our own.  New legal arrangements need to recognise that a newborn child already has a 9 month relationship with its mother and is not psychically prepared for separation at birth.  Any subsequent relationships are only a part of the child’s identity.

It needs to be recognised that the person has been given at least 2 sets of parents; one by birthright and at least one other by government intervention and possibly others through choice.  All are incorporated in the person’s identity, and probably none of them will feel like a complete and proper fit, or their place of eternal belonging.

From our experience of adoption we think it is highly likely there is an ancient echo in the souls of many people who no longer have detailed knowledge of their roots, which once was predominant in tribal families.  Our birth family, sometimes with the help of medical manipulation of DNA gives us our ancestral lines back to the beginning of time.  It is the genealogical family tree that so many people are currently interested in constructing.  It is the family history interest in the population that new television programs such as ‘Who do you think you are?’ pander to.  It is the DNA medical practitioners enquire about whenever we go to the doctor with a problem, and get asked ‘Is there any family history of . . . ?’  There is an assumption in our society that we know our roots, and our roots matter.  These things confront us regularly and such questioning in medical settings is a constant reminder of our difference, deprivation and powerlessness.

Where is the immediate and long term research on the outcomes for children who have been adopted that can support any discussion of ‘best interests’?

When I was studying Social Work around 1980, I was able to find research showing adoptees were disproportionally highly represented in juvenile court appearances (where they were more often unaccompanied than birth children), in jails, and in mental institutions.  Yet I cannot find any ongoing research.  We find overseas studies showing adopted children have higher suicide ideation and commit suicide at about 4 times the rate of the non-adopted same age population.  We find an addiction specialist (Paul Sunderland) who has identified a strong connection between adoptee status and addictions.  We have had two celebrity adoptees suicide in the last years, without any mention of their adoption experiences.  In fact one family said adoption did not affect the dead adoptee because she was treated as any one of the family.  We don’t doubt she was.  We don’t doubt that it was a good family that did its best.  But in denying that adoption has any effect on the adoptee, the adoptee is denied the space to tell her own story; her story which includes more than her adopted life.

The Forced Adoption Apology process surveyed parties to adoption.  Adoptees were by far the largest respondent group.  Some analysis was done on the responses, and adoptees were found to have mental health and other health and welfare consequences from adoption.  Responding to the survey was a self-selection process.  Some of us were lucky to know about it because of involvement with a Post Adoption support group.  Many adoptees did not know about it, so could not have responded.  For adoptees who are known to have mental health issues at a higher rate than the general population, what is the likelihood that many did not have a chance to respond; there was no attempt to survey jails, mental health institutions, and homeless shelters.  If you want to represent the views of adoptees, (and we would argue that was not the purpose of that particular survey), you would need to approach many government services, including Certrelink and survey their clients for adoptees.  This would have the dual benefit of alerting the State to the current welfare of adult adoptees, and adoptees to the possible relationship of their health and welfare status to their adoption status.

We believe there should be an investigation into the number of adoptees who commit suicide.  The best way would be to compare ‘amended birth certificates’ with cause of death for all those who have died.  A less satisfactory way but better than nothing, would be for the coroner to be alerted to recording adoption status on death certificates of adoptees.  We believe this is done for suicide cases in Western Australia, but no one has ever collated the data.

It is a great concern to us that a celebrity Debra Lee Furness is leading the push to make adoptions quicker and easier for prospective adopters in the Eastern states. She is an adopter and has an influential position with Tony Abbott. We believe she had Federal funding for the National Adoption Awareness Week which did not represent the interests of adoptees from the point of view of people who had been adopted. Like other celebrities often do, she creates the myth she lives within. She adopted her children in America as new born babies because she would never have qualified as an adopter in Australia. It is our belief that the birth mother of one of Debra’s adopted children committed suicide when Debra refused to honor the pre-adoption agreement for contact and on-going information. Debra was shown in an ABC documentary taking a child from the delivery room as if she was acquiring a ‘blank slate’ and no one challenged this outdated and always erroneous idea. Furness has been able to have her voice heard as if she is some expert with authority in the field of child psychology and/or adoptions. She began speaking out soon after the Forced Adoption Apology as if it was a non-event. And it is our experience as adoptees that the issues adoptees face in their lives have yet to be heard.

When does an adoptee become an adult with the same legal rights as any other?

Adoption is an ongoing legal process which denies adoptees their basic human rights of identity, and prevents us achieving the status of functional human adults who can be trusted to own our identifying information.  We are born free in our birth families, but we are indentured to a procuring family through adoption.  In many cases the procuring family has paid large sums of money to many profiteers involved in the industry.  This money does not benefit the birth family, nor does it provide anything for the welfare and ongoing lifelong costs of the adoptee.

A new approach to caring for children who can no longer be, or temporarily cannot be cared for by their parents, needs to be devised.  In any case ‘adoption’ and any alternate care orders should cease to bind the adoptee when attaining  the age of adulthood (currently 18), because there is no longer a need for government intervention or continuing court orders in the person’s life -unless the need is for something other than adoption.  At the same time the person should become entitled to all their records held by government departments, statutory bodies and agencies that have been contracted to provide government services.  Parents who have their children adopted need to know they will be asked again at this time for all their medical history to be updated for the benefit of their now- adult child.

What we know about child development and continue to ignore in the interests of marketing babies is this:

For the 9 months prior to birth, the embryo is developing in preparation to meet its mother.  Its rapidly developing brain is learning the sounds, smells and tastes of its mother.  Within a day or two of birth the baby can identify its mother, and her milk.  There has been a new term coigned as the ‘fourth trimester’ of pregnancy in acknowledgement of the importance of the early connection after birth of the child and mother.  If the child does not meet its mother in this time, there is no comfort of familiarity, and it is likely there will be no comfort of familiarity for its whole life.  The baby brain has to dissociate that foundational learning and start again with a whole new experience of language, sounds, smells and tastes. When this happens more than once, there can never be a solid foundation to grow on.  Paul Sunderland refers to this dissociation at birth as a loss that is remembered but not recalled.  It sits in the memory, and drives primitive survival mechanisms which do not serve us well.  We experience this as a life-long dis-ease, anxiety state and continuing dissociation of identity, phasing in and out of conversations and other situations.  Sunderland sees it as the underlying issue in addictive behaviours, and says while adopted people may not appear particularly depressed, when they are scored on a measuring instrument, they are almost off the scale.  We learned to hide our emotions at a young age.  The mother of one of member said of her daughter ‘she didn’t seem depressed’; the member has had a diagnosis of depression most of her adult life.

We know adoptees suffer from ambiguous loss, sustained disenfranchised grief and ongoing trauma and often have an inability to function adequately due to freezing in the face of triggers in the same manner as a Post-Traumatic Stress response.  We have more mental health problems than the general population, with depression, substance abuse and suicidal ideology rife.  Adoptees have always been over-represented in medical and legal services.  We do not know the full extent of these problems because adoption is a social experiment that was never evaluated, and is such a successful market opportunity for entrepreneurs exploiting the ‘needs’ of childless people to have children.

Adoptees voices on the whole have been shut out of the media unless they have a ‘happy story’.  It is only the advent of social media with the internet that has enabled us to form communities where we can talk about the very real issues of our lives.  We discovered even the self-described ‘happy adoptees’ usually have shaky foundations.  Where once we might have said that our adoption had no effect on us, it was only through a lack of understanding of the connection between our lived experiences and our beginnings to life.  Many of us did not have, and still do not have doctors and counsellors who can make connections between our episodes of depression, extreme grief reactions and relationship difficulties to our beginnings in life, yet we find this information is available, but not well known.  We pay exorbitant amounts for therapy that does not necessarily address our core issues because most therapists have no idea that adoptees have any core issues!  Certainly I would have described the effects of adoption quite differently at different times in my life, and it is only now in older age, I appreciate how very much of my life has been shaped by adoption, and how subsequent experiences of loss have led to long periods of depression.  I have always blamed myself for being inadequate to meet the demands of others, and carry shame and guilt learnt in my adoptive family.   I have heard other mature age adoptees express similar sentiments.

It is our experience that people who ‘need’ children to make themselves ‘whole’ are unsuitable parents.  People need to have a sense of their own ‘wholeness’ before they can successfully incorporate another woman’s child into their lives, and still allow the child to find or express its own true nature.  Many of us were replacements for miscarried or dead children, or for children who were never conceived through the expense of IVF.  Through the lens of their own grief and losses these childless adults, could not see us as little people with our own destinies to fulfil, and we grew up ‘knowing’ our purpose in life was to keep everybody happy by denying ourselves.  We learned fast to be ‘good children’, to toe the line, to perfect perfectionism and become overachievers, and thus fulfil the hopes of the adopters for their vicarious glories.  While there was an implicit silence around adoption, we still picked up messages like: ‘you need to be happy:  we need this to be good’.  Our destinies were altered to become the child needed to fill the hole in someone else’s fantasies.  This inevitably led some of us to implosion or explosion with depression and anger.

Re-empowerment of adoptees on reaching adulthood

In memory of the fact that adoption was performed for the ‘best interests of the child’, this should be re-enacted when the child reaches 18.  No considerations that conflict with the needs of adoptees to know their personal information should be given to other parties to the adoption after that age.  We were never a consenting party to the adoption arrangements in the first place.  The new legislation needs to provide for the Adoption Authorities to finalise involvement with the adoption case when an adopted person becomes 18, and immediately for all older adoptees.  All information on record needs to be made available to the adoptee when it is requested, without the need for further form filling and about town run-arounds.  Adopted people should always have access to their one and only true record of birth without the need to purchase amended and thus falsified certificates.

The new legislation needs to provide for the Adoption Authorities to send a final letter to the birth family when they are finalising their involvement with the case.  The letter needs to explain the need for more information that was not previously collected.  The adoptee is entitled to know the names of their mother and father, and to have updated medical information about them.

The Department needs to admit, that in the light of new knowledge, it is important for many adoptees to know about their origins.  (This should apply for children formed through IVF and surrogacy as well.)  In the case of the Forced Adoption Era, they need to apologise for not getting information about the baby’s father.  Many adoption agencies did not record the information because they did not want to complicate the adoption by having to seek the father’s permission as well as the mother’s for the child to be adopted outside of its family.  They did not predict adoptees would want that information.  They now know adoptees do want it, and it needs to be given to them.  The department should apologise for the further anguish this may cause mothers.  But the alternative is to continue denying vital information to adults that should be theirs as a basic human right.  If they had ever acted in the best interests of the child all of this information would have been collected in the first place and be available to the adopted person when they reached adulthood and first requested it.

We know adoptees need identifying information to resolve their own identities to satisfy their constructed self.  We know that prohibiting access to such identifying information results in feelings of powerlessness especially in attitudes to authorities and affects peoples’ ability to form sustainable relationships in life. We now know old promises made to birth families and adopters were not in the interests of adoptees.  Vetos must be abolished.  Governments have no problems breaking promises in many other matters when it suits them, especially in the light of new information.  This is such a case.   It is painful to contemplate.  But it needs to be done, so adoptees have a way of resolving their own identities. Most of us have never had a genetic family as a point of reference for life stages which might have offered some security in our identity formation. Our birth families already had a life before losing their children; we have been in protective custody all of our lives.

In the light of the above discourse it is difficult to address the restrictions imposed by an old Adoption Act, and the categories for review.  As adoptees we would frame the review differently.  But in the interests of meeting the criteria we would like to say this:

adoption information vetoes

  • The Act should be altered to provide for a letter to be sent by the Department to advise that information vetoes are ending, and the varying needs of the other parties for their information is paramount. It needs to acknowledge that this is best practice in the light of new information about the mental health of all parties to adoption that has come from the recent federal government reports. Each party to adoption should be given the opportunity to include information that was not collected previously. All information held by all departments and agencies should be made available to the parties who experienced losses due to adoption.

 

  • We also support the abolition of contact vetoes. We recognize this may be difficult for some people who were promised anonymity. If a person can make a substantiated claim for exceptional circumstances there may be a case for some exceptions, but we cannot think of any we would support. It certainly should not be allowed on the grounds of protecting the anonymity of the people who created the child in their younger years. We all grow up. We all need to take responsibility, even when it is hard. Our parents need to accept that we are no longer babies and we are entitled to be treated as responsible adults. All parties to adoption have the same rights as any other member of the public to apply for an Apprehended Violence Order if they are receiving unwarranted attention from anyone.
  • Remembering the welfare of the child to whom the proceedings relate must be regarded as the paramount consideration – Information vetoes need to be abolished. Keeping records secret is destructive to adoptees and not in the best interests of the child. Adoptees need identifying information. While we cannot speak for mothers, we have heard and genuinely believe mothers need to know what happened to their children. Too many innocent people are hurt by state sanctioned secrets.

adoption of a person over the age of 18 years

  • A young adult of 18 years who has not had satisfactory family relationships in childhood will always have a tension between wanting to be part of a loving family and the need for independence and freedom to form new adult relationships. This tension should not be resolved by binding Adoption Orders. Adoption has a bad history of disempowering adoptees. We would suggest a new name be found for a family that wants to form a relationship for young adults to join older adults as a family. It could be a relationship such as ‘defacto’ is to a marriage relationship. It has some legal recognition, but not the same as the inflexible act of adoption.

 

  • We have a member who was adopted as a 20year old adult; she was vulnerable in her needs because she had spent her whole life in an orphanage. Her mother was alive all the time she was in the orphanage. She was married and pregnant when she consented to the adoption. She regrets consenting to the adoption. She has come under some conditions she could not anticipate as a young adult and she finds she cannot change the conditions because she consented to them as an adult. Marriages can be discontinued legally, but adoptions apparently can not.
  • We do not agree with any form of adoption that severs the primary relationship of mother and child, whatever age the child. Adoption does not and cannot guarantee any particular future for anyone even though people assume some security in an adoption relationship. Adoption as it currently stands is about ownership and cannot guarantee security or an inheritance.

retention of the child’s birth names

  •  A child should retain its birth name unless it has never been known by that name. In a contested custody case, a Family Court counsellor once told me that a child’s name is basic to its identity, and I had to ask him to explain how that works for adoptees! You cannot argue that it is OK to change names without damage for some children but not for others. Your name ties you back into your identity. The only person who should be allowed to change the child’s name is the child. The child should not be bound by any adoption order to use a name it does not relate to.

same-sex couples and adoption and

single person adoption   

  • We consider it is not the sexuality or marital status of the adopters, it is the effects of inferring in the adoption process that the adoption experience will be normalised, that somehow love will be enough, that there are no effects of separating an infant from its mother.
  •  While we do not support surrogacy either, we are aware that many people are going overseas to arrange children through ‘surrogacy’. This appears to be a good option to some same sex couples and single people who, like other couples think they should have a child because they want one and can afford the fortune involved in surrogacy costs. The ‘commissioning parents’ consider the birth mother to be the surrogate, when in fact it is obvious they are the surrogates. But it seems these children are without any documentation and have no nationality and are in fact state-less. We assume ‘adoption’ laws will be needed to give these children some identifying information, even if it is false. In this case it is important not to discriminate on relationship types or status. A child born overseas for surrogate parents in Australia has already had too much disruption to be denied a simple solution to state-hood. While these children may not have a birth certificate, it is vital that birth and genetic information be recorded in the adoption records for the child to access when of age.
  • We do not support adoption, but we believe there should not be any discrimination between different relationship forms in any Acts of Parliament. If adoptions are to continue, the most suitable parents with a long term commitment to love, care and understand and not abuse the needs of adoptees should be selected regardless of their adult relationships.

discharge of adoption orders in certain circumstances.

  •  All adoption orders should be able to be discharged when the child becomes an adult, or earlier if the relationship is unsatisfactory for the child. This should not affect the ability of the child to make a claim on the estate of the adoptive family. It can never be the fault of the child that it turned out to be something the family did not want after all, or was unable to nurture satisfactorily. The child was never party to the contract.

 We would like to add another category for consideration:

 Original Birth Certificates. It seems obvious to us that a child can only have one birth certificate. The birth certificate should name the mother who gave birth, and the father, or sperm donor as appropriate. Modern technology is making life more complicated, and where eggs are obtained from other women, each person contributing material to the embryo should be named.

The child is not born again when it is adopted. There is no justification for issuing an amended birth certificate. A certificate of adoption would be appropriate for a person who is adopted. Falsified birth certificates were first issued to maintain the secrecy of adoption. Medical Science has moved on to the point where almost every person will sooner or later find their DNA does not match their adoptive parents. This can happen through any number of medical procedures such as the need for blood transfusions.

We have members who are ‘late discoverers’ of their adoption status. The shock of a late discovery causes a complete dissembling of identity, and for some people there is a breakdown and overwhelming depression – especially if they find that many people they trusted have known all their lives. Some have had ‘mad’ explanations of how they came into the family, to avoid discussions of adoption. Secrets are not in the interests of the child; nor are amended birth certificates. The best interests of the child are served by having the truth introduced as a story that can develop at a level appropriate to the child as it ages; not a story that gets changed as time goes by over a lifetime.

How to empower adoptees that have been disenfranchised.

Adoptees many of whom were removed from their families by State and Church intervention have continuing health and welfare costs. They should not have to pay for the mistaken judgments of people acting in ‘their best interests’. Adoptees need to be able to explore adoption issues by accessing competent services which are not part of the adoption industry. We believe we should be entitled to an ‘Adoptee Medical Health Card’ ensuring we do not have to continue paying for health services. Money that was allocated to Medicare by the Forced Adoption Apology process that was meant to fund such services was never made available to us, and we believe it disappeared into general revenue. It was also limited in the number of services available each year. Adoptees who have rejection, abandonment and lack of trust issues take quite a few sessions with an individual doctor or counsellor to begin to open up to the possibility of help being available from any particular person. Once trust is established the therapeutic relationship needs to continue as long as it is needed.

Currently the only service for adoptees in South Australia is provided through Relationships Australia and we have not found them to be satisfactory for our needs. They take the position of experts who know more about being adopted than we do, but they have never encouraged peer group interaction to learn from adoptees’ experiences. They have historically seen their role with adoptees as only needing help to link adoptees to their birth families, or to provide counselling around the failure to be able to make the links. They do not recognise the on-going trauma of separation at birth; the ongoing high levels of anxiety which began in the hormone soup before birth when our mothers were mistreated by medical authorities as retribution for their misdemeanors of becoming unwed mothers, or the disenfranchised loss which compounds with subsequent life losses; and they are unable to provide a sense of safety in their support group for people previously exposed to trauma. After I had 4 close friends (my ‘family’ of choice) die in a 12 month period, they thought I would be better served by being sent to Anglicare Loss and Grief Service. Anglicare had no idea how my enormous grief linked to my adoption status, even though Relationships Australia claimed to have trained Anglicare’s counsellors in adoption matters!. Many adoptees leave the services without trace and nobody follows up why they don’t return. After the National Apology there were a number of us who became more aware that our own needs were not recognized nor validated by anyone in Relationships Australia and we formed our own unfunded peer group, ‘IdentityRites’.

Some of us were recently in an unrelated group run by Relationships Australia with other parties to Adoption. The facilitator did not show any understanding of the issues of adoption. There was an adoptive mother of an overseas child. She described an incident where the child had been left alone long enough to do some damage to new household furnishings, which greatly upset her and her husband. I cringed as I remembered a similar incident in my childhood which ended any of my endeavors at creativity. The next week she told us she must be doing something right because at least her child sleeps right through the night. She said they had been advised to co-sleep with the child between them for security when first bringing her home to a foreign land. She and her husband agreed that was not going to happen and they put her in her own room and she has never disturbed them through the night. I could not say what I know. I could not tell her that I would never have disturbed my parents through the night either. I would stay in my bed where I was expected to be, with all the fears of rejection for company and depression immobilizing me. She told us they got it right because the co-sleepers had disturbed nights. I thought of the lucky children whose parents had listened to the experience of others and were able to offer their children comfort when they woke up at night scared and needing reassurance. I wanted to tell the woman – if she could not reassure her child at night, she should not leave her alone through the day and get upset when the child finds something to do with herself. But I didn’t. I let the woman tell us – she would not have adopted a child if she had known how much trouble it would be. We said – ‘but surely you were told’ and she said ‘yes – but I thought I was better than the others’. Who assesses the success of post adoption services? In whose best interests are adoptions continuing?

In conclusion:

Until research has been conducted on the lived experiences of adoptees, including all early deaths whatever the cause, including suicides, there can be no claims made about the success of adoption policy. Nor can it be said that adoption is in the best interests of the child, nor is it child-focussed. The best interests of the child are served by adequate pre-natal care and education and poverty alleviation so the parents are in a position with skills to care for their own children. Adoption privatises government responsibility and expense of foster-care for the child into life-long health and welfare expenses for the adult adoptee. Stop the abuse of foster-care children by media asking them if they would rather be adopted. Nobody asks them if they would rather their parents or extended families could access help to keep them.

Mature age adoptees should be included as a consultative group in all matters dealing with adoption. And provision needs to be made for an independent peer run support group who can represent and advocate for the rights of adoptees.

Sofie Gregory

on behalf of IdentityRites.

24 February 2015

 

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About sofie gregory

I'm an adoptee; co-founder of the group IdentityRites - peer support and advocacy for adoptees.
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14 Responses to Adoption Act Review – South Australia

  1. kimcoull says:

    Sofia, this is an OUTSTANDING and utterly compelling charter you have written. As a LDA, I feel and applaud every single word you have written here. I am in awe of what you have accomplished with this. I am so sorry I hadn’t seen it sooner. It covers so much so brilliantly and succinctly. I am personally grateful to you for it and will spread the word. I have noted so many moments in this piece that moved me, arrested me, stilled me. It is SUCH an important charter. I am passing this on where I can and if I can be of any further assistance in any way please let me know.

    • Thank you for your kind sentiments. If you want to pass it on, it needs to have the supplement included with it. We did not intend to promote adoption for surrogacy arrangements. Someone read it that way, and we made an additional statement about surrogacy, because it has all the same problems for the baby as we have experienced in adoption.

  2. kimcoull says:

    Reblogged this on Kim Coull and commented:
    Sofia Gregory and co-founder of the group IdentityRites has written an utterly compelling and important charter with regard to Adoptee Rights: ADOPTION ACT REVIEW- SOUTH AUSTRALIA. I wish to share this.

  3. Shirley Anne says:

    Thank you for this article. I was abused after adoption by my new adoptive dad. My mom remarried when I was about four years old and my sister was about three, and my adoptive dad went through the process to adopt us – the adoption went through the courts and the government sanctioned adoption agency and a social worker visited us and we got his surname and he is now listed as our dad on our birth certificates. Yet a few years later he began to sexually abuse me and my sister. How are abusers able to slip through the adoption assessment process? It would have been better if he had remained a step-dad, and we could have gotten his surname via a simple change of surname process. I couple of weeks ago, I asked the Child Protection Services Royal Commission if stories of abuse after adoption can be heard, but they said that their submission window has closed and I can’t give them my story to be heard. I hope the adoption process does change, and I hope that government agencies take extra care when “giving away” children to people who might then abuse them and who still often then later refer to the children as “step” even though the children are then legally full family.

    • I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s new partner. It is sad that there are no checks in circumstances like yours, or at any time after adoptions. Children need more education at schools about their rights, so at least they know when they could expect to have someone care about what is happening to them. I hope there will be changes to the whole ‘Child Protection System’ in SA to recognise that relationships can be formed without the need to alter children’s identities, and to procure ownership. I am interested to hear about your attempt to be heard at the Royal Commission. I wonder if they would have heard an ‘adoption’ case if you had made a submission earlier? I think ‘adoption’ should be recognised as an institution in the same way other care arrangements are.

      • Shirley Anne says:

        Thank you. My first port of call was the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, but their initial reply to me has been that abuse after adoption falls into the “family” only category, which they say is outside their terms of reference. I wrote back to them a couple of weeks ago and said that I disagreed because adoptions are signed off by institutions, and hopefully they will include adoption into their hearings at some point so that the process may change – maybe if some more people send their stories to them they will. I googled abuse after adoption and there have been quite a few of these cases, including where adopted children who were deemed to be problems were given back. I hope the adoption process does change, especially for prospective adoptive parents to be screened more carefully and to be visited after adoption. I heard of a child care model in an orphanage in Africa, via the Watoto choir who toured Australia, where a certain number of children are housed in a home environment with one allocated house mother, and there are a few of these houses in a collective “village orphanage”, and I imagine that if something happens to the house mother, that they will replace the house mother with another, but at least the children have a steady and stable home environment, which I thought was really great.

      • Thank you for the information. I’ll follow it up and see if we can get more people to apply. I agree that adoption is an ‘institutional’ care arrangement. It is not our birth-right family. It is instituted by a court.
        I was also impressed by that village collective home as a model of child care. I think there is a lot more honesty and greater care for the children is possible if it is done well. The children are not isolated and can feel like part of something that is common to all of them. The reasons they are not with their own families are not hidden. And I think that possibility that the children remain in the same supported environment if there needs to be a change of house parents is important.

      • Shirley Anne says:

        I was so impressed by the article that’s written here, and I hope you put it forward to Associate Professor Hallahan who is in charge of the Adoption Act review – the website says that you are able to schedule a face to face appointment with her to discuss input: http://yoursay.sa.gov.au/yoursay/adoption-act-review.

        A care model where children are in the same “family” for life in a village home must surely be better than being moved around in foster care, and better even than adoption based on the points you have raised. I feel that in many cases of adoption, children probably feel obligated to express appreciation for someone having been kind enough to take them in, so there may be a guilt aspect at play. Children need stability above all else, and research has shown that children who are abused, but who stay in their family homes, have better outcomes than children who are removed into care (e.g. nccpr.info/the-evidence-is-in-foster-care-vs-keeping-families-together-the-definitive-studies/). It is therefore imperative to rather help families who have problems, and to have regular visits to such families, rather than remove children, and in my own family, my sister was more terrified of being taken away by child welfare than of the abuse, and therefore she never reported our dad, but she deteriorated when she was kicked out of the home in favour of our dad staying, thus she was rejected by our mom, and rejection during childhood is surely one of the ills that damage people for life.

        People may remain anonymous when they submit stories to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, and, even if people attend a public hearing, they may use a pseudonym and have testimony heard off camera.

        Thanks again for such an amazing initiative.

      • You are obviously well read on these matters. It is hard to quantify how much abuse is too much before a child should be removed, but we do know that for many children who are removed the outcomes can be worse than they were in their families. The only real solution for the child is for the parents to get supervised help to learn to be parents, and there are no such facilities now. I have always been in favour of the small group home because the children can socialise with others with similar problems and good house parents could aid healing by acknowledging the pain the children have gone through.
        The paper you read, and the supplement in a separate document addressing surrogacy were the submissions made on behalf of a group I belong to called IdentityRites (http://www.identityrites.org/). We have had a couple of meetings to discuss the issues raised, and others that were brought to our attention in the meetings. I’m glad we had the opportunity to organise and speak as a group, and thank you for your kind sentiments.

  4. Shirley Anne says:

    Just thought to mention that input needs to be provided to the Adoption Act Review by 5pm today, the 30th May 2015, so I hope you have sent all you want to for inclusion before the input closes: http://yoursay.sa.gov.au/yoursay/adoption-act-review Hope your voices are heard!

    • We made this submission almost as soon as we heard about the opportunity, then sent the additional information soon after. We met with Prof Hallahan and were very encouraged that our voices had been heard. Of course she will have just as passionate submissions from many interest groups, but in the end, adoption is supposed to be about the best interests of those of us who get adopted. So let’s hope we get somewhere.

      • Shirley Anne says:

        Thanks! So glad to hear that! I’m sending a final submission through now because of something that occurred to me this morning.

      • I hope you are OK. Whatever occurred I’m glad you got your submission in. The more voices for us the better.

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