PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called for adoption reform to tackle the plight of 50,000 vulnerable Australian children living in foster families who face the prospect of never growing up in a permanent home.
Financially incentivising the care industry has made it very profitable to keep children in care and to fast track them into adoption.
However with very little incentive to reunify children with their families and a great demand for toddlers and babies we have a recipe for disaster. The government has set up a situation where there are too many children in the out of home care industry and then complains about it so as to get societal support for fast tracking children from the care industry into adoption.
However there are many unintended consequences. Adopters want cute cuddly babies, not older children with obvious problems. So if we follow the UK and the US’s lead the outcome in those countries was that people lined up to take babies and toddlers, but children older than 3 were left languishing in the foster care system for years. Only to age out and find themselves homeless. With the introduction of quotas and extra money for moving children from care into adoptive homes social workers became creative. They started advertising children at “adoption markets” and on the internet . Then a number of adopters found they did not have the skills needed to parent the children they had gotten from the foster care system so they began to “rehome” them. In other words advertise them online and pass them on to people never screened to care for children at all.
It is a shocking state of affairs and this is what our government wants to create here – a market in babies under the guise of providing children with safe, permanent homes. The onus should be on supporting vulnerable families stay together – if one reads the research I gathered for my article: The Making of Another Stolen Generation – all the evidence is there. Do not be fooled by this smoke and mirror attempt by the government to reintroduce forced adoption under another phoney catchphrase: Saving unwanted babies; Saving orphans and now providing permanent stable homes for all the children it has forcibly taken so the out of home care industry is buckling under its own weight.
The figures for the numbers of children in foster care are inflated as over the years the same amount of children are entering care but very few are leaving – please read Tilbury’s research on this phenomenon
Excerpt from Part 4: The Making of a New Stolen Generation
Claire Tilbury conducted research that identified the reasons for the increased number of children in the foster care system. The focus has been on quick removal rather than family preservation. Children are going into care at younger ages and staying longer. Tilbury stated there are a number of dynamics at play creating obstacles for a child being reunited with its family or for family preservation strategies being implemented. Hence over time there has been an accumulation of children in the out-of –home care system. Could this be the result of privatising the care industry – as placing and keeping a child in foster care is financially expedient for the non-government organisations now contracted to facilitate care? The fact children are kept in care longer coupled with the impact of mandatory reporting creates another problem, there are not enough reputable foster carers, hence state contractors have employed foster carers that are not properly screened.[i] This has led to numerous complaints and currently many carers are under investigation. This is discussed later.
It is important for policy considerations to understand the real reason for the increase in the number children in care otherwise there will be implementation of very poor public policy. A case in point is Goward’s introduction of the punitive legislation that underpins Forced Adoption which she justifies by stating it is to curb the increase of children in foster care and to provide more stability in placement. Unfortunately this speaks more to her pro adoption agenda than resolution of a societal problem. For instance, at 30 June 2001, there were 18,241 children in out-of-home care across Australia. By 30 June 2008, this had risen by 73.6% to 31,166 children. The prevalence rate of children in care increased from 3.9 per 1000 in 2001 to 6.3 per 1000 in 2008. However, there had been little change in the number per year of children entering out-of-home care across Australia over the period.[ii] A total of 12,030 children were admitted to out-of-home care across Australia in 2000-2001 compared with 12,891 in 2007-2008, an increase of 7.2%. The rate per 1000 of admissions to out-of-home care across Australia in that period increased slightly from 2.5 to 2.6 per 1000. Hence the inflow each year has remained steady. In some states, the rate of admissions declined. In Victoria the number of admissions increased over the period by just 1%. In NSW the number of admissions decreased by 1.7% from 4,542 to 4,467 over the 8 year period.[iii]
Mandatory reporting differs across states and territories. This impacts on the number of children placed in out-of-home care in the various jurisdictions For instance, the persons who may report, the criteria used to determine types and levels of abuse that meet notification requirements are not uniform across Australia.[iv] An example of which is the following case study which highlights the fact that even after abuse in the foster care industry was exposed the numbers admitted to care increased sharply.
A Crime and Misconduct Commission Inquiry into the abuse of children in foster care commenced implementation in 2004.[v] The Commission investigated allegations of sexual and physical abuse of children in foster care. There were two investigations of misconduct conducted on officers of the Department of Families and “many other complaints” against departmental officers accessed. In short children removed from their families supposedly for their protection were placed with individuals who sexually and physically abused them. When officers were alerted to the abuse they failed to remove the child from their foster homes.[vi] The Report identified significant failings within the child protection system and concluded that “over a long period of time the Queensland child protection system itself failed to deliver the support and services required for children at risk of abuse”. It recommended a serious overhaul of the system.[vii] However Claire Tilbury noted: “It is ironic that an inquiry finding widespread abuse of children in foster care should be followed by a spike in admissions of children to foster care”.[viii]
An explanation for this spike may be that in 2005 nurses were included as mandatory reporters in Queensland under the Public Health Act 2005 (Qld.) sect 191 & 192.[ix] Additionally Queensland mandatory reporting is wide and includes notification if the person has a reason to suspect the child is “likely to be harmed” by any person (not just those who reside in the same domicile) and includes the criteria of psychological and/or emotional abuse.[x] Tilbury concludes: “Queensland data are largely responsible for a “status quo” rate of children entering care every year for Australia. If Queensland was out of the picture, or showed the same pattern as other jurisdictions, the entry rate to care each year would have declined Australia-wide”.[xi] Tilbury hypothesised that the number of children in foster care increased over the 8 years of her research because “reunification efforts waned as permanency planning captured policy attention”. And that “adversarial stances with parents have contributed to concentrating the permanency debate on adoption and permanent care orders”, rather than alternative options for stability such as keeping the family intact.[xii]
The Commission suggested that reunifications were not undertaken as there existed a conflict of interest with protection workers who on the one hand made the notification about the child being at risk and on the other selected the foster carers. To avoid this conflict it recommended that these two functions should be conducted by separate entities in which case the child had a better chance of reunification with its family.[xiii]