A STOLEN GENERATION IN THE MAKING
Alternative to Adoption: Kinship Care
It would be very useful if research from other disciplines was utilised to inform child welfare practice. The outcome would be better informed public policy. Focusing on meeting the needs of middle class, infertile couples, irrespective of the impacts on the actual mother, father and child is the way Forced Adoption has been and is being conducted. Prioritising the satiation of one group’s needs over others leads to dehumanisation, human and civil rights abuses and the exploitation, of those in a less powerful position. It also leads to a narrow perspective and bias in research which in turn leads to poor policy and social outcomes. For instance, because of the normalisation of forced removals and adoption by strangers few realise that traditional adoption was very different. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle in adoptions is accepted because it is understood that the permanent extinguishment of parental rights and transfer of the child to an alien family is considered to have no place in Aboriginal culture. Few realise that closed secret adoption was also alien in western culture until last century. In fact traditional adoption as opposed to modern was usually done within the family, so it in effect was kinship.
The second noteworthy feature of human adoption is its kin-preferential tendency. The link between this feature and evolutionary theory is the concept of kin selection: where feasible, natural selection promotes preferential treatment of relatives over nonrelatives, and parental solicitude is only a special case of this more general benevolence toward relatives.
Misinformation in adoption abounds. The only way to explain the phenomenon is to understand we are dealing with a very emotive issue. It is highly contested space. On the one hand we have an infertile couple compelled to adopt to meet a very deep biological and psychosocial need and on the other, a vulnerable mother, father and infant.
Whilst doing my doctoral thesis I noted that a lot of research was conducted by adoptive parents, adoption agencies, right wing Christian think tanks aligned with anti-abortion groups, all with an agenda: promote adoption as a normal way to form a family. Hence any research that promotes adoption, irrespective of whether it is rigorous or sound, is grabbed hold of and given far more credence than it deserves. Whilst copious amounts of research, evidence and testimony that adoption is dangerous is disregarded. For instance, Professors Daly and Wilson have done an enormous amount of research, over 30 years, on parental investment and the biological impulse to favour one’s kin as opposed to strangers. This understanding has important ramifications for out-of-home care and in particular adoption. Since it is infertile couples who are demanding that they be provided with other people’s babies. There work can be summed up in a quote from one of their studies:
Stepparenthood has turned out to be the most powerful epidemiological risk factor for child abuse and child homicide yet known. Moreover, non-violent discrimination against stepchildren is substantial and ubiquitous.
The above study certainly does not find that all stepparents abuse, but what Daly & Wilson do say is the risk to unrelated children is so much greater than that posed by biologically related parents, especially one’s mother. It is research that is well supported.
Yet I noted that one study, conducted by Hamilton, Cheng and Powell (2007) is being used by vested interests to debunk their work. It conveniently supports the political agenda of promoting adoption over other family forms. I looked at the study and found that it was based on the self evaluations of adoptive parents about the parental investment they made in their First Grade adopted children. The study concluded that adoptive families invested more time and money than other alternative family forms and were on par and exceeded, on some of the variables tested, investments made by biological parents. For instance adoptees had access to more books and were more likely to own a computer. The study was framed through the adopters’ perspective not the child’s. The study did not focus on levels of abuse, long term outcomes or incorporate the now copious research on the mental and physical problems faced by adoptees. Another study, similar to Hamilton’s was undertaken by Kyle Gibson (2009). However Gibson had a strong caveat.
The results show that parents invested more in adopted children than in genetically related ones, especially in educational and personal areas. At the same time, adoptees experienced more negative outcomes. They were more likely to have been arrested, to have been on public assistance and to require treatment for drug, alcohol or mental health issues. They also completed fewer years of schooling and were more likely to divorce. In adoptive families, it appears that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Parents invest more in adoptees not because they favour them, but because they are more likely than genetic children to need the help.
This supported a briefly mentioned point in Hamilton et al’s earlier findings:
Adoptive children have significantly lower reading, math, and general knowledge scores than children from all, but a few alternative family configurations. When we account for sociodemographic characteristics … adoptive children show significantly lower test scores than most children. These findings suggest that without these parental resources, adoptive children would perform worse in school.
Research criticising Hamilton et al’s methodology, a large longitudinal study that incorporates the children’s (teenagers) perspective, is not mentioned.
By focusing on differences between families of different structures (intact, adoptive, step families), many existing studies are limited … because they offer purely descriptive accounts and neglect multiple confounding factors.
Maybe because its findings are less convenient:
In all respects stepchildren do provide lower assessments of the relationships to their parents than biological children do.
The conclusion of their analysis was that biological parenthood matters and that when within-family relationships are taken into account adults privilege their own biological children over a strangers’. In contrast to Hamilton et al’s findings, vis-à-vis degree of parental investment and support, they state:
No single investment indicator would reflect this overall degree, given that parents make up lower investment in one area with higher investment in other areas. We therefore regard the combined subjective assessment of parental care and closeness of the parent-child relationship from the perspective of the child as a good approximation of the overall degree of parental attention and investment the child has received. Whenever possible, information from the parental questionnaire was used to replace missing values in the answers of adolescents.
Their research supports the findings of Daly & Wilson.
Understanding children are safer with kin and preferring kinship placement over adoption by strangers means a total upheaval of our out-of-home care system. Australia’s care system is founded on the belief that children need to be removed from their dangerous families. It is the default response.
However numerous research studies reject the above belief and rather support the fact that children are safer brought up by kin; far safer than with adoptive, foster and stepparents. For instance children are a 100 times more likely to be fatally injured by non-related care takers than they are by their biological parents. Specifically; unrelated males. A 1989 study by the University of Iowa found non-biological fathers four times more likely than natural fathers to sexually abuse children in their care.
Regrettably, those with a vested interest have used flawed research to justify the high policing of single mother headed families. The reality is that children of single-parent families, sans a non-related male, were found to be at the least risk of intentional or unintentional abuse or fatal injury, while children who lived with neither biological parents were at greatest risk overall for injury of any type. The figures for unintentional fatalities ranged between 2 and 15 times greater for stepchildren than for those from intact biological families. Children who lived with neither of their biological parents were even more substantially overrepresented in all fatality categories. Yet single mothers are the most vulnerable group with respect to having their children forcibly removed. This has devastating and life long consequences on them, as once their taken, their mental and physical health are known to” deteriorate rapidly”.
Since evidence indicates that it is not the mother, but the non-biologically related male, who is most likely to cause harm, researchers recommend that affordable child care be provided to support single mothers. They argue that this will lead to a decrease in the risk of child abuse, by men who have: “limited child care experience and emotional commitment”. The authors concluded that by supporting single mothers and preparing male-biological fathers as well as other male caregivers by making available subsidized child care; visits by nurses to high-risk homes, and instructional programs, there would be a considerable reduction in the risk of inflicted injury.
Unrelated females are more likely to abuse their step/foster/adopted children. Stepmothers were more likely than biological mothers to have exhibited violence towards and beat an unrelated child, previously injure that child, and come to the attention of authorities for child abuse. Stepmothers were not only more likely to abuse offspring, but the threat increased if there was a mix of related and non-related offspring and that their presence increased the severity of abuse and neglect.  Research found that stepparents, compared with genetic parents, represent a much greater risk of violence and death to children, independent of other risk factors such as parental age and poverty.
Additionally many adoptive mothers are not only dealing with the grief over their infertility, but suffer from post adoption depression. In one study nearly 30% of the participants reported suffering from depression for four weeks after the adoption. This research supported Dr. Susan Gair’s previous study where 32% of mothers experienced post adoption depression. The reasons for the depression may be unresolved grief around the infertility. The new infant may be a constant reminder that she did not give birth. These are primal biological urges that many in modern society think we have risen above. Daly and Watson explain the biological sequence of events in the hours immediately after the birth and the impacts of their interference:
Six separate studies involving over 500 primiparous women in four countries, all of which have demonstrated effects of slight modifications of hospital routines shortly after birth upon mother-infant interaction. In each of these studies, a control group of mothers was treated routinely (allowed to see the child at birth, prevented from physical contact for 6-12 hours, and then given the child only for scheduled feedings), while an experimental group was allowed close physical contact within minutes after birth and approximately 25-50 percent more contact time during two to seven days of hospitalization. As early as the second postpartum day, experimental mothers handled their infants differently from the controls. Follow-up studies one month, three months, one year and two years later showed effects upon the behaviour of both mothers and children. Experimental mothers spoke to their infants more, handled them more affectionately, looked them in the eye more, and expressed stronger feelings of maternal attachment. The normal consequence of this maternal attachment process throughout the evolutionary history of our species has presumably been the rapid development of a bond of discriminative maternal solicitude. Assumption of a maternal role in the absence of early attachment experiences can be difficult. According to a Cleveland study for example, only 25 percent of stepmothers could claim “maternal feelings” for their stepchildren.
It is the strength of maternal feelings and consequent engagement with the infant that are key to initiating protective behaviours and decrease the risk of child abuse and neglect. For instance results showed that children separated from their mothers during the neonatal period are a high risk group for abuse and neglect. 40% of a sample of severely abused children had been separated from their mothers during the first 48 hours after birth compared to just 6 % of their non-abused siblings.
The present perspective suggests that the risk of abuse and neglect is likely to be exacerbated where substitute individuals fill the roles of biological parents.
If the out-of-home care industry utilised the above data they would NOT have a policy of forcibly taking babies at the birth and giving them to strangers, unless of course they are being manipulated by others with an agenda, or indeed have one of their own.
In 2009 a UK study found that 25% of adoptive parents did not feel a close emotional bond with their adopted child after 1 year. In addition, many adoptive parents described experiencing anxiety and depression related to the adoption, with 20% of the sample reporting that they had received medication for treatment of their anxious/depressive symptoms. Interviews were conducted with the adoptive parents 6 to 11 years after the adoption had been completed. At the point of follow-up, the majority of parents (62%) reported they were experiencing continued difficulties and 10% of parents reported experiencing no rewards from the adoption. Only 28% of adoptive parents reported the adoption was rewarding. This finding supports that of the Cleveland Study, noted above, suggesting only 25% of women who take on the care of a stranger infant have maternal feelings. This knowledge is pertinent since the inability to attach to a child is correlated with an increase in child abuse and neglect. An adoptive family is formed only after separation and loss. Adoptees disproportionally suffer from abandonment issues and attachment disorders. Hence making it that much more difficult for adopters to attach to them. This is what Dr. Geoff Rickarby found when he treated dysfunctional adoptive families in the 1970s. Therefore before Pru Goward, Tony Abbott and Louise Voigt take us back to the 1950s and Forced Adoption, extensive research needs to be conducted on abuse within adoptive and foster homes and the number of failed adoptions, and how they have impacted on generations of adoptees and their families. This research at present is hard to find. Researchers have noted that data on those who abuse children is limited in Australia.
When studies in Australia are undertaken to record child abuse statistics adoptive fathers and biological fathers are placed in the same category.
We need detailed data to better inform policy makers about who children are really at risk from:
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) releases an annual report detailing statutory child protection reports across Australia, however the only information regarding those who abuse children is recorded as “family type” (AIHW, 2010). Family type identifies whether the child was from a single parent family, two parent “intact” family or two parent blended family, however it does not indicate who was responsible for the abuse or neglect in substantiated cases.
Being informed by other disciplines should logically lead to greater use of kinship care; especially, if those working in the care industry really have the safety of children as a priority.
The promotion of adoption as being a safer option than foster care is duplicitous. Whilst in the foster care system there is supposed to be ongoing scrutiny of carers and supports and checks for children. After the child is adopted the government’s oversight of the child is terminated. Foster care has not proven safe why should adoption that has NO ongoing scrutiny or checks be presumed to be any safer? After all a substantial number of adopters like foster carers, are biologically unrelated.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle, should be better enforced and a similar pathway implemented for White Australians that cannot be reared by their own parents. If children cannot remain with parents after all attempts have failed then kin should be given first priority and supported with the same financial and other supports as are given to non-related foster carers and/or adopters.
In a paper title ‘What Did We Learn from Bringing Them Home? The response is “very little”. No longer though, can individuals plead ignorant. The damage to individuals taken from their kin and placed with strangers, either fostered or adopted, is horrendous and lifelong. The damage to their parents has proven irreparable and is passed down to subsequent offspring.
Child removal has effects far beyond the initial removal. If children are removed permanently it affects not only their lives, but their subsequent children, siblings and grandchildren. It negatively impacts on the community as a whole and the damage is felt in the resulting social problems that continue for decades. Hasn’t the Stolen Generations and Forgotten Australians taught Australian policy makers anything? The policy of Forced Adoption is still negatively impacting on the lives of its victims and so Australian society as a whole. Women forty years after the theft of their infant are committing suicide, suffer from mental health problems and COST the taxpayer because they can no longer contribute to society. Nor can their children who carry the trauma. The very problems created by past governmental policies, circuitously makes certain groups vulnerable to having their newborns/children forcibly taken today. The most common reason children enter care is neglect due to their parents’ inability to cope as a result of various combinations of poverty, mental illness, intellectual disability and drug and alcohol dependency – only one third enter care as a result of abuse. Isn’t it time the government implemented policies to break the destructive cycle it created?
Simply, child protection in Australia is premised on child removal; a system that has failed over and over again. The assumption that child abuse and neglect can be solved by forced child removal needs to be seriously questioned. Instead of learning from past mistakes state governments and territories continue blindly along the same path telling the broader society – this time it is going to be different. This time it will put measures in place to better screen out paedophiles and child abusers.  This time children removed from their parents will be safe. This time removing children and placing them with strangers is going to give them stability and security. No-one can give such a guarantee. Adoptive parents can die, divorce, suffer a mental health problem or experience a financial loss. I know of adoptees whose elderly parents died and they had NO family whatsoever. Cut off from their original family, never accepted by the extended adoptive family and now without the adopters they find themselves alone and often suffering mental health problems because of the trauma of their adoption. Adoption is a 20th century tragedy, instead of being relegated to the dust heap of history the present Liberal Governments have resurrected it and look like inflicted it on yet another generation.
Professor Scott urges Australia to follow the European Care System that focuses on preserving families, rather than the US and UK “grab the child and run” model. But I doubt her suggestion will be taken up. There are powerful interests intent on using child protection as a guise to meet the needs of adult. Who will then claim they’re not stealing children, adoption is being done “in the child’s best interests”. A term regularly used against the very persons it is supposed to protect.
The Victorian Inquiry concluded that:
Prevention and early intervention are essential to avoid the long-lasting permanent trauma and poor outcomes for many individuals who experience abuse or neglect. At a system level, the Inquiry also concluded that, over time, it is more effective for government to invest in prevention and early intervention than to continue to increase investment in child protection and family services or to absorb the lifetime costs to society of child abuse and neglect.
It recommended that specialist adult services and health services should be supported to develop family-sensitive practices that address the needs of the whole family. It also referred to the European model and noted its greater emphasis on the view that children are best cared for within their family and have a focus on family unity and working with vulnerable families in caring for children. Victoria may have heeded its Inquiry’s (2012, Jan) recommendations. In 2013, it had 5 in 1000 children in care whist NSW has 10.5. Adoptions in Victoria dropped overall from 72 in the 2011-2012 to 44 in 2012-2013. Overseas adoptions dropped from 36 to 23 and local adoptions decreased from 28 to 17. It seems the State is incorporating family friendly policies and looking after its vulnerable families, the same cannot be said of the NSW government. In NSW because of the Government’s emphasis on adoption the number has increased. The AIHW states the increase in ‘known child’ adoptions was largely driven by increases in NSW from 91 to 108 of which 78 were carer adoptions. The highest proportion of ‘known adoptions’ nationally was by carers such as foster parents (52%). The majority of these occurred in NSW (78 of the 81 carer adoptions nationally): “this is indicative of policies in NSW which are increasingly promoting adoption”. 
A child should not stand in isolation from his or her kin and community. When a family is strengthened so is the child and the community: As well: ‘Strong communities with good support build strong families’
Despite the stresses within individual families that struggle with conditions of poverty and social adversity, many children in low-income families succeed in life. By focusing solely on problem behaviours, research studies and governmental reports routinely overlook the successful coping strategies that families use to manage multiple stressors in daily life. And the lack of attention to the positive attributes of family life has created a significant gap in our knowledge base: a lack of an understanding of basic trends and indicators of change in the behaviours and relationships associated with successful parenting, family cohesion, and family support, especially during difficult times.
This article has attempted to highlight the absolute failure of the out-of-home care industry and the devastating effects it is having on families. It is not providing safety for children or babies. It is my opinion that they are being exploited and left hostage to an industry built on business principles open to corruption with a hidden agenda to provide “babies for the deserving”. Who may, or may not have the best interests of the child they adopt at heart.
 The first preference under the principle is to place the child with their extended family or kinship group, the second preference with their local community and the third preference with another Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family in the area. Once all of these options have been fully explored, the fourth preference is a non-family and non-Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander placement. Implementation of the Principle also requires that relevant Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander organisations be consulted about the child’s placement and that children are assisted to keep in contact with their family, language and culture.
 Daly, M. & Wilson, M. (1980). ‘Discriminative Parental Solicitude: A Biological Perspective’, Journal of Marriage and the Family, May, 42(2), pp. 277-288 at p. 282
 Ibid at p. 283
 Daly, M. & Wilson, M. (2002). ‘The Cinderella Effect: Parental Discrimination Against Stepchildren’, Samfundsokonomen NR. 4. at p. 39.
 Stiffman, M. Schnitzer, P. Adam, P. Kruse, R. & Ewigman, B. (2002). Pediatrics, 109(4), pp. 615- 621, at p. 615.
 Hamilton, L., Cheng, S. & Powell, B. (2007). ‘Adoptive Parents, Adaptive Parents: Evaluating the Importance of Biological Ties for Parental Investment’, American Sociological Review, 72(1), pp. 95-116, http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/about/cap/assignments/art-07/packet5supplement.pdf
 IACC Centre (Infertility and Adoption Counselling Centre), ‘Adoptive Parents Invest More than Biological Parents in Kids’ http://www.iaccenter.com/adoptive_investment.pdf – See http://www.iaccenter.com/ ; Adoptive parents May Make Better Parents Than Biological Parents http://voices.yahoo.com/adoptive-parents-may-better-parents-than-biological-206842.html ; Adoptive Families Association of BC http://www.bcadoption.com/resources/articles/adoptive-parents-invest-more-their-children
 Hamilton, L., Cheng, S. & Powell, B. (2007). ‘Adoptive Parents, Adaptive Parents: Evaluating the Importance of Biological Ties for Parental Investment’, American Sociological Review, 72(1), pp. 95-116
 Gibson, K. (2007). ‘Differential parental investment in families with both adopted and genetic children’, Evolution and Human Behaviour, 30, pp. 184-189, at p. 184
 Hamilton, L. (2007). ‘Adoptive Parents, Adaptive Parents: Evaluating the Importance of Biological Ties for Parental Investment’, American Sociological Review, 72(1), pp. 95-116, at p. 111.
 Schnettler, S. & Steinbach, A. (2011). ‘How do biological and social kinship play out within families in the US? An evolutionary perspective on perceived parental care and closeness in adolescents’, Journal of Family Research, 2, http://www.tu-chemnitz.de/hsw/soziologie/institut/file-show-RG93bmxvYWRfUGFwZXJfU2NobmV0dGxlcl9TdGVpbmJhY2hfMjAxMV9aZkYucGRm-ABUHDysaAgsHAwwZWx4FERMFAQgTAEtUVlZCVF5TRjZXUl1FUFY4ABYMCAIcBw4TFRUfEBoPBAYQD1RDV1MRBwxMFg4P.pdf
 Camilla Cavendish, (2009, May 8). ‘Children are safer with their natural families; They call it the Cinderella Effect – but still we turn a blind eye to the danger posed to children by step-parents’, The Times, p. 29.
 Stiffman, M. Schnitzer, P. Adam, P. Kruse, R. & Ewigman, B. (2002). Paediatrics, 109(4), pp. 615- 621, at p. 615
 Daly, M. & Wilson, M. ‘The “Cinderella effect”: Elevated mistreatment of stepchildren in comparison to those living with genetic parents’ , Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University, Canada, at p. 2 http://www.cep.ucsb.edu/buller/cinderella%20effect%20facts.pdf ; University of Chicago Medicine Press Release. (2005). http://www.uchospitals.edu/news/2005/20051107-abuse.html
; Daly, M. & Wilson, M. (2002). ‘The Cinderella Effect: Parental Discrimination Against Stepchildren’, Samfundsokonomen NR. 4.
 Stiffman, M. Schnitzer, P. Adam, P. Kruse, R. & Ewigman, B. (2002). Paediatrics, 109(4), pp. 615- 621, at p. 615.
 Camilla Cavendish, (2009, May 8). ‘Children are safer with their natural families; They call it the Cinderella Effect – but still we turn a blind eye to the danger posed to children by step-parents’, The Times, p. 29
 Trudy Rosenwald in collaboration with Rital Carroll, ‘From the trenches of the war on adoption in Australia’, Submission 56 of the Australian Council of Adoption http://www.aph.gov.au/parliamentary_business/committees/house_of_representatives_committees?url=fhs/./adoption/subs.htm
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 Daly, M. & Wilson, M. (1980). ‘Discriminative Parental Solicitude: A Biological Perspective’, Journal of Marriage and the Family, May, 42(2), pp. 277-288 at p. 281.
 Daly, M. & Wilson, M. (1980). ‘Discriminative Parental Solicitude: A Biological Perspective’, Journal of Marriage and the Family, May, 42(2), pp. 277-288 at p. 282.
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 Cashmore, J. & Paxman, J. (2006). ‘Predicting after-care outcomes: the importance of ‘felt’ security’, Child and Family Social Work, 11, pp. 232-241.
 ‘Two Dads are Better than One’ http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/why-two-dads-are-better-than-one-pro-gay-adoption-abc-profile-of-convicted-pedophile-mark-newton/ ; McCain, R. (2013, July 2). A Duranty Prize Contender?, The American Spectator, http://spectator.org/blog/54215/duranty-prize-contender
 Report of the Protecting Victoria’s Vulnerable Children Inquiry, Part 8: Implementation and Conclusion, Vol 2, Chapter 23, p. 564. http://www.childprotectioninquiry.vic.gov.au/images/stories/inquiry/volume2/cpi%207650%20web-pdf%20volume%202%20protecting%20victorias%20vulnerable%20children%20inquiry_ch_23_bm.pdf
 Chapter 3, part 2, P. 54 http://www.childprotectioninquiry.vic.gov.au/images/stories/inquiry/volume2/cpi%207650%20web-pdf%20volume%202%20protecting%20victorias%20vulnerable%20children%20inquiry_ch_3_bm.pdf
 AIHW 2013. Child protection Australia 2011-12. Child welfare series no. 55. Cat. no. CWS 43. Canberra: AIHW, p. 42.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2013. Adoptions Australia 2012–13. Child welfare series no. 57. Cat. no. CWS 47. Canberra: AIHW.
 Ibid, p. 28.
 Krysan, M., K.A. Moore, and N. Zill. 1990. “Identifying successful families: An overview of constructs and selected measures.” Draft paper. Washington, DC: Child Trends. At pp. 9-12.
 Moore, K., Chalk, R., Scarpa, J. & Vandivere, S. (2002). Kids Count: Working Paper, Preliminary Research on Family Strengths, Baltimore, Maryland: Child Trends Inc, p. 2 http://www.aecf.org/upload/publicationfiles/preliminary%20research%20family%20strengths.pdf
 ‘Two Dads are Better than One’ http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/why-two-dads-are-better-than-one-pro-gay-adoption-abc-profile-of-convicted-pedophile-mark-newton/ ; McCain, R. (2013, July 2). A Duranty Prize Contender?, The American Spectator, http://spectator.org/blog/54215/duranty-prize-contender