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Let\'s talk about Permanency Planning and Adoption

by PeakCare Qld on 23rd January 2013

Home -> Articles -> 2013 -> January -> Let\'s talk about Permanency Planning and Adoption

One of the more contentious issues brought to the attention of the current Child Protection Commission of Inquiry concerns the role of adoption. It is ironic in many respects that adoption is receiving this attention at a time when Premier Newman has only recently made an historic apology for forced adoption policies and practices of the past on behalf of the Queensland Parliament.

Most witnesses who have appeared at the Inquiry’s public hearings and organisations who have commented on adoption within their written submissions have drawn distinctions between adoption policies and practices of the past and changes they may be advocating for concerning the use of adoption within contemporary society. Generally, for example, most acknowledge that adoption has rightly moved from being a secretive, closed, forced and / or coercive process to a mostly open one. Mention is also made by many of the specific and tragic historical context that must be taken into account in considering policy changes that may impact on adoption practices in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Despite these acknowledgements and the distinctions that have been drawn, it is perhaps fortuitous that the recency of the apology has allowed it to serve as a timely and vivid reminder of the inherent cruelty of past adoption policies and their deleterious impact on the lives of both relinquishing parents and those who were adopted. It serves as a powerful warning to ensure that any policy changes being considered concerning adoption, whilst purportedly not intending a return to the past, do not inadvertently re-introduce elements of past value-laden practices that vilify or discriminate against certain individuals or groups.

Central to the concerns of the current Inquiry, as stated by Commissioner Carmody during a recent public hearing, is assessing the extent to which the State should exercise legislated authority in “interfering with family privacy and autonomy”. Commissioner Carmody said, “It can only do that on clear and transparent grounds that the community is willing to permit, that’s consistent with contemporary values that are shared and you can only act, if you’re the State, in accordance with the law”.

It may be expected therefore that the Commissioner will wish to carefully consider any proposed changes to legislation, policy and / or practice concerning the use of adoption, especially when this may involve amendment to the circumstances that allow for dispensation of parental consent, given that these changes may lead to greater authority held by the State to intrude upon the ‘autonomy’ and ‘privacy’ of families. The consideration given to any proposed changes would need to thoroughly weigh up perceived benefits to children that may be achieved from such changes with any inadvertent consequences that may be anticipated.

Shortly, PeakCare’s member agencies and supporters will receive a Discussion Paper entitled Permanency planning and the question of adoption, a copy of which will also be placed on the PeakCare web-site. Our intention in producing this paper is to facilitate informed discussion and debate and gather opinions and advice that will, in turn, be conveyed to the Commission of inquiry. In particular, the Paper will seek opinions about some of the ‘bottom lines’ that should underpin any policy and practice changes that may be contemplated. First and foremost amongst these ‘bottom-lines’ is the need to consider adoption in the context of permanency planning. To understand what we mean by that, make sure you read the Discussion Paper.

Lindsay Wegener

Executive Director, PeakCare Queensland