Intercountry adoption in Australia

By PD Martin

This week was a huge milestone for our family – our son’s adoption was finally legalised/finalised. This comes over five YEARS after submitting our application to adopt a second child and nearly 18 months after coming home with our son. The system sucks, big time! And now that we are Liam’s legal guardians I can finally break my silence without fear of retribution.

The truth is there are so many problems with the system that I don’t know where to start. Some of these are unavoidable. Yes, in one way it pisses me off that we had to go through the ringer for someone to deem us worthy parents, but I also understand that we’re talking about a child’s life, a child’s welfare and they MUST be protected. But what if every prospective parent had to prove themselves worthy parents before they could have a child? Children may well be better off, but of course, that’s not a viable option – we don’t want the government controlling our right to reproduce.

Probably the thing that annoys me the most is the timing. Yes, during our adoption process things were changing significantly in Korea and I strongly support the move to enable children to stay with their birth mothers wherever possible. I would need pages and pages to explain what’s happening in Korea at the moment and what’s causing the delays over there, but today I’m going to focus on what’s happening our end.

So, the timing. Some dates for you to ponder:

  1. 28 November 2008, we lodge our first round of paperwork to adopt a second child with the Victorian Government on. (This package consists of over 60 pages of documentation, including police checks, medical checks, financial information, seven different forms (varying from one page in length to 10 pages), our life stories, genograms, photos and certified copies of our birth certificates and marriage certificate.)
  2. 28 November 2008 – April 2009 – application sits on someone’s desk waiting for review. That’s right six months.
  3. 28 April 2009 paperwork processed and on all subsequent documentation THIS date is noted as our date of application, not the November 2008 date.
  4. Home visits conducted by a social worker, report written and report finalised on 17 February 2010.
  5. 15 March 2010 – approved to adopt a child from Korea.

So it took the Victorian Government nearly 16 months to simply process our application. Need I say anything else? On the one hand, without this system we wouldn’t have our wonderful family. I’m forever in the debt of intercountry adoption and Korea for my gorgeous children. On the other hand…these time delays are completely unacceptable. We watched friends age-out (Korea has an age limit on adoptive parents) while they waited for the Victorian Government to process their forms. This stage for our counterparts in the US (where the system is privatised) normally takes 3-6 months.

At the moment the Australian Government is finally looking at a national system for intercountry adoption. In my view it also needs to be privatised. Competition is what makes people deliver superior service.

We’re also in a catch 22 with the countries we can adopt from. To adopt a child from overseas you must go through the state system, and it must be with one of the approved countries. You hear about the number of children in orphanages around the world yet Australians can’t adopt children from these countries. The basis of this is to protect the children’s rights (the country has to prove their commitment to basic human rights and prove that children aren’t being ‘sold’ by poverty-stricken parents) but the end result is mind-boggling. Here we have couples in Australia desperate to become parents, and children overseas in desperate need of parents. But the number of countries we can legally adopt from is shrinking. The Ethiopian program is closed, Korea is only open to families who have already adopted a child from Korea, the Thailand program is not accepting new applications, the China program has a seven-year backlog and the countries that are left on the approved list are very small programs.

This is a very complex issue, and one blog can really only touch the edges. But in terms of what’s going on our end, in Australia, my dates tell the story. I just hope the new, national system can deliver a better service.

    

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