Over 5,000 children could be adopted each year within Australia compared to the 210 children currently, if the Abbott government follows the lead of the United States and implements a national adoption target, finds a new report from The Centre for Independent Studies.
With the Abbott government's inter-departmental committee set to recommend ways to increase adoption rates at the May COAG meeting, Dr Jeremy Sammut, author of Still Damaging and Disturbing, recommends more timely statutory action to permanently remove children from unsafe homes and provide them with safe adoptive homes.
The rate of children in 'out-of-home' care in Australia rose from 3.9 in 2000-01 to 7.7 children per 1,000 population in 2012-13 - or from 18,241 to 40,624 children in care. Funding on 'family preservation services' jumped from $73 million in 2000-01 to $300 million in 2012-13, while real expenditure on care more than tripled to $2 billion.
'The over-emphasis placed on family preservation in Australia - whereby children are removed only as a last resort - means more children are ultimately ending up in care, and these children are increasingly suffering from serious psychological, behavioural and developmental problems,' says Dr Sammut.
'The Abbott government must encourage state and territory child protection authorities to end the harmful policy of family preservation and instead take legal action to free children for permanent adoption, before they are irrevocably damaged by parental maltreatment and highly unstable foster care.'
'Despite almost 28,000 children having languished in care for more than two years, an astonishingly low number of children were adopted locally, including just 81 children adopted by their foster carers, with 78 of these adoptions occurring in NSW alone.'
'National child protection performance targets must be implemented to boost the number of local adoptions from care to the equivalent of more adoption-friendly countries within the next 10 years.'
'Other states should look to the pro-adoption regime recently legislated by the NSW government as guidance on how to legally free children for adoption into safe homes in a timely manner,' says Dr Sammut.
Dr Jeremy Sammut is a research fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies.He is available for comment.