Media Release by The Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell
Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell has called on the State Government to remove barriers to adoption so more South Australian children in state care can find permanent homes.
The Independent MP put forward a two-part motion in State Parliament on Wednesday asking for the government to focus on open adoption, rather than short or long-term foster care, in a similar model to New South Wales.
“In 2014, major reforms were initiated by the New South Wales Government to reduce the number of children in long-term foster care, emphasising the importance of permanency, when they cannot be safely be returned to their families,” he said.
“There was an emphasis to prioritise kinship care, guardianship and open adoption.”
Mr Bell said the reforms had a positive impact on long-term care arrangements and known adoption rates, where the carer and child are known to each other.
“As a result of these reforms, New South Wales has seen their adoption rates jump to record levels,” he said.
“In NSW, 140 children were adopted in the year ending 2018, while in South Australia just eight children were adopted last year and six of these were international adoptions.
“It is my view that open adoption should be considered as one of a range of permanency options.”
Open adoption is where a child becomes a legal member of the adoptive family, but they maintain a relationship and ties with their birth parents, if possible.
Mr Bell said the state care system was designed for the short term, not the long-term.
“A year ago, the number of children in state care hit more than 4,000 for the first time in South Australia,” he said.
“This includes foster and kinship care arrangements plus those living in non-family based residential care arrangements.
“Not all children in state care are suitable for adoption.
“For many children, kinship care arrangements is the best way for a child to stay in that family environment and I’m sure the majority of these are excellent placements.
“But, kinship care arrangements only account for less than a half of children in state care.
Any changes to existing care models should place the best interests of the child first, Mr Bell said.
“Adoption should not be seen as way to reduce numbers in state care or to reduce costs. The welfare of the child is always paramount,” he said.
“A safe and stable home environment is one of the greatest things you can give a child, giving them a sense of belonging and permanency.
Late last year, the State Minister for Child Protection announced they would consult key stakeholders, adoptees and young people for their insight on a new permanency policy position.
“I understand there was a report, however it has not been made public and I’m interested to hear the outcome of this report,” Mr Bell said.
“In this current landscape we find ourselves in, never has stability been more important in the life of a child than now.
“Children are facing incredible upheaval in their schooling and general life already and the last thing they need is upheaval and instability on the home front.
“If we want to give South Australian children the best start in life, we should be looking at ways to increase permanency in the lives of children in state care.”