Meet Elizabeth. She’s 10 years old. She likes colouring, drawing and writing. Her favourite colour is pink and she loves chicken noodle soup and pizza.
Those boys sitting next to her? They’re her brothers. Brian (to the right) is 7 years old and he likes playing with cars. His favourite colour is red. Noah (to Elizabeth’s left) is four. He’s a talkative little boy who loves Batman, Superman and chicken fingers.
There are other ways to identify these kids. Elizabeth is known as 82301628111. Brian is 82301628112 and Noah is 82301628113. Their collective number is S8230216870.
I assume they’re the numbers the state uses to keep track of the siblings who are “very bonded” and want to stay together – according to their profile on the US website, AdoptUSKids.
We found the website yesterday after journalist and author Caroline Overington tweeted this link:
The website is almost reminiscent of an online dating site. Or buying a house. Search for children by gender, and race. Select the number of children you’d like to take (up to 12) and their ages (0 to 21)
An open search yields 234 pages of results for children – some with siblings, some without – looking for homes.
Here are some examples:
Then there this video that also runs on the site. (Warning: after you watch this video you might want to jump on a plane and adopt all the kids. We were halfway to the airport before common sense prevailed)
In Australia the situation in different. We’re a lot less transparent about adoption, according to Dianne Harris, the CEO of National Adoption Awareness Week. Children would never be ‘advertised’ like they are in the US, and if they are it’s only when there are no other options available. If it is done – it’s discreet so kids aren’t recognised.
While she said it’s hard to compare two very different legal systems, she said there is a much greater focus on bringing families back together in Australia. Adoption is only an option when all other avenues have been exhausted.
But this is interesting. Over the past three years, Ms Harris adoption numbers in Australia have been decreasing by an average of 7 per cent per year. Between 2009 and 2010 there were 441 adoptions in Australia. In the last year there were 384 adoptions including 215 from overseas.
But inquiries into adoption are going up. “We’re aware of thousand of people willing and trying to adopt. So the numbers just don’t add up,” she said.
Louise Voigt, CEO and Welfare Director of Barnardos Austalia, says the number of adoptions is “woefully small in Australia compared to Britain and America.”
“This is a disgrace for children who need the security of loving families.” she said. “There are thousands of children in Australia who could benefit from adoption and many people who could provide the secure family life these children need.”
So, could you imagine this that kind of adoption ad in Australia? Probably not. We asked Caroline Overington (who has worked covering family court cases as a journalist for many years and has authored three best-selling fiction books based loosely on some of the tragic situations she’s witnessed) for her thoughts on the US website and how adoption processes differ in Australia. Here’s what she had to say:
Adoption has essentially been phased out in Australia – fewer than 400 children are adopted every year, and the bulk of these children come from overseas (that, too, is slowing to a trickle.)
Yet there are 32,000 children in State care, many of whom will never go home to their families.
There is no doubt that an anti-adoption ethos reigns at both the State and Federal level: the process is monstrously expensive (up to $50,000 per child) and a three-year wait, or even five-year wait is considered normal.
The government is terrified of creating another “stolen generation’’ so it makes adoption as hard as it can. It also forces children home to parents who do not want them, and cannot properly care for them.
Those children who absolutely can’t go home because their parents have beaten them up one too many times are forced into foster care, where they bounce around for years, never finding a place to call home.
I don’t think you’d find anyone advocating an RSVP style site, to advertise local children who need homes, but there is no question that adoption should, and must, be made easier for people.
The faces of the children on the US site tell the story: those kids are desperate for a home. It’s all they want, and yet we deny it to them.