How long do you think it takes to adopt a child from Australia?
Believe it or not, there’s no national data to confirm that figure. But according to Fairfax Media, anecdotally it can take anywhere between 18 months to more than six years, an unpredictable wait that puts many prospective adoptive parents off the process altogether.
Actor Deborra-lee Furness thinks that needs to change — and she’s calling on the government to speed up the adoption process, pronto.
The 59-year-old celebrity and Adopt Change founder appeared on The Project last night to call for immediate adoption reform.
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“It’s our past history, what we did in the ’60s with the forced adoption – single mothers who were forced to relinquish their kids and then that created an anti-adoption culture because these people weren’t supported,” she said.
As a result, there are about 43,000 children in out-of-home care — but only 203 children were adopted locally in 2013-2014, Fairfax reports. Of those children that were adopted, only 89 children were adopted from care.
That leaves tens of thousands of children who are shuffled between up to eight foster homes before their adoptions are finalised, meaning an unstable childhood for these vulnerable Australians.
Furness, who is married to Wolverine star Hugh Jackman, 47, told The Project that she was finally starting to see some positive change.
“There’s a lot of work to be done but we are getting somewhere, it’s back on the map,” Furness said.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott last year announced the creation of the Intercountry Adoption Support Service to tackle the problem — and yesterday, to mark national Adoption Awareness Week, the Turnbull government announced that it would begin allowing inter-country adoption from Latvia and Poland.
A federal government delegation will also travel to Bulgaria this week to discuss a possible similar arrangement.
These are moves that Furness welcomes — but she said on The Project that the need for further, faster change was a “no-brainer”.
“This is not just Australia even though we are the lowest in adoption and intercountry adoption, it needs to be a priority I think on all our leaders’ agendas,” she told the ABC earlier this week.
“Vulnerable children has to be up there. Internationally millions of children are not being looked after. So we do need to not only keep talking about it, we have been talking too long, we need to have action because these kids can’t wait that long.”
Furness and Jackman have two adopted children together, son Oscar, 15, and daughter Ava, 10.
Adopt Change’s 15,000 stories campaign is aiming to share 15,000 bedtime stories on social media – one for every Australian child who has been in out of home care for over two years and is not living with relatives or kin. Here’s Hamish and Andy’s contribution: