Desperate kids are waiting in limbo for years as bureaucracy denies them the stability they urgently need.
Mamamia Investigates: A special report into Australia’s “broken” adoption system, by Mamamia journalist, Emily Purcell.
Jake was only two when he was taken away from his birth mother for good.
The severely neglected toddler had already been temporarily removed twice and placed into the hands of strangers – a heart-wrenching and frightening separation for a tiny child so intrinsically bound to his birth mother.
After being bounced around from home to home with long periods of separation from his mother, he was inevitably returned to her.
But she, suffering from the common trifecta of difficulties – issues with drugs, poverty and homelessness – could not keep the little boy safe.
The Children’s Court permanently removed the neglected boy from his home, as it is called upon to do only in the grimmest of circumstances, and placed him into the care of Alice and her husband.
Initially, the terrified toddler was always on guard.
He would jump at any loud noise, had difficulty sleeping and trouble adjusting to routine – something he had never experienced before.
Now, four years on, the happy and healthy six-year-old is very attached to his foster parents and recently won an award at school for his impressive behaviour.
His birth mother has not attended the contact visits to which she is entitled in more than a year.
Alice and her husband love Jake as their own and want an adoption order made to provide him with the emotional security he needs.
But despite legislation introduced in NSW last year to expedite the adoption of foster kids, Jake is facing a wait of up to five years before his case will even be opened by the under-resourced non-government organisation tasked with processing it.
Until then, it is at a standstill.
Sadly, this is the grim reality for thousands of foster children across Australia.
Government red-tape and insufficient resources means these kids are stuck in limbo for years on end.
They are living in a constant state of anxiety, not knowing how much longer they have left in their safe, secure environment, and dreading being sent to the parent that neglected or abused them.
“The system is just broken and no one’s bothering to fix it,” Alice told Mamamia.
“In the meantime, how many kids are missing out on being part of a safe, supportive family?”