Last week, Mamamia ran an interview with Deborra Lee-Furness, who has just been announced NSW Australian of the Year for her work to change Australia’s rules regarding inter-country adoption. Our Weekend Editor, Amy Stockwell, who has worked in the development sector and has a Masters in International Law, has a different take on the issue. She’s not sure that making inter-country adoption easier, quicker and cheaper is necessarily the best way to go for the world’s most vulnerable children. Here is what she has to say….
By AMY STOCKWELL
It seems like such a simple proposition. There are too many orphans in developing countries who find themselves forgotten, living in crowded orphanages or barely surviving on the street. There is a large number of people in Australia who are desperate to be parents and are in a good position to provide for a child. Why not bring them together?
It’s an idea that is easy to just accept, especially when trusted, high profile people are telling you how easy it can be. But the reality is far from simple.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Tony Abbott stood beside celebrity advocates, vowing to make the inter-country adoption system quicker, easier and cheaper. “The idea is we will make it easier and significantly less costly for Australians to adopt from overseas,” Mr Abbott said, announcing a new agency that will be designed to reduce adoption waiting times.
But while fast, easy and cheap adoptions may be in the best interests of prospective parents, it is not necessarily in the best interests of children. In fact, a faster, easier and cheaper system could actually put vulnerable children at even greater risk.
To that you might say: surely a child is better off in Australia than in the dire conditions of their own country? Yes, that child may be able to access a better education, a stronger healthcare system and greater physical comforts with a new family in Australia. But this was the same explanation that was given to justify the theft of Aboriginal children and the babies of unwed mothers that resulted in the lifelong damage endured by the Stolen Generation and children of forced adoption.
You might say: “But this is different! These children have no families!” Well, the sad fact is that we really don’t know that is the case.
Many adopted children are not orphans. A study by Save the Children found that as many as four out of five children in orphanages have at least one living parent. There are stories of children placed in orphanages temporarily during tough times whose parents have returned to find that their children have been adopted out.