Adoption is an important issue for the people in our society desperate, but unable, to become parents, but to many the adoption process remains clouded in mystery.
Recently, the State Government passed the long-anticipated Adoption Act 2009. This new Act repeals the Adoption of Children Act 1964, and brings Queensland into line with other Australian states and territories with the introduction of open adoptions and adoption plans, better consent requirements, modern eligibility criteria and assessment processes, and court-ordered adoptions.
The most obvious question is ‘what is adoption?’ Put simply, adoption is a legal process that transfers the legal rights and responsibilities of parenthood from a child’s birth parents to a new set of parents, or the ‘adoptive parents’.
In Queensland, all adoptions are organised through the Department of Child Safety. This includes adoptions by relatives, step-parents and overseas adoptions. Privately arranged adoptions are illegal in Queensland and people who fail to go through the department may face penalties under the Adoption Act 2009.
The new Adoption Act 2009 aims to provide for the adoption of children in Queensland, and for access to information about parties to adoptions in Queensland, in a way that promotes the wellbeing and best interests of adopted persons through their lives, supports efficient and accountable practice in the delivery of adoption services and complies with Australia’s obligations under the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect to Intercountry Adoption.
The Hague Convention is an agreement between countries dealing with international adoption, child laundering and child trafficking. There are also guiding principles which are incorporated into the Act and outline how the Act is to be applied. The guiding principles include:
- The paramount concern is the well-being and best interest of an adopted child, both through childhood and for the rest of his/her life.
- The purpose of an adoption is to provide for a child’s long-term care, well-being and development by creating a permanent parent-child relationship between the child and the adoptive parents.
- Adoption is a long-term care option that is selected by the birth parents due to the unwillingness or inability to protect the child from harm and meet the child’s need for long-term stable care.
Another new addition to the reformed adoption legislation is the inclusion of guiding principles that are specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons. These principles are unique in that they take into account the traditional customs of these groups.