Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk today tabled a statutory review of the Adoption Act 1994 (WA) in State Parliament.
The review was undertaken by the Department of Communities with the support of a reference group made up of key stakeholders from government, the Aboriginal community and the community services sector.
The reference group met with stakeholders and considered public and stakeholder contributions to the review.
The review makes 31 recommendations to strengthen the adoption process and make the best interests and wellbeing of the child, the sole paramount consideration in adoption.
The review also recommends:
- Changes to provide increased guidance around determining the best interests and wellbeing of a child;
- Better acknowledgement that adoption as expressed within the Act is not part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture;
- Strengthened processes in respect to adoption of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children so that where adoption does occur their cultural identity is preserved and developed;
- Mandatory counselling for children required to consent to their adoption and for birth parents under 16 years of age considering adoption for their child; and
- Increased focus on the development and maintenance of sibling relationships through the adoption plan.
The review does not recommend any changes to carer adoption, which includes adoption by a foster carer.
It should be noted that adoption is not the only option to provide a stable, long-term home for a child in care. Special Guardianship Orders provide an individual (or two individuals) parental responsibility for a child until the child reaches 18 years of age. Most importantly, a Special Guardianship Order enables a child to make a choice about their adoption once they reach 18 years of age.
A total of 27 children were adopted in Western Australia in 2016-17, of which 11 were intercountry adoptions.
A copy of the report is available on the Department of Communities website at https://www.dcp.wa.gov.au/Pages/AdoptionActreview.aspx
The Government will now consider the recommendations made in the review.
For more information about how to support a child in out of home care by becoming a foster carer, contact the Department of Communities on 1800 182 178.
As noted by Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk:
“When we consider adoption we must, first and foremost, consider the child.
“Western Australia’s adoption legislation is comprehensive and on the whole operates effectively to facilitate adoption.
“The recommendations of the review will strengthen our adoption processes and continue to ensure it is firmly focused on the wellbeing and best interests of a child.
“Adoption must be considered on a case by case basis and ultimately be in the best interests of the child.
“It is important to note that foster carers can still apply to adopt children in care, however, adoption is only one of the long-term care options available in Western Australia.
“Special Guardianship Orders provide a child in care with a long-term, stable home, and also support children to maintain connections with their birth family.”