The Adoption Amendment Act 2020, which comes into effect tomorrow, that clarifies ACT legislation on when a child can be adopted without the consent of their parent, has been welcomed by the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS).
According to ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell, “the permanent removal of a child from a parent without parental consent is one of the gravest decisions the state can make”.
“ACTCOSS recognised that the existing legislation was outdated. These changes will clarify the legislation relating to dispensing with parental consent,” Dr Campbell said.
“Adoption without parental consent is a permanent and life-changing decision for children and their birth families. In our submissions we called for adequate protections for parents with disability, including adequate and appropriate supports to make informed decisions and the importance for children of maintaining ties with their birth relatives where possible. We will be monitoring implementation of the legislation.
“Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and young people are also significantly overrepresented in the ACT system – up to 12 times more likely than non-Indigenous children and young people to be in out-of-home-care.
“We know that a significant issue hindering the best care for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people and children in the ACT is a lack of adequate support for kinship carers.
“ACTCOSS supports the policy that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children should not be adopted through this legislation,” Dr Campbell said.
While acknowledging the need for this reform, ACTCOSS’s members also emphasised the need for broader reforms of the child protection system.
“Our members highlighted issues in earlier stages of engagement with the child protection system that need to be urgently addressed including: access to supported decision-making, increased family group conferencing and support for families so that children do not end up in the child protection system in the first place.
“There is not enough early support for at-risk families in Canberra, nor for families already involved in the system,” she said.
As well as calling for these reforms, ACTCOSS has also been calling for an independent, external review mechanism into child protection decisions in the ACT.
“We have welcomed Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith’s support with the ACT Human Rights Commission to implement an external review mechanism in the ACT,” she said.
“We also welcome the Canberra Liberals’ election commitment for family conferencing for families involved in the child protection system.”