Torres Strait Islander people and adoption
It is recognised that customary adoption is a part of Torres Strait Islander culture and involves the permanent transfer of care responsibilities, it is considered to be a “social arrangement”.
Traditionally the chosen adoptive family was in the same Torres Strait Islander bloodline as the birth family. However, with inter-racial marriage now more frequent, adoptive parents may be related only by marriage.
There is also a growing practice of giving a child to Torres Strait Islander family friends rather than relatives. Customary Torres Strait Islander adoption makes the child a full member of the adoptive family. However, in the eyes of Australian law, customary adoptions are private arrangements, and although not prohibited, they are not legally recognised unless a formal adoption order is sought in the Supreme Court.
Within the Torres Strait Islander community relative or kinship care placements are the preferred care arrangements for Torres Strait Islander children who are unable to live with their parents. These are placements with a carer(s) from within the child’s family, extended family or Torres Strait Islander community and assist the child to maintain their connection and sense of belonging to their family, community and Torres Strait Islander culture.
However in some circumstances parents may feel it is necessary to formalise the placement of their child with step parents or relatives by adoption. The Adoption Act 2000 does allow for Torres Strait Islander children to be adopted however additional requirements must be met.
Importantly, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principles still apply. When returning a Torres Strait Islander child to their family is not considered possible and they are unable to live with relatives or kin, a placement with a non-related person in the Aboriginal community or a suitable person may be considered. This will be done according to the child’s best interests and we will work closely with the Torres Strait Islander community to make these decisions.
The law seeks to protect future generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from past practices that separated children from their families, communities, and culture.
However in some circumstances parents may feel it is necessary to formalise the placement of their child with step parents or relatives by adoption. The Adoption Act 2000 does allow for Torres Strait Islander children to be adopted.
One of the objectives of the Adoption Act 2000 is to ensure that a child who is adopted is assisted to know and have access to his or her birth family and cultural heritage. Identifying and preserving a child’s name or given names, identity, language and cultural ties must be taken into consideration when making a decision about the adoption of a Torres Strait Islander child. It is expected that the adoptive parents of a Torres Strait Islander child are committed to supporting the child to learn about his or her Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage.
Torres Strait Islander people should be given the opportunity to participate with as much self determination as possible in decisions relating to the placement for adoption of Torres Strait Islander children.