Open adoption is an important way of providing a permanent and safe home to children and young people who can’t return to their families or kin. Although adoption is not appropriate for all children in out-of-home care, greater effort is needed to consider adoption when it is in the best interests of the child.
An independent review commissioned by the Department of Family and Community Services(FACS) in 2013 highlighted the need for education and resources to encourage adoption as an option to provide children with a safe and stable home for life.
With this in mind we are looking to establish an Institute of Open Adoption to bridge the knowledge gaps around the benefits of open adoption. This institute, which is the first of its kind in Australia, will improve both the practices and policy development around promoting and using open adoption in NSW.
Adoptions that occurred in the last century have not been open. Open adoption, which is practiced today, seeks to sustain positive communication between birth parents, adoptive parents and the adopted child or young people, when it is in the best interests of the child or young person.
Open adoption is an important move away from previous policies of forced adoption which existed in conjunction with the Stolen Generation and the Forgotten Generation.
As a part of this approach, adoption is being considered earlier and with greater priority than in the past.
How will the Institute be funded and for how long will it be funded?
The NSW Government will commit seed funding of $2.85 million over three years to establish the institute.
As the Institute builds its profile it will create its own revenue through partner organisations, research grants, donations, fee for service evaluations of programs as well as providing expert reports.
The Institute will be a source of information about what open adoption means and how it works. This information will be available to people interested in adopting and will help inform their decision making.
It will also consider assistance services to help children and their families after adoption.
The Institute will lead the way in research and best practice in open adoption and will contribute to improved outcomes for children. It will do this by:
The tender process will be completed this year and the Institute will be operational in 2016.
Sound, objective information (relevant to children in NSW) will be available to everyone thinking about, or already involved in, adoption. This will help them understand whether adoption is the most suitable option for the child.
As an independent entity, the Institute will be in a strong position to provide impartial advice on adoption practices.
The Institute will conduct research, provide advice and resources, contribute to policy and practice as well as form partnerships with important stakeholders to combine quality information.
Responses to the questions raised in the issues paper will be published on the FACS website.
The responses to the issue paper will help inform the objectives, functions and structure of the Institute.
Responses to the questions raised in the issues paper will be used to help formulate the selection criteria that will need to be addressed by those lodging a tender.
A selection panel comprised of people independent of government and FACS will advise on these selection criteria.
The issues paper was released in order to seek information from the sector in order to help form the Institute.
One of the purposes of having a research institute is to better use the legislative changes that commenced last October.
If legislative changes are needed to allow the Institute to perform its functions, those changes will be subject to wide consultation and debate with the sector.
Currently in Australia there are institutes such as the Australian Institute of Family Studies that successfully undertake research as well as fee for service activity.
Our intention is for both objectives to be achieved together and we are currently collating the feedback received.
The Institute needs to be independent and objective to achieve its goal of providing support and advice to the sector. It also needs to be able to satisfy the codes for expert that apply in courts. The Institute may however strongly support a research outcome that is clear about a particular approach or where best practice is identified.
The Institute’s ultimate functions have not been finalised and the issues paper sought feedback on this topic from the sector. This information is currently being collated for review and will be published on the FACS website.
The objectives of the Institute are that it must be relevant to people in NSW and be connected with adoption. Any topics that you think should be included in this list can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
The issues paper sought comment on whether there should be limitations or requirements about what the Institute should research. This feedback is currently being collated and will be published on the FACS website.
Adoption is not usually considered suitable for Aboriginal children, however legislation allows for the adoption of Aboriginal children as a final preference following parental responsibility to the Minister. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principles still apply.