Foster agencies call to address ACT's low rates of adoption
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Foster agencies call to address ACT's low rates of adoption

Foster-care agencies and support services have called for changes to the way the ACT handles the adoption of children by foster parents.

The ACT currently has the lowest adoption rate on record with only 11 children adopted in 2011-12, a figure highlighted during last week's National Adoption Awareness Week.

ACT Adopted Families Association president Bronwyn Lucey with adopted son Kai, 5.

ACT Adopted Families Association president Bronwyn Lucey with adopted son Kai, 5.Credit:Melissa Adams

For many the frustration with the system is the long wait and red tape before they can welcome a child, often from overseas, into their homes.

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But major concerns have been voiced by foster-care organisations that parents are unable to adopt children who may effectively be part of their families for many years.

Barnardos Australia chief executive Louise Voigt said the ACT government, as the only facilitator of adoption in the territory, needed to allow other agencies to do the same work.

Ms Voigt said despite repeated requests the government had refused her organisation permission to adopt ACT children to ACT families.

''I have had no interest from the government and certainly no interest from the ministers,'' she said.

''Currently we're placing ACT children in NSW but it has nothing to do with the government.''

Foster families provide safe homes to children and often it is the desire of parent and child that a permanent relationship is formed.

''They finally feel safe and secure. This is so important for children in order for them to grow and develop,'' she said.

''They also begin to feel 'ordinary' around their peers, they finally 'fit in'. They belong.''

Ms Voigt said her organisation had wanted to secure a licence in the ACT but been told ''many times'' not to apply for one because it would not be granted.

But a Community Services Directorate spokesperson said no one from Barnardos had met with the minister Joy Burch since she took over the portfolio almost four years ago. He said although there were no private adoption agencies licensed in the ACT, there was no policy of refusing them.

Last year 566 children were in out-of-home care in the ACT, but adoptions for the same period were at an all-time low.

Only five local children were adopted.

ACT Adopted Families Association president Bronwyn Lucey said a higher number of adoptions was not just good for children, parents needed it too.

''It's frightening the thought of fostering a child,'' she said.

''You bring them into your life and you love them and there's that very real risk of them being taken away.''

Executive director of research at support service the Create Foundation, Joseph McDowall, said although the issue of adoption was complex, it generally provided better outcomes than long-term foster care.

''There are far worse outcomes in health, education and employment,'' Dr McDowall said.

''The young people leaving standard care are some of the most disadvantaged in the community.

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''If you can find the right place to be adopted, things will turn out wonderfully well.''

Ms Voigt told how one of her foster children, on finally being adopted, described his feelings at that moment: ''When he got his adoption certificate he said, 'now no one can knock on the door and take me away'.''

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