What do John Lennon, Moses, Faith Hill and my Aunt Jenny have in common? Nelson Mandela, Truman Capote, Sarah McLachlan, Steve Jobs, Edgar Allan Poe and Superman also share the commonality.
They were adopted.
Friday will mark one year since then Prime Minister Julia Gillard apologised for the scourge that was forced adoption. For the victims – the mothers, fathers, children, siblings and extended family affected by the practice of forced adoption carried out in Australia from the late 1950s to the 1970s – it was a landmark day. I hope that each anniversary brings deeper healing for these individuals, and that it opens our eyes to the ongoing issue of providing appropriate care for children.
There are 13 million children around the world who are without both parents and 120 million who have just one carer who usually struggles to provide for that child (UNICEF).
In Australia, 39,621 children are in out-of-home care and 18,000 are in foster care waiting for permanent care solutions. Yet, in 2012, only 70 Australian children were adopted (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Report – Adoptions 2011-2012).
Some more figures for you: last year there were 339 adoptions by Australians, including both inter-country (129) and domestic (210) adoptions. Of the domestic adoptions, only 54 were classed as local adoptions, that is, children adopted to people not known to them (for example, family, friends or carers).
Sorry to spit numbers at you, but here’s the one that needs your particular consideration: since 1988, adoption figures have plummeted by 84 per cent.
Doesn’t add up does it?
On the one hand there are 18,000 Australian children waiting for a permanent, stable home environment with loving parents yet the reality is that only one in 85 each year will clear the red tape of our current adoption system to experience such a reality.
Unless things change. Quickly.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has started to make good on an election promise with his announcement of changes to the processing for children adopted from Ethiopia, Taiwan and South Korea, essentially shaving 12 months off the wait time.
Keep going in that trajectory, Mr Abbott. Keep snipping the red tape and dispelling the stigma that previous forced adoption practices have bred. And while you’re there, take out a big set of scales and weigh up the importance of adoption in maintaining our ‘lucky country’ culture.
Think about it.
This great multi-cultural nation has taken pride in adopting people from all walks of life. Yet today, we are reticent to adopt those seeking asylum on our rich shores. Adoption is barely mentioned anymore around unwanted pregnancy.
The Christian heritage that provides the very foundation of our society is rooted in adoption practice.
Jesus’ death on the cross cut adoption red tape once and for all, scribing God’s name on our birth certificate.
And he expects us to extend the same love: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)
Adoption is about softening and opening our hearts to others – to the poor, desperate, unlovely and unwanted. It will be a happy day when Australia embraces adoption once more, showing generosity and humanity to the unborn, to children from near and far, to the poor and destitute among us, and to those seeking asylum.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday March 17, 2014.