Adoption needs to be an option for children in need

 

RECENTLY the Queensland Deputy Coroner handed down her findings into the tragic death of Mason Jet Lee.

Mason was just 22 months old when he died in horrific circumstances at the hands of his mother's then-partner in their Caboolture home in 2016.

The Deputy Coroner's report has exposed a child protection system that needs improvement.

Children need to be identified and saved from abuse and neglect. And of course, families need support to address their issues where possible.

If a child is removed, and their family isn't able to make changes, we need our child protection system to consider approaches that will give these innocent souls a home that is safe, loving, nurturing and permanent.

Right now across Australia, there are about 45,000 children in out-of-home care. More than 8100 of these children are in Queensland.

 

Mason Lee was horrifically let down by his mother, step father and the system that was meant to be there to protect him.
Mason Lee was horrifically let down by his mother, step father and the system that was meant to be there to protect him.

 

Many of them would not have a permanent home. These are children who can return from school to find their bags packed at the door and are told they are being moved to yet another house. These are children who deserve and need the love and stability of a family.

In her recommendations into the death of Mason, the Deputy Coroner has urged the Queensland Government to "routinely and genuinely" consider adoption as a care option for children who have been removed from dangerous homes.

I absolutely agree.

While child protection and open adoption are the responsibility of state and territory governments, our Government is taking a leadership role in a national strategy through the Fourth Action Plan of the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children.

I will always back the merits of open adoption as a genuine option, because there is little doubt that for some children in out-of-home care this may be the best solution.

I appreciate there are some concerns with adoption, especially within the indigenous community. And that's why the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle must always be followed.

 

 

This principle means priority placement of indigenous children with family, communities and indigenous peoples to ensure that connection to culture is maintained.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to improving permanency outcomes for our most vulnerable children.

Early intervention, reunification, kinship care, adoption and foster care each have their own strengths.

However, open adoption should more actively and routinely be considered as an option for children in care. Reforms delivered in recent years by the NSW Government to boost the numbers of open adoptions shows us a model that works - a model that has strengthened early intervention supports for at-risk families, and one that prioritises adoption above long-term foster care.

Of the 142 carer adoptions of Australian children in 2018-19, 136 occurred in NSW.

The NSW Government is also reporting a 42 per cent reduction in the number of children entering out-of-home care over the past five years. This includes a 35 per cent drop in the number of Aboriginal children entering care.

I encourage the Queensland Government, and all other states and territory governments, to consider this approach.

Michelle Landry is the Assistant Minister for Children and Families, and the Federal Member for Capricornia



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