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Adoption Reforms NSW style: A Comparative Look ACWA Conference Nicola Ross & Judy Cashmore 18 August 2014. MAIN THEMES. Need for reform - continuing tension between the child’s right and need for secure LT family for life and parent’s capacity to ‘become’ good enough parent

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Adoption Reforms NSW style: A Comparative Look ACWA Conference Nicola Ross & Judy Cashmore

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Adoption reforms nsw style a comparative look acwa conference nicola ross judy cashmore

Adoption Reforms NSW style:

A Comparative Look

ACWA Conference

Nicola Ross & Judy Cashmore

18 August 2014


Main themes

MAIN THEMES

  • Need for reform - continuing tensionbetween the child’s right and need for secure LT family for life and parent’s capacity to ‘become’ good enough parent

  • What approaches have other countries taken? And changes over time to current approaches?

  • Pros and cons?

  • What do we know re adoption and foster care outcomes ? Transferable? Research issues …

  • What works best for children – and their views?


Why the need for reform

Why the need for reform?

  • Continuing evidence that many children in care do not have stability and are not doing well in care and after care

    • Need for new approach to permanency

  • Increasing numbers of children in care and shortage of foster carers

    • Need for new source of carers and opportunity for children in certain circumstances to be adopted by foster carers


Numbers of children in care

Numbers of children in care

Gilbert et al (2011)


Reasons for low adoption rate

Reasons for low adoption rate

  • Cultural attitudes to adoption – Stolen Generations, Forgotten Australians

  • Greater focus on kinship care

  • Loss of foster care allowance and other entitlements

  • Caseworkers’ lack of time, resources and skills to discuss with parents and process adoptions in Supreme Court

  • Costly court proceedings if parent does not consent to adoption – not wanting to be seen to relinquish or ‘reject’ child

  • Children’s resistance - not wanting to relinquish family ties

  • Replacement by guardianship or permanent care orders eg Vic


Selwyn masson 2014

Selwyn & Masson 2014


Philosophical tensions and issues

Philosophical tensions and issues

  • No easy answers - long-standing debate between

    – child’s need for stability and timely decision-making

    – parents’ need to meet demands for ‘good-enough’ care

  • Tension foremost in time-frames

  • Dispensing with consent of birth parents

  • UK Courts – recent cases require ↑ in quality evidence – may create tension with government policy to speed up adoption

  • Need for post-adoption support – forecasting problems vs assuming families will cope privately and not require support

  • Purpose and efficacy of contact issues – reduced in UK

  • Role of research evidence – appropriate translation


Trends in the us uk

Trends in the US & UK

  • US, UK and Australia are all advocating “permanency”

  • In Australia (NSW) we are moving to a public health model of child protection, which suggests a focus on primary care & prevention, family support

  • US approach heavily favours adoption as a solution, but new emphasis on kin care subsidies and services to restore children to families. Reducing numbers in care not only due to adoption: some children never adopted.

  • UK heavily focused on adoption as means of securing permanency (↑numbers and speed) – but evidence tension with courts in their traditional role of providing checks and balances on state intervention into family.


Recent english cases in tension with uk government policy on adoption

Recent English Cases in tension with UK government policy on adoption

  • Recent Supreme Court cases of Re B (Care Proceedings Appeal) [2013] UKSC 33 , followed by Court of Appeal cases of Re B-S (Adoption: Application of s 47(5)) [2013] EWCA Civ 1146 and Re S (Appeal from Care and Placement Orders) [2014] EWCA Civ 135 –

  • Court focus - limits adoption to a ‘last resort’ (fundamental reappraisal of adoption as a child protection mechanism & proportionality requirements)

  • Increased scrutiny of social work evidence to support this in comparison to other options for care (↑ delay)

  • Lowering leave hurdle for parents to have a placement order revoked or to contest adoption


Permanency

Permanency

  • 3 forms of permanency: legal, emotional, physical

  • Trust, feeling loved, cared for – sense of security makes the difference at the individual level

    • Children’s perceptions that matter

    • Relationships esp with parents and caregivers mediate the effects of structural variables

  • Social support – family level


Permanency a narrow legal construct

Permanency: a narrow legal construct?

  • Criticism of the US construction of permanency as equated with narrow legal concepts of adoption

  • Permanency equated in social sciences approaches to the sense of security a child has that they belong in a family – not severance of legal ties to birth family

  • Adoption developed as a private law concept in 20th century in context of consensual decisions; now key mechanism in public law, coercive state intervention

  • Adoption concept needs legal renovation; danger of not recognising the new context in which it operates and overemphasising it as a panacea


Focus of adoption research

Focus of Adoption Research

  • Focus on outcomes, identity and contact between members of child, adoptive and birth parents

  • Relatively few studies directly with children re their experiences

  • Reliance on UK and US research – little in Australia

  • Not a singular experience – diversity and different contexts

    • Differences between :

      • Local and intra-country adoption

      • ‘Known’ and ‘unknown’ adoptions and

      • Adoption by foster carers and other unknown

    • Challenges in trans-racial adoption


Adoption research

Adoption Research

  • Focus on outcomes, identity and contact between members of child, adoptive and birth parents

  • Relatively few studies directly with children re their experiences

  • Reliance on UK and US research – little in Australia

  • Not a singular experience – diversity and different contexts

    • Differences between :

      • Local and intra-country adoption

      • ‘Known’ and ‘unknown’ adoptions and

      • Adoption by foster carers and other unknown

    • Challenges in trans-racial adoption


Factors affecting adoption and lt foster care outcomes

Factors affecting adoption and LT foster care outcomes

  • Age at placement – expectation re age of child

  • Time in care and number of earlier moves

  • Severity and duration of abuse and neglect

  • Children’s emotional and behavioural problems

  • Carer’s age, commitment and resources

  • Child’s wishes – ambivalent or opposed

  • Presence of other children

    • Children of carer near age or less than 5 years

    • Siblings / other foster children


Research issues

Research issues

  • Somewhat mixed picture: Issues to consider

    • Comparing ‘like’ with ‘like’ – selection and ‘survival’ biases

    • Correlation vs causation –

    • Nature, size and quality of sample – national rep studies

    • Going beyond disruption rates

    • Outcomes - quality of relationships and felt security

    • Whose reports? Hearing from children

  • Best evidence – longitudinal studies

  • Pathways of Care study – NSW important opportunity

  • Beyond 18 – Vic larege-scale longitudinal study


Nsw pathways of care study

NSW Pathways of Care study

  • http://www.community.nsw.gov.au/pathways/index.htm


Children s rights issues

Children’s Rights Issues

  • Children’s right to a family – balance

  • Best interests and rehabilitation as primary objective

  • Children’s rights to family, to identity and to be heard and to participate

  • Regular (independent) evaluations of practices, programs

  • * UN Committee Concluding Observations


Policy implications

Policy Implications

  • Importance of varied options to meet needs of particular children : adoption no panacea for all but can meet needs of very young children if undertaken early (research evidence)

  • It is an important option for children, but risk it will be favoured because of resource implications in difficult fiscal times; not because it is only option for individual children

  • Introduction of adoption as preferred approach needs to be evidence-based and accompanied by support


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