Real life: I adopted our foster child

Jackie Stricker-Phelps on why Australia needs to overhaul its adoption and foster care system.

Since our adoption became public knowledge, I have had emails and letters from exhausted and disheartened foster parents who have been waiting years for permission to adopt.
Gabi came to us at 9. Our experience of fostering was both wonderful and frustrating.
The most difficult part of the whole process was the unwieldy and underfunded bureaucracy with red tape, constantly changing case workers, people who were supposed to work to protect Gabi but who felt like they were her enemy and only interested in pushing the agenda of in the biological parent rather than the interests of the child.
Gabi was so sick of being asked the same questions by constantly changing case workers that she asked if the "system had Alzheimers."
It took 3 years of intensive agitation to make it happen. By that time she was 12 and could consent to her own adoption. We were one of the few lucky families.
There are thousands of children out there waiting years to be adopted. Not all of them have foster parents with the ability to take on the system. If foster parents apply for parental rights as we did, the up side is that they are kept informed, but the down side is that they become responsible for ALL legal costs associated with the adoption. Without parental rights you are kept in the dark.
Adoption brings certainty.
Our daughter wanted that certainty, and so did we.
Governments need to get their act together and accelerate the adoption process. They need to stop being scared of being accused of creating another "stolen generation" and recognise that they are failing a whole "rescued generation".
These are children who have been removed for their safety, never to be returned. These are children who want to be adopted and they should be heard. There is an unreasonable weight given to biological parents who have abused or neglected their children to the point where they had to be removed and in my opinion, that means forfeiting parental rights.
Our daughter said in a speech she gave to a Barnardo’s function a couple of years ago, that “biology is over-rated.”
It is little wonder that good people baulk at the idea of fostering. They do not want the angst, the expense or the intrusion into their lives with no guaranteed outcomes. And they discover how hard it is to adopt.
It is a national disgrace how few local adoptions there are each year in Australia.
You only get one chance at childhood. For children who have been neglected or abused and who have found a family where they feel safe and loved, we need to make sure fostering is a short-term prospect on the way to a permanent home.
This is about the rights of these children to a secure future.

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