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SBS Radio – “The question of same-sex adoption”


In New South Wales same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt, but a private member’s bill is seeking to change that.

Independent MP Clover Moore recently introduced the bill, which will be debated when parliament returns from its winter break in late August.
Adoption by same-sex couples can be an emotive issue, inciting a broad range of opinions in the community.

Laws governing adoption by same-sex couples vary from state to state with little uniformity.
The policy coordinator with the New South Wales Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Senthorn Raj, says the country’s same-sex adoption laws range widely.

There are very few states and territories in Australia that permit same-sex-couple adoption.
Western Australia and the ACT permit same-sex couples eligibility to adopt.

Tasmania permits a second-parent adoption mechanism for same-sex couples, which applies to step-parents.

Other states and territories currently do not have any mechanism permitting same-sex couples eligibility to adopt.

Raj says there is a misconception in the community that same-sex couples are primarily seeking to adopt unknown children.

He points out very few children are adopted domestically in Australia or overseas.
Instead, he argues, the real issue is about children already living with same-sex parents.
Across Australia there are over 4,300 children who live in same-sex families, but those children are being denied the legal recognition of both their parents.

This compromises the legal entitlements and rights a child is able to access around superannuation, workers compensation, custody and contact with their parent after a relationship breakdown.

Jenni Millbank, of the Faculty of Law at the University of Technology in Sydney, also argues law reform is primarily about children in existing relationships.

For same-sex couples the major issue with adoption is that if they foster or look after a child or children over a long period of time, as a couple they are not then eligible to adopt those children and give them a more secure environment.

They are also excluded from step-parent adoptions.

This means that a same-sex couple where one biological parent has died or there is no other legal parent, in the case of a lesbian couple who have had a child or in the case of assisted conception, for example, the family cannot formalise a parenting arrangement that is already in place.

Millbank says law-reform processes and parliamentary committees are important in letting everyone have a say on issues like same-sex adoption.

She says that generally they show you cannot make an absolute finding, based on sexual orientation or family structure, about what is good or bad for children.

Instead, Millbank argues, you need to look at individual people and couples and their parenting styles and the way they interact with children and make a finding about whether those specific adults are right for that specific child.

Political party Family First opposes adoption by same-sex couples, saying the number of children already living with same-sex parents does not justify law reform in the area.

Dennis Hood, a member in the upper house of the South Australian parliament for Family First, is opposed to legalising same-sex adoption.

Hood argues that the very small number affected by the arguments Millbank outlines does not justify a change in legislation.

He says one of the implications of a change parenting laws that allows homosexual couples to adopt children is that it would mean a change in the whole terminology of what parenting is.
Hood says parents may no longer be referred to as mother and father. They would become co-parents because, in some cases, the actual biological parent of the child is no longer included on the birth certificate.

Different groups have called on the Federal Government to take over adoption laws so they are more consistent.

But Hood claims legal reform would set a precedent he does not think Australia needs.
He argues that children have been brought up, where possible, by a mother and father for thousands of years. To change that role may be beneficial for the small minority of parents, but questions whether it is beneficial for the children themselves.

When it comes to fostering children, many agencies, especially, with religious affiliations, can reject some carers based on exemptions granted by the Anti-Discrimination Act.

While exemptions vary from state to state, it is not unusual for faith-affiliated groups to reject same-sex couples’ applications based on those exemptions.

Barnardos Australia is a foster-care agency based in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory that openly recruits same-sex couples.

Chief Executive Officer Louise Voigt says the main priority for Barnardos is not the carers’ sexuality, but their ability to take care of traumatised children.

She says that with same-sex couples it can be difficult because they are not approved as adoptive families. They have a number of (same-sex) carers who are highly successful and they do not want to move those children, who have strong attachments but still need the security of adoption.

Voigt says she would like to see legal reform because it would allow many of Barnardos carers to permanently adopt the children they care for.

She says that, with around one in three children eventually adopted, permanency is always in the child’s best interests.

[Source: Original Article]

Categories: Adoption
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