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Moral failures and market failures: why we should abandon intercountry adoption and support local foster care

By Vittorio Cintio - posted Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Adopt Change, a high profile lobby group has persuaded the Abbott government to cut the red tape to speed up intercountry adoptions. In December 2013 the SMH reported that

Tony Abbott says he wants to make it "much much easier" for Australian couples to adopt children from overseas, saying tens of thousands of babies could be brought to Australia from orphanages.

The Prime Minister invited Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman and his wife, the adoption advocate Deborra-Lee Furness, to Kirribilli House on Thursday to announce that his government would deliver "reform on overseas adoption" within 12 months.


"There are millions of children in orphanages overseas who would love to have parents," Mr Abbott said. "And thousands of those, maybe even tens of thousands of those could come to Australia".

In May 2014 the Prime Minister announced that a would be a new national system in operation by early 2015.

Adopt Change also claims that there are "almost 18,500 kids in foster care in Australia needing a family". Is this accurate? And is adoption a solution?

Let us be clear: there is no eager queue in the US or Australia of people waiting to adopt a child from out of home care.

Whatever the consequences of adoption from foster care, it does not increase the quantum of carers as it mostly formalizes existing care arrangements.Paradoxically, in 2013, the NSW Government spent a million dollars in a campaign to recruit more foster carers. The Minister said,

"There is urgent need for new foster families to provide safety and stability for vulnerable children and young people,"…"We have 9,000 amazing foster carers across NSW, but we need more. In the next year alone we need at least 450 new carers."


There were no Hollywood celebrities at the launch.

We know from past history that adoption flourishes when governments deny the resources that families and communities need to look after their own children. It then becomes easy to break the connection between birth parents and their children. This in turn frees up a larger pool of children available to be adopted.

Do social inequality and high adoption rates go together? Well…..yes.

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About the Author

Vittorio Cintio is a senior social worker in NSW Health. He is a former Vice President of the Australian Association of Social Workers, and former President of Allied Health Professions Australia. He blogs about social work and social policy from a social justice perspective.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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