Adoption of Aboriginal children in Australia

This post is about adoption as well but it is a very different conversation. Yes, Aboriginal children have been adopted in the past few years and the numbers (thankfully) are very low.

Talking about adoption for Aboriginal children is a difficult subject to raise as it immediately sparks pain and understandable outrage about the Stolen Generations and legacy of cultural isolation it left behind that continues to impact Aboriginal people and families. You just have to listen to the stories of Aboriginal elders who were part of the Stolen Generation to understand the reasons.

Similar to understanding the practice, and policy that lead to the Stolen Generations, it is also important to contextualise inter-generational poverty, disadvantage, discrimination and racism as we weigh up what to do next. I have already blogged and provided links about the fact that Aboriginal children are vastly over-represented in the ‘care system’ and are around 10 times more likely to come into care.

But what about the children already in care?

There are different views in terms of what is best for Aboriginal children who are unable to live with their parents or wider Aboriginal family due to significant safety issues (most Aboriginal children that come into care are now placed with family where-ever possible). And the differing views are also within Aboriginal communities.

After many years working in the sector, having regular conversations with Aboriginal people/colleagues/friends and considering all the positions, I find it difficult to be absolute in terms of rejecting adoption for every Aboriginal child. I hold the same view for non-Aboriginal children in care in Australia.

I believe that every child (including Aboriginal children) should have their needs considered on an individual basis. For Aboriginal children there must be a cultural framework around the decision making.

I believe that Aboriginal family should always have a strong relationship to their children (including those in care).

I believe every child in care has the right to a view about their own permanency and whilst this not always align to a cultural policy, their voice is very relevant to decision making.

I agree that culture is the lived experience and that this should also be present in the life of every Aboriginal child.

I believe that Aboriginal families should be part of the conversations and decision making to support permanency and belonging that is cultural, relational and legally appropriate.

Stopping Aboriginal children from entering care

What we should be asking is what are we (the collective we – society, government, communities, schools, health) are doing to empower Aboriginal communities, leaders and families to lead solutions to reduce child protection interference.

Time, resources and a collective commitment should focus on prevention with a sense of urgency.  Once there is child protection involvement there are multiple risk and safety issues at play. The earlier we support parents and young families, the better chance we have of turning this travesty around.

Yes, adoption of Aboriginal children is a subject that divides but should not be ignored. If you want to read some more perspectives:

Article – Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws

Article – Tougher to adopt in Western Australia under cultural identity requirements

Article – Canberra Times

SNAICC  policy relating to adoption of Aboriginal children in Australia

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