Tony Abbott’s South Africa, Australia Intercountry Adoption program change will help five children
Source: News Limited
PRIME Minister Tony Abbott’s deal to hasten adoptions of children from South Africa will only initially create places for five orphaned children in Australia.
Those children will be HIV-positive, born to HIV-positive mothers or demonstrate developmental delays.
There is hope that the number of South African adoptions will rise, but so far no agreement has been struck to take more than five children over an unspecified period.
The Prime Minister’s announcement in early May was reported as a major breakthrough in Australia and South Africa, where some media claim there are an estimated four million orphaned children.
Actress Deborra-Lee Furness, whom with husband Hugh Jackman has adopted two foreign children, joined Mr Abbott to talk up the announcement on the Today Show, saying she was “thrilled” for all parents who are desperate to adopt.
Mr Abbott’s language on the same program was, in hindsight, more circumspect. He said that the “potential for overseas adoption is somewhat greater today than it was yesterday”.
Australian adoption advocates said they were unaware the arrangement applied to so few children.
“It’s taken seven years of negotiation to get five children,” said Sydney-based Ricky Brisson of the Australian Intercountry Adoption Network, who nonetheless conceded five was better than
Source: News Limited
John O’Neill, chair of Adoption Awareness, had praised Mr Abbott’s South African announcement without being aware of the detail, but said he was not concerned about the small numbers.
“I’m not alarmed about the opening of a relationship with South Africa on a small volume, special needs basis,” he said. “This is the next step in a long journey.”
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s report on Intercountry Adoption was released in redacted form on May 4. It recommended the South Africa deal but gave no detail.
The fine print was revealed on the website of Attorney-General George Brandis, which stated that Australia would work with a group called Cape Town Child Welfare to find homes for five children.
“CTCW has advised that it will initially accept five files from Australia,” states the Attorney-General’s site.
“Applicants approved to send files will need to be assessed as suitable to care for children with the types of complex medical and health conditions which many South African children in need of intercountry adoption have.”
The five children would be “both boys and girls aged up to six years, who have complex medical and health conditions”, which likely included HIV-exposed kids in the Aids-ravaged country.
The Attorney-General’s Department was also unable to say how long waiting times would be if the five applications were successful.
Katinka Pieterse, program director of South Africa’s ABBA child protection organisation and vice-chair of the National Adoption Coalition, questioned the figure of four million orphans cited by her country’s media.
She suggested there were up to 2.5 million vulnerable children, but only about 2000 children officially up for adoption. All efforts were first made to place them in South African homes.
Ms Pieterse said about 200 children went to intercountry adoption each year, and they typically had health or development issues.
“That is our need,” she said. “A lot of them are HIV-exposed and they’re the ones we need families for, because we can’t always find places for them here.”
She said foreign countries were more likely to take children with special needs than South African homes.
Questioned why Australia had struck a deal with only one Cape Town adoption agency, Ms Pieterse explained that there were only a dozen or so accredited adoption agencies in her country.
Ms Pieterse said the overarching South African Central Authority — which did the deal with Australia — was mindful of not creating competition among accredited agencies who might want to offload children.
“It’s part of a structured development and it’s a start,” she said. “It’s preferable to work with one agency and then develop relationships with others.
“Adoption is not the ideal position for children. One should seek other options first. My understanding is the agreement is positive but it’s definitely not massive.”
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