I am single, stable and have a good job….why can’t I adopt a child?

by Peter Magee on October 7, 2016

Byron Leong

The Victorian Law Reform Commission is currently reviewing the laws in relation to adoption to provide recommendations on the “modernisation” of such laws. The Adoption Act 1984 (“Adoption Laws”) govern the law in Victoria in relation to adoption.

Adoption of children in Australia has declined since the mid 1970’s due to a number of factors such as the social acceptance of a child born out of wedlock, single parents and the introduction of the single parent pension. In addition to social change, there has also been the recognition of the significantly detrimental effects of the so called “stolen generation” arising from the forced adoption of indigenous children.

The request by the Victorian Government to review the Adoption Laws has in my view shortly followed the recent changes made to the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (“Child Protection Laws”) that provides that the permanency objectives of the Child Protection Laws by way of priority are:

  • Family Preservation;
  • Family Reunification;
  • Adoption;
  • Permanent Care;
  • Long Term out of care home.

Adoption is now elevated above permanent care or long term out of care home arrangements. In my view, this is a drastic measure and fails to recognise the sins of the past with forced adoptions. Why would you completely sever the familial relationship between a child and his or her biological family unless it truly was in his/her best interests?

Whilst I am sceptical about the timing of the review, I believe that the review of the adoptions laws is necessary particularly in relation to the current prejudice to a single person wanting to provide a child in need with a better life.

A single person can only adopt if there are “special circumstances” that make this type of adoption “desirable”. The meaning of “special circumstances” was explained at the time the Adoption Act 1984 was enacted as where there was already a strong relationship between the child and a particular adult or where a child copes better with one adult. Despite this explanation, single people have only been able to adopt children with special needs such as a child with a disability. This requirement is not only discriminatory to single people but completely outdated with the contemporary family. A single person is able to conceive and have a child resulting from artificial reproduction technology, so why should he or she be considered less favourable then a couple to adopt a child? In the current social climate there is no guarantee that couple who successfully adopts a child will not separate therefore the child becomes part of a single parent household. Being a single parent does not mean that he or she cannot provide a stable and loving home environment for a child to grow up in.

The Commission is asking for views from the community to ensure that appropriate changes are made to the Victorian adoption laws. I guess it is now a case of wait and see about what the Commission finds and any recommendations to be made to our current adoption laws.

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