The Open Adoption and Multicultural Communities practice forum, held on Thursday November 12, brought together leading out-of-home care practitioners and NGOs to discuss challenges and considerations of open adoption with regard to migrant and refugee communities.
Adoption is a legal process and transfers rights and responsibilities of parenthood from the child's birth parents (or from the Minister for those children where parental responsibility is with the Minister) to the adoptive parents.
‘Openness’ in open adoption refers to the building of a relationship between the birth and adoptive families through contact with each other, and the degree of openness with which adoption is discussed within the adoptive family.
One of the key aspects of the Department of Family and Community Services’ Safe Home for Life reforms is the promotion of open adoption as the preferred placement option for children and young people in care, ahead of long term foster care.
As a provider of out of home care services to children and young people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, through its Multicultural Foster Care Service, SSI has a keen interest in the development of open adoption in NSW.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said that open adoption was new territory for SSI and many other out of home care agencies, many of whom were represented at the forum.
“Whilst we know we can draw on the skills and expertise that our Multicultural Foster Care Service program already holds in caring for children and young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, we also know there will be new practice issues to consider in working with open adoption,” Ms Roumeliotis said.
ACWA Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Dr Wendy Foote said that adoption was not just about adding another child to the family.
“Open adoption means extending the family’s borders to encompass not only the child or young person, but also their culture and their biological family,” Dr Foote said.
“It’s important that honest and sometimes difficult conversations between families happen early on in the process of working with families, as adoption is one of the possible pathways for children to achieve stable and permanent homes when their biological families are not able to provide safety and stability.”
The importance of cultural maintenance was a key point in all presentations. The minimising of the ‘ripple effect’ of adoption was also raised as a consideration through an increased level of community engagement and consideration of the broader family.
The ripple effect concept refers to the wide-ranging impacts that adoption has beyond just the mothers and the children that are adopted.
“Open adoption is just one of a number of options available to children and young people in out-of-home care, and we want to be sure that all options are carefully considered to ensure it’s in the best interest of the child,” Ms Roumeliotis said.