Open adoption central to child protection legislation reforms

Date: Jul 28, 2014

Reforms have been introduced in New South Wales to improve the ability of courts, caseworkers and parents to intervene in the lives of at-risk children. Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward said that open adoption is an integral part of the reforms.

The Child Protection Legislation Amendment Act 2014 was passed by the New South Wales Government in June and the New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell and Ms Goward announced the reforms in November last year.

The three main areas of the reform are encouraging good parenting, making sure the system provides for the best interests of the child and giving children and young people in care a safe and stable home.

"This legislation will give the state's most vulnerable children the best chance of a better future, by increasing early intervention services, streamlining adoption and providing more support to new mothers," Mr O'Farrell said.

Ms Goward said the reforms would provide the state with the ability to intervene earlier than previously, this will mean that early intervention procedures may begin before the child is born. Ms Goward also said the state was not willing to accept multiple placements of children in foster homes, as open adoption has been acknowledged as having a stabilising effect on children. 

"There are about 18,000 children in out of home care in NSW. Under the current system, if a parent is deemed not capable of looking after a child then the child is put into long-term foster care - however in many cases adoption is a much better option," said Ms Goward. 

"These reforms also acknowledge the greater role open adoption, or long-term guardianship in the case of Aboriginal children, can play in providing vulnerable children with the basic need of a safe home for life."

New principles that outline how a permanent home will be secured for at risk children will be included in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. The options for the court to consider are the child living with the parents, long-term guardianship being granted to a relative or kin, open adoption and the Minister being granted parental responsibility. 

The reforms are based on the Child Protection Legislative Reforms discussion paper that was made available to the public for submissions in November 2012. The Act will come into effect on October 29, 2014. 

If you are interested in talking about an open adoption case, consult a family lawyer who can talk you through the process and your options.