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The Sheri Shenker Letter

Dear Sheri

We, the members of Families with Children from China, were sad to hear about the recent passing of Ricky Brisson who was a hugely influential and passionate person and intercountry adoption advocate. As she was also a woman who enjoyed leading from the front, I imagine that there are many things to consolidate within AFC.

I am reconnecting with you to ask whether there have been any developments generally referencing the following taken from your update in January 2015, and specifically for the China Special Needs program:

A submission for authorisation was handed to the AGD on 22 January 2015. AFC have applied to be authorised in Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, South Africa, China (Special Needs Program), Fiji, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

You are aware that the China SN program is not available to prospective adoptive parents in NSW. In 2013 FCCA initiated a review to assess interest in the program (in VIC and NSW) and to provide information to Family and Community Services (FACS) about offering said program to interested families in NSW. NSW FACS maintained that they could not support the program. As AFC is now advocating handling the processing of special need adoption from China, FCCA are wondering if you will be advocating for NSW to be part of the program.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes

Karin Wentworth-Ping

President

Families with Children from China FCCA

An update from Australian Families for Children Inc. January 2015

AFC has previously announced that the agency was granted accreditation as an intercountry adoption agency by the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG), in August 2014.

The agency was then notified by the Attorney General’s Department (AGD), that in order to work with overseas countries, AFC would need to seek authorisation from the AGD.

AFC board members and the Principal Officer travelled to Canberra to meet with the AGD to try ascertain the requirements for authorisation and gather information on the proposed adoption reforms announced by government, but were informed that the proposed reforms had been dramatically altered and the only reform discussed was the introduction of a call centre directing adoption queries to State resources. No clear guidelines for the application for authorisation were obtained from the meeting.

AFC met with the OCG, in November 2014, to clarify the conditions of accreditation that conflicted with advice from the AGD. The OCG stated they would obtain legal advice and report back to AFC. We are still waiting for the legal advice.

After much communication with the AGD, and conflicting information from the OCG and AGD, on 24 December 2014, we eventually received an outline of the information that the AGD required for considering our authorisation.

A submission for authorisation was handed to the AGD on 22 January 2015.

AFC have applied to be authorised in Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, South Africa, China (Special Needs Program), Fiji, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, Philippines, and Sri Lanka.

The Principal Officer at AFC has also met with and spoken to the NSW information officers of various country support groups including China, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, and the Philippines. The aim of these meetings was a needs assessment of adoptive families, both pre and post adoption.

Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, Proposes Changes to Intercountry Adoption Policy

On l3 December 2013, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to put the subject of overseas adoption of children on the agenda for the next COAG meeting in April 2014.In the press conference that followed the meeting, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott said: This is an issue which is very important to a lot of people in our community, and one of the oddities about a modem Australia is that there are so many people who would love to be parents but for all sorts of reasons it's very difficult. There is no doubt that there are a lot of children- both here and abroad - that would benefit from a good home. Now, it’s ‘been very difficult to adopt both domestically and it's not easy to adopt from overseas. I think this is an issue that could benefit from attention at the highest levels of government. That's what it will be getting between now and the next meeting of COAG, and hopefully we will have something to say after the next COAG meeting.

There's been a lot of talk over the past few years about streamlining arrangements for overseas adoption but very little action. It is clear from discussions with many of the stakeholders in this area that urgent reform is needed. I don't want to put families and children into a further state of limbo, which is why I have committed the Australian Government to delivering reforms to overseas adoption within twelve months. I have asked my Department to chair an interdepartmental committee on overseas adoption that will report to me in early March 2014.

The committee's terms of reference are to identify:

  • impediments to inter-country adoption;
  • immediate steps that could be taken for improving and streamlining the delivery of inter-country adoption services to make inter-country adoption easier and faster for Australian couples;
  • longer term proposals for reform;
  • possible new partner countries with which Australia could establish new inter-country adoption programmes;
  • alternative means of delivering inter-country adoption programs (including via NGOs); and
  • any changes to Commonwealth or State legislation that would improve and streamlining of the inter-country adoption process.

The committee will also assess the cost implications of any options for reform, for families and for government.

Letter of Response from FCCA

The Honorable Tony Abbott MP
Prime Minister
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Dear Prime Minister,

Re: Interdepartmental Committee on Overseas Adoption

Dear Mr Abbott, please find below the submission from Families with Children from China – Australia. We are the only national parent group that acts solely for families who have adopted or are in the process of adoption children of Chinese ethnicity. Please find below our submission to your Committee. We would welcome the opportunity to detail our views and recommendations as we have a range of specific responses to your committee’s terms of reference.for families who have adopted or for families who have adopted or lely for families who have adopted or are in the process of adopting children of Chinese ethnicity.

  • Development of a National Intercountry Adoption group which governs all State Intercountry Adoption Agencies and their programs.   All adoption agencies whether government or privatised to be accredited and governed by the one National not for profit body.
  • Appoint an independent National body, to oversee adoptions, accredit adoption organisations, endorse and maintain country to country agreements proposed by accredited bodies and take on the role as a Central Authority within Australia.
  • Government to take ownership of adoption at a Federal level, to address gross inconsistencies in state legislation, policies and procedures. Australia needs a unified government approach to policy and legislation for adoption.  Each State needs to have the same set of rules and infrastructure required for intercountry adoption.
  • A one door approach for intercountry and local adoption.  Permanent and foster care within Australia be included in this one door approach with relevant branches for different areas. Prospective families to have the ability to apply for more than one program at the same time without discrimination.
  • Government to provide funding for supported post placement services which is often overlooked yet an integral support system for the children and their adoptive families throughout their life span.
  • Legislation and processes such as applications for passports, citizenship, birth certificates (for our children who don’t have them) and visas be uniformly introduced across all States to ensure an efficient processing system while ensuring the rights of our adoptive children.
  • A reduction in intercountry adoption fees across Australia in order to reduce the financial burden on families wishing to adopt.
Yours sincerely,
Caroline Regan
Vice President
FCCA (Families with Children from China)

FCCA Response to and Position on the COAG and Interdepartmental Committee Report

May 2014

The FCCA Committee have agreed on a position statement on the COAG Communique and the Interdepartmental Committee Report on Intercountry Adoption, both released in May. Please take a look at the Interdepartmental Committee report (rather than media coverage of recent - somewhat misleading - announcements), and to communicate your thoughts to the FCCA Committee by email or via our Yahoo Group or Facebook Group and to the Federal Government.

A copy of the report is here:

http://www.dpmc.gov.au/publications/docs/idc_report_intercountry_adoption.pdf

FCCA supports and concurs with COAG's approach that all intercountry adoption arrangements must be in the best interests of children and within the Hague Convention.

However intercountry adoption services are to be delivered, it is imperative to ensure that the highest level of pre-adoption education for applicants - a strong feature of the Australian program - is maintained, along with due scrutiny of applicants.

FCCA supports improvement in post-placement service provision as an imperative part of any new intercountry adoption service delivery model. We welcome the particular recognition of post-placement services in the Interdepartmental Committee's recommendations.

If intercountry adoption services are to be delivered by non-government agencies, it is imperative that strong government oversight of program delivery is maintained.

FCCA welcomes the recommendations of the Interdepartmental Committee, especially improvements to Commonwealth systems and regulation/legislation in the area of Citizenship, and in the area of Social Services to support adopted children with special needs in particular.  We also particularly welcome the idea of a public communications campaign aimed at challenging the many misconceptions about intercountry adoption.

FCCA supports any move to lower fees for intercountry adoption applicants. We also advocate for a one-door approach for applicants to local and intercountry adoption programs that facilitates movement between systems and jurisdictions.

In the period of transition to any new system, FCCA would echo the strong desire of COAG for orderly and clear arrangements for all applicants and families currently in the system.

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