National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Experiences
In late 2009, the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) commissioned the Australian Institute of Family Studies to write a review of the research literature on past adoption practices in Australia Impact of past adoption practices: Summary of key issues from Australian research.
As a result of this review, in 2011 FaHCSIA commissioned the Institute to conduct a research study to build on the existing research and evidence about the extent and impact of past adoption experiences.
The aim of the National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Experiences was to strengthen the evidence available to governments to address the current service needs of individuals affected by past adoption practices, including the need for information, counselling and reunion services.
This research was focused on the period of closed adoption in Australia and its effects. Closed adoption is where an adopted child’s birth certificate was sealed and an amended birth certificate issued that established the child's adopted identity and relationship with their new adopted family. This practice changed gradually across Australia through the late 1970s, 80s and 90s.
The study targeted a wide group of those affected by past practices, including mothers, fathers, adoptees, adoptive parents (and wider family members), as well as professionals currently working with affected individuals. It involved large-scale surveys and qualitative studies of persons affected by past adoption practices. This includes people subjected to unauthorised separation from their child, which then resulted in adoption (often referred to as forced adoption). Over 1500 people responded to the surveys and many also took part in focus group discussions.
The study helped identify the current service needs resulting from people’s experiences of this time and also examined the types of services and support that individuals may have previously sought. It is intended to use the findings to strengthen the evidence available to governments to address the current needs of individuals affected by past adoption experiences, including the need for information, counselling and reunion services.
The Past Adoption Experiences: National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices was published on 17 August 2012.
The key needs identified by the study included:
- acknowledgement, recognition and increased community awareness of and education about past adoption practices and their subsequent effects;
- specialised workforce training and development for health and welfare professionals to appropriately respond to the needs of those affected;
- review of the current search and contact service systems, with a commitment to develop improved service models;
- improved access to information through the joining of state and territory databases, governed by a single statutory body;
- improved access to and assistance with costs for mental, behavioural and physical health services; and
- ensuring that lessons from past practices are learned from and translated where appropriate into current child welfare policies, and that adoption-specific services are created or enhanced to respond to the consequences of past practices.
National Apology for Forced Adoptions and Forced Adoption Support Services Scoping Study
The Australian Government response to the recommendations of the Senate Inquiry regarding the Commonwealth contribution to former forced adoption policies and practices was announced by the then Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard, when she apologised on behalf of the Australian Government to people affected by forced adoption or removal policies and practices on 21 March 2013. The Government response states a scoping study will be conducted to provide guidance in relation to the:
- establishment of specialist support and counselling services;
- availability of peer support groups;
- extension of current family tracing and support services; and
- extension of state and territory Find and Connect information services to include adoption service provides.