A new study has found thousands of Australians involved in past adoption practices are still living with the effects without access to appropriate
Past Adoption Experiences
This report presents the findings of the National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices.
The aim of the study 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.
In particular, the study has targeted a wide group of those affected by past practices, including mothers, fathers, adoptees, adoptive parents (and wider family members); and professionals currently working with affected individuals.
Findings from the Senate Inquiry into the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices were also taken into account.
Some of the content in this report contains information that may cause distress to the reader.
We advise that those who have been affected by past adoptions or are sensitive to trauma issues may wish to avoid reading sections 5.3 and 7.6 in particular, or ensure that appropriate support is available.
If distressed, please call LIFELINE on 13 11 14.
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
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.
Authors and Acknowledgements
Pauline Kenny is a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Daryl Higgins is Deputy Director (Research) at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Carol Soloff is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Reem Sweid is a Research Officer at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
The research team wish to acknowledge the following individuals and groups, without whom this study would not have been possible:
- Community and Disability Services Ministers' Conference (CDSMC) and the Department of Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) for commissioning the research;
- the technical and stakeholder advisory groups who continued to keep in touch with us over the course of the project to keep us up to speed on current issues/activities and who went above and beyond what is considered a reasonable level of contribution;
- the organisations that gave us the use of their facilities for free to conduct focus groups and interviews across the country;
- organisations who posted out survey forms for us; and
- colleagues from AIFS who assisted with communications for the study, particularly Margaret O'Shannessy, Alister Lamont, Lan Wang and Lauren Di Salvia.
But above all, our thanks and gratitude go to the participants of this study. The authors would like to acknowledge all the people who responded to the survey. We would particularly like to thank the large number of people who gave their time and energy to attend the focus group discussions around the country; for meeting with us in unconventional locations; for being open to sharing their stories with other participants and listening respectfully to perspectives that may not have been in line with their own; and, most especially, for opening their lives and hearts to us. We are more than understanding of the huge effect that even just participating has had on some people, and for this, we thank you. You have allowed us to come on a little bit of the journey with you, and this has been an absolute privilege. We hope we have been able to do your stories justice and that you will be satisfied that your participation has been worth it.
This work was commissioned and funded by the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Views expressed in this publication are those of individual authors and may not reflect those of the Australian Government or the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Kenny, P., Higgins, D., Soloff, C., & Sweid, R. (2012). Past adoption experiences: National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Practices (Research Report No. 21). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
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