Furness fosters adoption crusade

In the Sunday Mail, Adelaide 14 December 2013, an article commenced with: “Adoption champion Deborra-Lee Furness has won the support of Prime Minister Tony Abbott to tackle Australia’s ‘anti-adoption culture’ “. I dispute Furness’s statement. Australia does not have an ‘anti-adoption culture’. Its policies are child-centric and slow, to ensure that adopters have adequate skills to provide a safe and positive adoption experience for infants and children.

Adoption cannot be about the needs of adults; it must be about children’s need for safety. We have not learned what contributes to positive and negative adoption experiences. Is today’s situation any different to the past? Where are the pressures to increase the number of adoptions coming from?

Are there guarantees that adoption will be done better by this generation of Adopters? The mistakes of the past were not just about forced removal of infants from their mothers, as the title of the AIFS study implies. The mistakes were also about the lack of options at the time, the needs of childless women in the post war boom time, the influence of the ‘nature versus nurture’ theory, and the overall conclusion that an infant’s mother could be replaced by another in the process of adoption. This belief remains unchallenged despite its inconsistency. On one hand there was community outrage when a mother was returned to Nauru without her newborn, and on the other, society accepts that an infant is transplantable from the familiar environment of the womb, to a totally strange environment, devoid of comfort and deprived of attachment.

There is ample research on the trauma experienced by newborns who were separated at birth and the importance of maternal attachment for healthy childhood development, yet the ongoing complex trauma and lifelong difficulties for Adoptees as they interpret life through the lens of trauma, is not understood, accepted or allowed for in funding support.

The adoption industry in the US does not provide a healthy model for parenting adopted children. Children with post adoption behaviour difficulties are labelled with Adoption Syndrome and treatment can be abusive. I believe this is a blind-spot in a culture that needs to believe in a romantic notion of adoption rather than dialoguing with Adoptees to learn from the past, improve adoption practice for the sake of the children. There are few potential adopters that are willing to learn from Adoptees’ experience.

Adoptees past, present and future have no champion, no voice and no audience.