Jolie's doctor crusades

Date: 
2008-04-06

ANGELINA Jolie's pediatrician has slammed Australia's adoption laws, branding them ``uncooperative'' and calling for urgent change.

Ellen Connolly

New York-based Dr Jane Aronson, who founded the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, has been closely following the adoption campaign, spearheaded by actress Deborra-lee Furness.

Aronson wants Australia, along with the United States, to establish a ministry for adoption.

"There should be a government department that's completely devoted to international adoption - and there isn't,'' said Dr Aronson, who has specialised in international adoption medicine since the early 1990s.

Furness believes a dedicated department would help to improve the system and provide strong leadership.

"I support the initiative because I think the international adoption issue is a big enough world crisis to merit this sort of attention,'' she said.

Dr Aronson, who has evaluated more than 6000 orphans from 20 countries, has gained a high profile in recent years as pediatrician to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's adopted children.

She met Furness three years ago.

"I feel so lucky to have met Deb,'' Dr Aronson said.

"We did some work in Kenya. We really talked a lot about kids without homes and I feel incredibly grateful that she took this issue on.''

Furness and husband, actor Hugh Jackman, have become an integral part of the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, often hosting gala fundraisers.

Furness said Aronson was an inspiration.

"Jane was very helpful to me when I was setting up a foundation, (at www.rafikisociety.com) to work with orphanages in Africa.

"She sent out some of her “orphan rangers” to assist the work we were doing with SHERP an orphanage for handicapped kids in Kenya.

"I so admire the great work she is doing throughout the world, working in AIDS clinics and with the granny program.''

Dr Aronson said she was shocked at the obstacles that Furness and Jackman encountered when they tried to adopt in Australia.

"It's shameful and it's wrong that they couldn't adopt in their own country,'' she said.

But Dr Aronson, who works tirelessly to tackle the challenge posed by the health care of orphans around the world, said the US system was far from perfect.

"Why adopting never works out well ... is because there is no single body that's set up in the government and committed to just adoption,'' she said.

"You have to create a whole different structure. None of us can turn around to our country and say we have a great system. We don't.

"Australia, like most countries, has an anti-adoption attitude. ``Meanwhile, you have tens of thousands of individuals who would like to create a family through adoption.''

Furness agreed, but was pleased with recent progress, including the Federal Government's establishment of a peak national body.

"I want to acknowledge the calibre of the people chosen for the peak body, who have all been working tirelessly for years in bettering the system,'' Furness said.

She also thanked the Rudd Government, including Attorney-General Robert McClelland, for their ongoing support in her campaign.

To sign the inter-country adoption petition, go to www.orphanangels.com.au.

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