Fears adoption could spark new Stolen Generation

The Northern Territory Chief Minister's suggestion Aboriginal children should be adopted when necessary for their protection has been met with an enormous response from the public and the child protection field.

By Clare Rawlinson

May 14, 2013 / abc.net.au

Chief Minister Adam Giles has warned his Government will not shy from making tough decisions for the sake of child protection.

He says fears of creating a new Stolen Generation have prevented previous governments from doing what is needed for protect Aboriginal children.

His suggestion has the support of Northern Territory Treasurer Dave Tollner, who says he has seen fears of creating a new Stolen Generation in authorities, charged with protecting vulnerable children.

"We seem to think it's okay to put a child in foster care time, after time, after time, when there are people out there who are willing to adopt, who would treat that child in a loving way," Mr Tollner said.

The chief executive of the Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation, Vicki-Lee Knowles, told ABC Local Radio she was convinced there would be another Stolen Generation if Mr Giles allowed Aboriginal children to be adopted.

She says Mr Giles' statements are purely political and indicate he does not understand the extent of the Stolen Generations' effect on Aboriginal people.

"I'm absolutely appalled that an Aboriginal man who has lived in Alice Springs and seen the impacts...could make this statement," she said.

"Those effects are long term and we need to be really careful we don't create another generation of removed and lost children," she said.

"We should always try to place Aboriginal children in Aboriginal families - not necessarily their own - but that should be a long term fostering arrangement.

She said there was no debate that the safety of children is paramount regardless of culture, but other supports need to be implemented instead of adoption.

"We need to look at underlying reason people can't care for their children - often its poverty if it's in remote areas."

Northern Territory Children's Commissioner Howard Bath said he understands where the Chief Minister is coming from.

"I fully agree with him there is a serious crisis around the care of children - the child protection system has been struggling to protect children and many aren't able to be protected by current services," Dr Bath said.

He said adoption was a piece of the puzzle but was very unlikely to be successful with the strong family ties and networks within Indigenous culture.

"Why aren't we supporting families so the natural parents are given the skills and motivation to look after their own children? Surely that is an ethical responsibility of the state to provide those services," he said.

Former Indigenous health worker from Palmerston, "Jessica", told ABC her experience in the field convinced her adoption for Aboriginal chilren must be explored.

"I've worked with lots of children who have been put back with their own families including grandparents, who are not able to look after the children," she said.

"I've had children in my care basically abandoned because the relatives who've had these children put upon them can't deal with it. They love them but it's just too much for them.

"I've seen babies taken home by family...only to turn up in another ward abandoned by their family.

"Culture is so important for children, I agree with that, but do we then sit there and say 'is it better for a child to be brought up in indigenous culture or is it better for a child to be brought up so they can reach their full potential?'"

Foster Care NT manager Ann Owen said many foster carers of Indigenous children would feel genuinely concerned for the welfare of the child they are fostering if they were to be returned to their community.

"There is great fear there could be a Stolen Generation in the making with a potential adoption process," she said.

"However if this process were taken up and more children placed forward for adoption, then there's some consideration for a long term happy family with stability."

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History lesson

There are two very good articles about the realities children forced into an adoption plan have had to face.

The first article is, The Bitter Legacy of Separation;  it features just how abusive the chosen care-takers were to the children removed from "poor (absent) parents" and it showcases how stress and anxiety has affected those children who have been moved and removed from all that was once familiar.

Thousands of British children between 1945 and 1967 were taken from orphanages and institutions, often without their family's knowledge and sent to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Many of these children were subsequently mentally or physically abused by their new supervisors, teachers and priests on farms and in church institutions.

Five years ago a House of Commons committee hearing into the scheme announced some practical support for former migrants to trace their families in the UK.

Last week, the Australian government announced a similar scheme and apologised to children who had been maltreated when they arrived in the country.

Nevertheless, there has been little research into the psychological effects and needs of these people has been conducted.

In recent interviews, adults who were child migrants to Australia spoke of universal feelings of rejection by Britain, homesickness, anxiety and bewilderment.

It is thought that most of these children have been suffering from separation anxiety and a form of depression all their lives as few were given any form of treatment.

The second article, "The Stolen Generation", features findings from a report written in 1997.  This report was in response to a 1995 inquiry into the treatment of aboriginal families and children in Australia.

In a Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) press release the key findings of the Inquiry were presented:

  • Nationally, between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970
  • Indigenous children were placed in institutions, church missions, adopted or fostered, and were at risk of physical and sexual abuse. Many never received wages for their labour
  • Welfare officials failed in their duty to protect Indigenous wards from abuse.
  • Under international law, from approximately 1946 the policies of forcible removal amount to genocide; and from 1950 the continuation of distinct laws for Indigenous children was racially discriminatory
  • The removal of Indigenous children continues today. Indigenous children are six times more likely to be removed for child welfare reasons and 21 times more likely to be removed for juvenile detention reasons than non-Indigenous children.

 

While many want to see improved living conditions for all children, one has to seriously question how forced removal and forced adoption solves the problems of poverty, poor education, and all the stresses life without outside support can bring to a people.

When it comes to reports about adoption v. providing better first-family care, we see this simple over-looked theme over again:  "We need to look at underlying reason people can't care for their children - often its poverty if it's in remote areas."

By no means do I think forced adoption is ever the answer to the social problems poverty-stricken people face.

In fact, when I read about forced adoption, I think, "Wow, how hated are these people?".

It seems the surest way to rid a culture and a people is to take the children away, and leave the adults to die-off, with no care or help. 

And so I find this call to increase adoptions a disturbing display of an old trick:  use the adoption platform as a way to look like you really care about the lives of others, whilst getting on with a more cryptic agenda that involves social-cleansing.  

Primary links

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