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Friday, September 21, 2007

Garth George on the Adoption Option

I found this very good article by Garth George, from the NZ Herald of 26th July.

The adoption "market" is simply not working.

There is a huge demand for babies and a huge potential supply, but adoption numbers are at an all time low. All adoptions must be approved by the CYF Adoption Unit. Unfortunately, the Unit is forbidden to recommend adoption as an option for expectant mothers, so most have little idea it is even a possibility.

Consequently most either abort their babies or opt for a life on the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

As George points out however, the Christchurch based Adoption Option Trust are trying to do something about the problem.

From the Herald

It comes as no surprise to learn that Child Youth and Family is discouraging New Zealand couples from adopting Russian children.

After all, that same service, in all its various incarnations, has for the past 30 years or so been discouraging non-family adoptions within New Zealand.

Those adoptions reached a peak here in 1969 when there were 2600-odd; by 1980 the figure had dropped to 500-odd; by 1990 to 225; by 2000 to 125; and last year there were about 90.

The 1977 decriminalisation of abortion no doubt had an effect on the number of babies available for adoption.

But undoubtedly the misguided policies of what is now CYF has had its effect also for it seems to have actively discouraged adoptions, for which it is responsible, by not making their availability widely known.

Far easier, I suppose, to encourage abortion (just on 18,000 last year) and to promote the domestic purposes benefit, which together cost the country scores of millions of dollars a year.

What makes it worse is that since 1991 the number of 11 to 14-year-olds having abortions has increased by 144 per cent and the number of abortions for 15 to 19-year-olds has increased by 74 per cent.

Every week almost 80 teenagers have abortions - almost a quarter of all abortions performed. Yet there was a time when a teenage accidental mother's first choice was to have the child adopted.

All this in spite of the fact that since the passing of the Adult Adoption Information Act in 1985 all the old secrecy and stigma surrounding adoption has disappeared and what is known as "open adoption" has become the norm.

It doesn't seem to matter to CYF that New Zealand's adoption system is considered among the best in the world and that studies both here and overseas show that adoption is not harmful to children.

A long-term Christchurch health and development study, for instance, found that adopted children were advantaged throughout childhood in several ways compared with children in biological single-parent families.

These included childhood experiences, standards of health care, family material conditions and stability, including mother-child interaction.

The study found, too, that adopted children had significantly lower rates of behavioural disorders, substance abuse and juvenile offending.

And an American study comparing open and closed adoptions revealed that openness in adoption reduced the negative impact of grief and loss on birth mothers, that adoptive parents felt more secure in their parental role and that children were better adjusted in their middle childhood years.

Which brings me to the good news. Thanks to the activities of two Christchurch mothers, the adoption option could well become once again as mainstream as it was 30-odd years ago.

A couple of years ago Sue Kinghams and Larena Brown, who became friends in 2003 when they both adopted little girls, discovered that as far as the public were concerned adoption seemed to be shrouded in secrecy to such an extent that most people seemed to think it didn't happen any more.

Mrs Kinghams and her husband, Simon, who have now adopted two children, were dismayed when they went through the adoption process at how few babies were available.

They were also struck by the lack of information on adoptions, all of which are made through CYF, and that the agency did not advertise the service. So Mrs Kinghams and Mrs Brown set up Adoption Option to provide a website (www.adoptionoption.org.nz) full of information about adoption, and to prepare a DVD on which birth parents who have placed their children for adoption share their stories.

The website, too, contains adoption stories, including those of Chiefs rugby player Liam Messam, whose family had three children of their own then adopted five more including him, and chef Jo Seagar, an adoptive mother.

Perhaps the best news of all is that Adoption Option seems to have the blessing of officialdom and health professionals since the minister in charge of CYF, Ruth Dyson, sent a message of support when the website and DVD were launched.

And the director of the Christchurch Youth Health Centre, Dr Sue Bagshaw, told a gathering that the resources being developed by Adoption Option would help young women to make better choices. She said when girls and women came for help with a crisis pregnancy they were offered three options - keep the baby, have her or him adopted or have an abortion.

Up to now, the abortion option always seemed to be relatively easy but no one had been able to give good information on what happened if women adopted out the baby. Adoption Option's brilliant new video, she said, would help women to make choices well.

And you never know. It might even encourage some folk to flag away the idea of importing kids from Russia and choose to adopt a Kiwi instead.

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