Parents who permanently adopt children from state care could be paid an allowance under a new State Government policy to curb the growing number of children in the child protection system.
It comes after Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson pledged back in 2019 that she would make open adoption a “genuine option” for children in care by ensuring social workers considered permanent adoption when it is “in the best interests of the child”.
Sanderson told InDaily the Government had finished consulting child protection advocates, services, adoptees and children about the new policy. However, it is yet to be enforced.
The hold-up is caused by ongoing discussions about whether the Department for Child Protection should pay adoptive parents an allowance under the new policy, in recognition that many children and young people in care have complex needs.
The Department is still waiting on advice from the Australian Taxation Office to determine if any financial support provided to adoptive parents would impact their income calculation for tax purposes.
“Key stakeholders told us that each child is different, and that the decision to support adoption should be made according to a child’s individual circumstances, taking into account their best interests, wellbeing and wishes,” Sanderson said.
“Every child deserves to have a safe, loving and secure home for life – and adoption from care is one of a number of permanency options that will make the world of difference to some of our vulnerable children and young people.
“Once finalised, we’re really looking forward to releasing our new adoption from care policy.”
InDaily asked the Department how much it is considering paying adoptive parents and whether the payment would be recurrent or once-off, but did not receive a response.
The Department already pays registered foster and kinship carers a fortnightly allowance to cover the day-to-day costs of caring for a child.
The payment varies depending on the needs of a child, with some carers eligible for an additional allowance for a child with special needs.
Adoption of children from state care is already legal in South Australia but rarely used, with children more likely to be looked after in long-term guardianship arrangements by their foster families.
On December 31, there were 248 children and young people in SA under long-term guardianship arrangements, which is considered the step before permanent adoption.
Latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows in 2018-19, there were two local adoptions and six overseas adoptions in SA, but no children were adopted from care.
That is despite just under 4000 children being looked after in state care as of June 2019, with that number increasing to 4485 in November last year.
The Department said no children in care had been adopted for at least five years.
Under the new policy, Aboriginal children would not be considered for adoption, with the Department to instead prioritise placing First Nations children with members of their extended family or community as a way of keeping them connected to their culture.
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