Arms Convenors Annual Report 2017

Dec 4, 2017

Hello everyone and welcome once again to our 2017 Annual General Meeting, and to those of you who have not been before welcome to your first ARMS AGM. Thank you all for making the effort to come along at this busy time of year. We hope that you find it worth your while. 2017 saw a new website for ARMS, with a new look. We try to keep some up to date news articles and video in the News section and also events and meeting times as a handy reference for members. We also hope that new people find our articles informative. Hopefully mothers who have had no contact with adoption support can find the website and find something to relate to. If you find an interesting and relevant news item or video please send it to me to make available onour website.  We now also have a Facebook page, so those who are on Facebook can find us and read some of the articles and are welcome to comment and share ideas. We may in the future develop this further into a group. We do realise that it is not always simple to find our Facebook Page and hope to gradually rectify this and make it easy to find via Mr Google. If you are not on Facebook but are interested in joining please see a committee member for assistance. The website update and the Facebook page were made possible through a small grant from RAV and FASS. Earlier in 2017 we saw the official unveiling of the lovely Monument, to mothers and our experience, at Victoria Park in Sale, Gippsland. The beautiful statue was organised by Independent Regional Mothers and some of our Committee and other ARMS members attended the unveiling along with adoptees, family members, members of the public, church ministers and representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services, VANISH, RAV, past and present Members of Parliament and the media. In her speech Brenda Coughlin from IRM described the statue “as a timely reminder of the injustices of the past and a reflection of what should have been.” The Without Consent Exhibition still does not have a schedule for its Victorian visit. One of our members even did some research to help them find a venue and passed on the information. We do not know why NAA are finding it so difficult to bring the Exhibition to Victoria. Many of us are waiting to see it. This project was one of the outcomes from the National Apology. When we do get some information about the Exhibition coming here we will most certainly let members know. It is four years since the National Apology for Forced Adoptions and it is important to keep it in the minds of those who lived it and the public in general. In May we held our annual Mothers’ Day meeting. It is important for us to acknowledge that we still have the physical and emotional attachments of a mother to the child or children we have lost to adoption. This is a safe place for us to explore those feelings. The Victorian Law Reform Commission began reviewing the Adoption Laws of 1984 earlier this year. ARMS had a meeting with the panel to discuss the aspects that we felt were the most relevant to mothers, as there was not time to discuss everything on the table. ARMS also made a written submission to the Commission, which can be read on our Website.The Commission compiled its report which can also be read online. You can find the link to it on our website. On the whole, the recommendations put forward by the Commission are very positive, and the committee was very pleased that they obviously  heard what we had to say about the negative effects of adoption and how we should go forward. Jo and Lily also had a meeting to discuss some of the Commission’s recommendations with Jenny Mikakos’ office. Last year I reported that we had two RAV grant applications pending at the time of the AGM. We were successful in both applications, for which we thank RAV. We have recently submitted an application doe a grant to extend  Ballarat and Traralgon regional support groups. The Arms 30th Anniversary Booklet was reprinted earlier this years and the ARMS Brochure update is almost completed. The committee has decided to hold anextraordinary committee meeting to complete the update so that we can get it printed and outinto the world as time runs out very quickly at our monthly committee meetings. We have asked RAV for an extension of the Grant timeframe. The twenty third of September was a day of Healing for ARMS members. We held a soothing andmollifying Event at the Treacey Centre in Parkville. There was a lot of very effective discussion ledby Liz and some wonderful Art therapy followed by amazing Tibetan singing bowls thanks toTabitha. The feedback from those who attended has been extremely positive. On October 28th we held a commemoration of the 5th Anniversary of the Victorian GovernmentApology for Forced Adoptions, in conjunction with VANISH. It was held in Parliament Reserve,next to Parliament House on a beautiful Melbourne Spring afternoon. The speeches by Tricia Lester, Penny Mackieson and Marie Meggitt were touching and poignant - Marie’s speech can be read on our website. The afternoon also included entertainment by The Thornberries, a three piece ukulele band, who sang some beautifully reflective songs to an entranced audience. Our Outreach continues into the rural sector. Mildura, Traralgon and Ballarat groups are still running, although at this stage numbers are small. We hope to increase them with advertising.The Geelong Group is going well with Thelma still at the helm. We are fortunate to have somemembers of ARMS from those groups present today. Now we will all be witness to another exciting development today: the discussion and vote on the renaming of ARMS. We will still be known as ARMS( Vic) but instead of it standing for the Association of Relinquishing Mothers ourname will become the Association Representing Mothers Separated by adoption. We have been unhappy with the word relinquishing for some time as it does not adequately explain our experience. We have discussed many substitutes as we wanted to retain our acronym but they seemed to not be quite right. So we are following West Australia and South Australia’s example in taking for our proposal. As you are aware language is extremely important in the adoption sphere. Later in the day we will be calling for nominations for the Committee of ARMS. We would like toencourage you to step forward if you have some interest and time to offer. Thank you for listening/reading. We all look forward to 2018 as we reach out to support all womenwho have lost a child or children to adoption. I know some of you have travelled far to attend today and we want you to know that we appreciate your effort. ARMS is by members for members; it is your group so please offer any contribution that you are able. We all offer eachother support and that is why I feel very privileged and grateful to be a member of ARMS. Faye Burnham

Fusion Live Documentary. The Dark Side of Adoption

Dec 3, 2017

This documentary looks at international adoption specifically from The Congo but it is probably similar in many countries

State Apology 5th Anniversary 28th October 2017 - A Special Afternoon

Oct 20, 2017

Saturday 28th october ARMS along with VANISH commemorated the 5th Anniversary of the State Government apology for Forced Adoptions Afternoon tea was served and the weather was kind to us.  Some heartfelt speeches were made and the atmosphere was freindly and enjoyable despite the memories evoked by the day Please note: Forced includes COERCION, Coercion is defined as - force, compulsion, constraint, duress, oppression, enforcement, harassment, intimidation, threats, insistence, demand, arm twisting, pressure and influence 5th Anniversary of the Victorian Government Apology - 28th October 2017 You can read the following Speech made by Lilly Clifford (Maree Meggit) on the day. We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children. You were not legally or socially acknowledged as their mothers. And you were yourselves deprived of care and support. To you, the mothers who were betrayed by a system that gave you no choice and subjected you to manipulation, mistreatment and malpractice, we apologise. We say sorry to you, the mothers who were denied knowledge of your rights, which meant you could not provide informed consent. That was Julia Gillard on 21 March 2013.  She was following in the footsteps of our own Ted Baillieu: We express our sincere sorrow and regret for the health and welfare policies that condoned the practice of forced separations. Ted Baillieu 25 October 2012 The important thing these two apologies had in common is that each government acknowledged that a system had been set up by society, to take our most precious creation – for most of us – our first born child. What is it about a system that makes is so persuasive? It is the combined might, authority, and absolute power that comes from the joining of the state, the church, the legal system, and through them, all those services that devolve from them – doctors, nurses, social workers, lawyers, judges, priests, teachers, schools, psychologists and ultimately our own families. When I was pregnant and in need of support to help me with beginning my family, I was up against the combined might of the State, as well as the emotional weight of the judgment and expectations of my parents. So when Julia Gillard and Ted Baillieu, on behalf of all those institutions, acknowledged that governments, society, had conspired and colluded to take my child, ensuring I had no chance of raising my babe, I can truly give meaning to the fact that the personal is political. The terrible truth is that my experience was replicated thousands of times in many many women's lives and so, while I spoke just then in the first person, I know that sadly, I am not alone. But that is the impact of a systems approach. Girls and women, WE were systematically stripped of our right and opportunity to raise our own child. We were not given the dignity of being acknowledged as mother and we were cajoled and manipulated by weasel words like 'if you really loved your child you would give him away'. It is nearly 40 years ago that I first took my very personal experience and converted it into political action. I spoke publicly about the loss, the grief, the betrayal that inserted itself into every part of my being when my child was taken, and over the years, thousands of women have joined me to declare the truth of their motherhood and the terrible cost of the loss of the opportunity to raise their child. Doing that provided a different knowledge to our society – and it was knowledge that challenged the status quo. It encouraged and allowed people to wake up to the realities of our experiences and to recognise that what had occurred in the name of society, was a travesty. Today we have gathered here to remember that moment when the system acknowledged that it was wrong, and what had been done to us and our children was a great evil. Governments around Australia said they had subjected us to manipulation, mistreatment, malpractice, coercion and brutality of practices that were unethical, dishonest and in many cases illegal. They acknowledged the loss, the grief, the disempowerment, the stigmatisation and the guilt, and said that they were sorry. That was a profound and deeply moving experience and one that I will never forget. But there is something else that we aught remember today as well. That it was because of our work, because of all the mothers who raised their voices and refused to remained shamed and silenced, all those voices who spoke of the impact of adoption practices on their lives, that we have this stunning apology, this incontrovertible evidence that we did not abandon our children and that the system betrayed us and them. Our personal experiences, made public, created the political impetus for a monumental social change. That is the difference individuals can make, and I am really proud to be standing here amongst my friends and colleagues, in recognition of what, together, we have achieved. In truth, the personal is political, and I thank the government of Victoria for its acknowledgment of their role in our pain and loss. Lilly Clifford(Marie Meggit)

Self Healing Event 23 rd September a great success

Sep 14, 2017

Our healing day was a  very successful and enjoyable day. The venue was lovely, the food a bit too delicous, and the weather was kind to us. We had very in depth and involved guided discussion in the morning followed by wonderful therapies in the afternoon.  It was a very satisfying day.   We hope to make this an annual event if funding allows, if you were unable to make it this time keep your eye out for next year 2018.  

Why Wont My Mother Meet Me?

Jul 31, 2017

This is an article for adoptees but it may also be an interesting and insightful read for Mothers as well. Have you ever wondered why you have negative feelings around meeting or planning to visit your lost child? Are you perplexed as to why the joy of at last seeing your child is clouded with anxiety and frustration.       click the link below to read this article.

National Apology - 21st March 2013

May 15, 2017

Many of our members attended the Apology in Canberra, the Melbourne screening and others watched it at home….see below for personal accounts. Commemorative MaterialsVideo footage of the day will be used to create a commemorative DVD. If you would like to be sent a copy of the DVD, an apology parchment, a commemorative lapel pin or an mp3 version of Mia Dyson’s song Jesse, please email your name and postal address to or call (02) 6141 3030. The Australian Governments Response to the Community Affairs Reference Committee Report: For Official Photos: Forced Adoptions Apology Team | Access to Justice DivisionAustralian Government Attorney-General’s DepartmentRobert Garran Offices | National Circuit | Barton ACT 2600Tel +61 2 6141 3030 | Fax +61 2 6141 3248 We are wanting to make flags (yes more) to donate to Canberra as part of our commemorative memorial for the apology. Please come along to our flag making sessions before each support group meeting to help out. We want to make a valid presentation of new flags. These will also be seen in the future by those who do not understand our present. FEDERAL APOLOGY - 21 March 2013I was there – a simple statement but it was a profoundly moving occasion. Over 1000 people packed the Great Hall in Canberra. We received Julia Gillard’s comprehensive, perfectly crafted and compassionately delivered Apology and responded with a standing ovation. Just before the Apology, a member of ARMS, who had attended alone, was tapped on the shoulder by her estranged daughter. They clung together with smiles and tears right throughout the day. Below is Joy’s speech for the Melbourne veiwing…… We applaud the Federal Government for their National apology today. It has been a long time coming and unfortunately, for many, it has come too late. For the rest of us – nothing can give us back the lives we could have lived – nothing can change the past – so now is the time to focus on the future A National Apology will finally acknowledge the truth of the cruel, often illegal past adoption practices that forcibly removed children from their mothers. It will also acknowledge that these mothers were denied their rights and in many cases, given no option but to sign adoption papers. These mothers always loved and wanted their children. We hope that this Apology will educate and bring understanding and change to the community and particularly all those touched by adoption. Nothing can change the past, but our loss and grief does change when acknowledged. We are hopeful that this Apology will bring healing, reunion and peace to the hearts and minds of all those separated by past adoption practices. To all those who have worked so hard for the last 30 years to bring about this apology I offer my heartfelt thanks for your strength, courage and determination to expose the truth.Thank YouJoy O’Connor

Arms Submission To The Victorian Law Reform Commission

May 11, 2017

Submission to Victorian Law Reform Commission – review of adoption laws from ARMS(Vic)ARMS(Vic)’s position is that adoption should no longer exist: there is no need for it under any circumstances.The rights of the child as outlined under the UN Convention are paramount and are not served by the continuation of adoption. Adoption serves adopters, not adoptees, by giving them legal ‘ownership’ of children. No-one has the ‘right’ to another person’s child. The notion of entitlement to a baby has to stop. Even if protection of a child is paramount and that child needs an alternative family, guardianship or stewardship are preferable to adoption. Adoption has always been seen as a “prize” by those who are unable to give birth to their own children. Custody orders and guardianship orders should be seen like adoption – these orders should also be seen as the ‘prize’. People think of permanent care or foster care as second best or not secure enough, but an adoption order should never be preferred over a permanent care order.If we reframed permanency, the people wishing to provide this kind of care would see it in a different frame. We would look for people who can commit emotionally to caring for a child for the rest of their life while accepting that the child still has another family.Adoption is not a static concept. It follows a child throughout their lifetime and this needs to be considered in any legislative reforms.There needs to be a presumption of ongoing engagement in a meaningful way to support the families involved in an adoption.In the past 20 years, adoption has been talked about in a completely different way, but the status of adoption lasts for a lifetime. We have to think about how we ameliorate that position. How can we talk about being raised by people other than your natural family in a way that will make people feel a sense of comfort?Adoption severs the child’s connection to its family of origin which has been shown to have disastrous consequences for adoptees, and certainly for the mothers. It legally removes the child’s right to its family, culture and heritage; creates a new (false) identity and birth certificate for the child; declares the lie that the adopters are the parents as if the child were born to them. It has been widely acknowledged that many adopted people feel a disconnect and identity confusion. Adoption is a status that affects an adoptee when they are a child and at all stages of their life. This status stays with them and makes them different. Cultural norms will make a set of assumptions about a person who has been adopted as a result of that status. In an article in The Age in 1993 Louise Bellamy reported that Brother Alex McDonald, a Jesuit who has worked with homeless young people in St Kilda for 10 years, says of the 147 suicides of young people caused by drugs and abuse in the area over the past decade, 142 came from adoption backgrounds. In 1998 an adoptive mother, whose adopted son had committed suicide, wrote to Woman’s Day asking to hear from parents who had lost an adopted child to suicide. She received 186 letters.When ARMS Vic first articulated the idea of open adoption in the 1980s, the proposal we put forward was that instead of adoption, people could be appointed as a guardian and have a custody order that lasted a lifetime, not just until a child turns 18. However this was opposed by adoptive parents.ARMS Vic went back to the drawing board, and our fall-back position was open adoption. It took a long time to get adoption agencies on board. The agencies were in a difficult spot – they’d lined up babies for infertile couples and their clients were not prepared for open adoption. The education program was re-designed, but the social workers and people in the department didn’t always accept it.When the first open adoptions went through the County Court, the judges narrowed contact opportunities for the natural parents to 4 visits a year. This was never intended in the Act but the 4 visits per year arose out of judicial decisions and was later included in the Regulations.Open adoption is not working. Children can be manipulated not to see their natural parents, adoptive families can move interstate or overseas. There is no legal power for natural parents to insist that contact continue.ARMS (Vic) would argue strongly that adoptive parents are not well-prepared for placement of a child into an open adoption and that the picture often given to them is that this can be minimised: it’s only 4 times a year and if the child’s sick they don’t need to visit. They hear this from other adoptive parents.Once a child gets to an age when they’re asking the hard questions (around 4-6 years old) then all of a sudden the excuses are made by adoptive parents to miss contact dates: the child is too sick to see the natural mother; the child becomes upset after the contact; something else comes up; it’s a constant pattern. The openness starts closing. If we prepared adoptive parents for contact it would be very different. If there were more contact there would be more familiarity and less fear and insecurity.Adoption legislation needs to be changed to enable adoptions to create a new legal relationship while retaining recognition of the relationship with the family of origin. This principle is applied in adoption in countries such as France, Ethiopia and Thailand and called ‘simple adoption’.Any placement has to protect the natural and adoptive families’ relationship which needs to be supported by professionals.Best interests principles in the ActARMS (Vic) believe there should be guidance in the Adoption Act and the best interests of a child should be paramount. These principles should apply to the adoptee for their whole life and not just for the period of time concerned with the adoption arrangement.The best interests of the child should be weighted according to the following order:Extended family: if extended family is available then the wishes of parents and whether any kinship care is available is first priorityAlternatives: look at the alternatives to adoptionSiblings: siblings should always remain together.There should be principles in the Act that acknowledge the value of adoption, that it means permanency ‘these are your parents for life’. Principles should also acknowledge the value of meaningful contact between a child and their natural parents. IdentityEven if adoption were to continue there is no reason to change a child’s name. This takes away a child’s identity. Adoptive parents can obviously call the child by another name if that’s what they want to do, but if a child’s name is not changed legally, the child will still hold a sense of their identity in a meaningful way. It’s about identity and connection. Changing an adopted child’s name harks back to the ‘clean slate’ and ‘clean break’ theories. These have both been shown to be erroneous. Even if an adoptive parent has always wanted to name their first child after their grandmother, this child they have brought into their family already has a name (ironically perhaps even due to the same reason) which is part of that child’s identity. We respect the right of others to parent a child but they have no right to change that child’s identity.Birth certificatesBirth certificates are legal, identifying documents and as such need to be truthful. Current birth certificates for adopted people are not. They state that the child’s name is something other than that given to them when they were born; it names the adoptive parents as if the child were born to them. There is some debate about what adoptees’ birth certificates should look like. While keeping in mind that adopted people have more right to speak about birth certificates, the bottom line is that they need to be truthful. This truth needs to be told while considering the feelings and sensitivities of those involved. ARMS(Vic) believes that the original birth certificate should be used as the formal identification for the child with full legal status and a parenting or adoption certificate used by the adopters, as is done with guardianship. The problem with integrated birth certificates is that they would look completely different from the usual birth certificates and could therefore invite unwanted comment and scrutiny. It contains the adoptee’s personal information that not everyone needs to know. The fact that a person is adopted would in most cases be irrelevant to the reason for the birth certificate needing to be shown. We need to be sensitive to their feelings.As if born toThere is no need to say “as if born to” in legislation as that is obviously part of their parental rights, duties, obligations and liabilities. Adding “as if born to” is superfluous and creates a false impression in the minds of the adoptive parents. This is a legal and actual lie. The law should not support this lie. How we describe adoption is important. The reality is that they are parenting another family’s child and the relationship will never be “as if born to”.JurisdictionAdoptions should be under the jurisdiction of the Family Court, not the County Court as is currently the case. Adoption is a family matter, whether it is a new baby being adopted or a child coming through the Child Protection system. All parties need to have independent legal representation. Considering the fact that a woman would have legal representation if she were buying a house, it is ludicrous that this does not happen when she is giving her baby up for adoption. Currently the adopters may have legal representation but there is no mention of the mother even being there at the time of finalising the adoption, let alone having legal representation. The mother should have legal representation before giving consent right through to the legalisation of the adoption and final consent should be made in front of a judge. Currently the adoptive parents go to court, but there is no mention of the mother, who is not a party in proceedings. This assumes that a child’s interests are not in some way served by their natural family. ConsentIt is very hard to find a reason why we would dispense with consent.P.29 3.62 ‘the County Court decides to dispense with the need for…consent’. This opens the door to a new wave of forced adoptions. Troubled families must resolve their problems within 12 months or their in care children will be placed for adoption. There are often insufficient services (rehab, housing, anger management, etc.) available within the short time frame mandated.The consent revocation period needs to be longer. Currently the revocation period is up to 6 weeks after the birth. This is too short, in particular given the mother’s position of emotional distress. The person giving consent must have received counselling from an approved counsellor as well as receive independent legal advice. The approved counsellor should not be from the adoption agency and the legal representative needs to be someone with specific training in adoption, not just any lawyer. We would advocate that for infant adoption the consent period should be extended to 6 months and the baby placed in pre-adoptive foster care or with potential adoptive parents for that time. Consent should be given from the mother and father where possible/appropriate. The consent should be able to be withdrawn any time during the 6 months.A natural parent must be a party to the adoption order. This should be articulated in legislation: although they’re giving consent they’re still a party and can enact their right to contact. It shouldn’t come as a shock to the adoptive parents or the agency when a natural mother realises she no longer wants to put her child with a family who are not allowing contact.There should be legal support at the consent period when the natural mother can tell contact arrangements will not work due to the attitude of the prospective adoptive parents.Agencies often do not tell the natural mother that her wishes need to go in the adoption order for them to have any legal weight, so natural mothers often don’t know they need to go to court and are not represented. Therefore adoptive parents are completely within their legal rights to deny contact, albeit it morally wrong. This shows the necessity for legal representation for the natural mother.Consent should be required from both the mother and father if appropriate and possible (unless there is for example violence, incest, rape). Unless there are serious reasons why it shouldn’t happen, the father and/or his extended family should have the opportunity to keep the child.If it’s an infant adoption, currently the principal officer has up to within 2 days of consent being given to write to the father if he’s known. That is far too late. If we’re realistic that child’s interests are being best served when raised with the natural family, why wait two days after the child is placed in non-biological placement? He should be contacted as early as possible in the process, with the above exceptions.We allocate a status to the mother which is clearly different from the status of the father. The father should be involved from the moment the mother decides she wants to give up her baby. We know there are plenty of fathers (in past adoptions) who would have had a different response or weren’t allowed to be involved.Wishes of extended family should also be taken into consideration particularly if they are in a position to care for the child or to have an ongoing relationship with the child. There would be many instances of extended family members who would be willing to provide kinship care, which is placed above adoption in the 2015 reforms to the Victorian Child Protection laws. Adoption not only severs any legal relationship between the child and his/her parents, but also siblings, grandparents and other extended family.If a severely disabled woman is about to give birth and it will be difficult for her to care for the baby then the legal guardian should be consulted. If you have a special needs parent the legal guardian is in loco parentis and their consent should be sought. Additionally they could be asked if they would be prepared to care for the baby themselves. This would facilitate the child having meaningful ongoing contact with their father and family. Under the Hague Convention the child has the right to be raised in their natural familyQuestion 9 asks: Are the grounds for dispensing with consent appropriate in contemporary Victoria?The question is really: if consent needs to be dispensed with, why adoption rather than any other care option?Concerning the issue of a court being able to put conditions on an adoption in a broader range of circumstances if it is the best interests of the child (Question 10), the conditions should be broader than those in the question in that there should be a presumption of contact between the two families. It is always desirable for the child to have contact with the family. Adopters should not be asked to agree that an adoption order be made subject to certain conditions – it should be the mother’s right to include conditions. The issue of consent having been given but the adoptive parents and the mother giving consent have not agreed about contact or exchanging information about the child illustrate the importance of the need for legal representation for the mother, thus minimising the possibility of this occurring. Adoption agenciesNon-government agencies are usually religion-based which does not provide a neutral starting point. Often judgments are informed by unconscious values. There are common assumptions that two parents are always better than one and heterosexual couples are better. If an agency is of the view that contraception should not be allowed, these views impose a way of engagement that doesn’t necessarily meet the interests of a woman, making counselling and support options within the agency redundant.We’re in a modern era and this means same-sex couples, children across a range of families and donor gametes. The concept of ‘family’ is changing and religion-based agencies need to take this on board. It can be difficult for them to change their long-held beliefs and views, which is why there should be a neutral body such as an ethics committee overseeing these processes and delivering this kind of service. This would enable a different picture in a permanency environment. Permanency is a different language and has a different cultural history and environment than adoption.Of great concern to ARMS is the advertising of children for adoption on Barnardos NSW’s website and FaceBook page. This is commodification of children, even if they do use models and not the actual children they wish to place in adoption.Victoria needs to be very wary of going down the path of the NSW adoption model where adoption is seen as a quick fix for infertile couples and a financial saving to the Government when a child is moved from foster care (which is paid) to adoption.On the other hand, Queensland is trialling a guardianship model where they ask couples not to adopt, called “Open Homes”.FundingA major problem of the current system is the funding cuts and under staffing of Government agencies such as FIND and BDM resulting in long waiting time for interviews, searches, etc, There is currently a 6 month waiting list at FIND even though recent legislation mandated that searches should be resolved within 8 weeks. There were 860 applications for searches through FIND in 2015/16 compared with 400 – 500 in previous years. Funding must be improved as a major priority.Post placement supportSupport can make a significant difference to a placement – currently adoptive families are given a baby and are expected to get on with it. There needs to be a lot of support around a family for a long period, including when the child becomes an adolescent and other points in their life and on-going on a needs basis. There needs to be proactive and ongoing engagement with families. The agency needs to see it as their role to stay involved with a family.There are some circumstances where a natural family is unable to manage a child and we should respond to this not with something that results in a long-term catastrophic outcome for the mother,(ie. adoption) but rather by doing something that will allow the mother to have knowledge and access.Support should be provided at all stages and should not just be reactive, but proactive. There needs to be an ongoing commitment so that agencies remain involved. An agency’s role should be involvement with the whole family. There needs to be a presumption of ongoing engagement in a meaningful way to support the families.Adoptive parents may be hesitant to ask for support because they will worry that the agencies will not think they are good enough.The natural mother, her family and the father all need ongoing support.Also there would be a number of prospective adoptive parents who wouldn’t have come to the terms with the grief of not having their own babies. This could be an ongoing grief which plays a part in their parenting and they need to be helped with it.Agencies also need to stay involved to ensure that contact orders are meaningful and adhered to.SiblingsEvery effort must be made to place siblings together, particularly if they are placed at the same time. If a family can’t take the brother or sister then that family shouldn’t be given either sibling.If, down the track, the natural parents have another baby and the adoptive family can’t take it then there needs to be contact. This is critically important and should be established from the very beginning.If it is impossible to place them together they must have contact with each other and with their original family.If a woman receives an adopted baby it should be at least 12 months before she receives another. However if the adopted child is older and his/her sibling becomes available for adoption then the priority is sibling unification. Access to informationChildren under 18 should be entitled to information about their natural families. If we have open adoptions then a child must know their natural family. A child has a right to identifying information about their natural family at all stages of their life and should definitely NOT have to ask the adoptive parents’ agreement.If the child is in an open adoption there should never have been any secrecy, as was the case during the forced adoption period. Adoptive parents have no right to withhold information about a child’s original family nor to keep information about the child from the natural parents, except in cases of safety as outlined in Consent. Natural parents should be notified if the adult child of an adopted person is seeking to receive identifying information about them and it needs to be monitored very carefully.In summary:While ARMS (Vic) is open to the possibility that there are benefits in placing a child outside of their natural family, the question becomes: ‘do you make that placement an adoption placement?’ If adoption includes ‘guardianship’ decisions we would make (about schooling, religion etc) and ‘custody’ decisions, then those are responsibilities that flow out of the legislative underpinning we need to provide to a couple to take care of a child.If we no longer have secrecy as the baseline of adoption and support contact with the original family, it is still better for mental health and identity (even in the worst case scenario) not to have adoption. Having a law that provides for openness and contact is not a sufficient reason for putting this child in another family and saying the law is as if that the child was born to them..  

Dear Adoption I Thought I Knew You

May 11, 2017 Jessica Sun Lee grew up as the sole adoptee of a large white Ameerican family. This is her article.

Insight Show On Forgotten Fathers - SBS - June 2016

May 11, 2017

For those who missed the show here is a link:

ISS Develop Hand Book To Assist Those Coping With Illegal Inter-Country Adoptions

May 11, 2017

This link is interesting reading :

South Australian Government Announces Memorial For Forced Adoption

May 11, 2017

This press release announces the forced adoption memorial for South Australia

A New Play - We Would Like To See It Showing

May 11, 2017

Stainless: A Cry from the Heart Multi award winning actor Maggie Millar is coming out of semi-retirement, where she has concentrated on her painting and occasional readings, to appear in a play specially written for her by her friend author Jane Hyde.The inspiration for the work comes from Millar’s own extraordinary life.The play entitled Stainless is a heart rending story of the ongoing repercussions of the premature and permanent separation of mother and child in the adoption process and the pitiless and cruel treatment of women who transgressed the strict sexual mores of what Hyde has called the age of shame. Hyde however is too good a writer to concentrate only on the tragic elements inherent in the story. In describing the first performance of the play she said “there was laughter among the tears, but overall the audience were deeply moved.”Millar will be known to theatre lovers for her appearances with the Melbourne Theatre Company, Malthouse and La Mama. She has also appeared in a number of Television Series including The Sullivans, Bellbird, All The Way, Prisoner and Neighbours.An award winning student and Honours Graduate of the prestigious royal Academy of Dramatic At in London, she has appeared with Vivien Leigh, Patrick Stewart, Meryl Streep, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jacki Weaver among many other well known performers.There will be a reading of Stainless on Sunday 23rd July at La Mama’s Courthouse Theatre in Carlton at 2pm. Theatre lovers, those affected by the adoption process, and those working as therapists among the adoption community should not miss this rare opportunity to see an award winning actor performing in a stunning and insightful piece of theatre

New Book To Be Written About Surrogacy Seeking Contributors

May 11, 2017

New Book on Surrogacy Seeking Contributors A New Book on Surrogacy by Melinda Tankard Reist and Jennifer LahlMelinda Tankard Reist and Jennifer Lahl are Seeking Contributors for A New Book on SurrogacyWe are seeking contributions for a new global collection of first-person accounts by women who were surrogate mothers. The book will be edited by Melinda Tankard Reist (Australia) and Jennifer Lahl (US), and will be published by Spinifex Press for release in late 2017. We would be grateful if you could share this invitation through your networks. Overview The issue of surrogacy has received heightened interest in the media globally, following a number of high profile cases including ‘Baby Gammy,’ the baby boy with Down syndrome abandoned by his Australian commissioning parents who left him behind in Thailand, returning home with his healthy twin sister. In the face of an expanding reproductive marketplace, facilitating and driving reproductive tourism around the world, debate has fueled over commercialization and regulation of the baby-making industry, with vested interests, primarily commissioning couples and fertility businesses, capturing and dominating the discourse. Surrogate mothers have been seen as providing a community service, delivering babies to desperate couples around the world. Reduced to ‘carriers,’ ‘ovens,’ and ‘suitcases,’ the surrogate mother has been treated as a means to an end. Surrogacy has even been promoted as a way for poor women to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Time Magazine has labeled pregnancy as one of the ‘10 Best Chores to Outsource.’ Forbes Magazine said India’s baby factories were “a big win for everyone involved.” “You’d rent a nanny or a house painter. Why not rent a uterus?” The physical and emotional costs of surrogacy, the exploitation of underprivileged women, the coercion, the physical, psychological and emotional harms of the procedures to women, the devastating consequences of severing the well-established and unique bond between mother and child, and the bioengineering of children who will never know their biological origins have been played down or dismissed by the global surrogacy industry. Our new book seeks to change this narrative by bringing surrogate mothers’ stories out into the open, thus providing them with a platform to speak in their own voices. To be published by the award winning feminist publisher Spinifex Press, this collection will be co-edited by Australian feminist author, speaker, and activist Melinda Tankard Reist, and American founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, Jennifer Lahl, best known for her work and award winning documentary films to protect women and children wronged by the practices of third party reproduction. This collection of 20 first-person accounts aims to work with social justice movements in Australia, the US, UK, across the European continent, Asia, and Africa so that this expanding industry can be stopped, and women and children are no longer exploited for commercial or personal gain. Publication Details Publisher: Spinifex PressPublication Date: September 2017Editors: Melinda Tankard Reist and Jennifer LahlGuidelines for Submissions Length: 2,000-3,000 words. (Authors can use real names or use a pseudonym and change identifying details where necessary. If preferred, contributors can be interviewed or record their stories for transcription.)Submission Deadline: January 15, 2017Contact: Melinda Tankard Reist: or Jennifer Lahl:  

Obituary for Anne Sullivan

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