Adoption Search Services
ADOPTION SEARCH SERVICES
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: I address a question without notice to the Attorney General. What services are being provided by the Government to assist people in New South Wales separated by adoption or other State intervention such as foster care?
The Hon. J. W. SHAW: I thank the Hon. Jan Burnswoods for her question, which pinpoints a difficult issue of public policy. Since the commencement of the Adoption Information Act in 1991 the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages has provided specialised adoption services to assist the people of this State. The registry’s adoptions unit is staffed by officers experienced in searching for information to assist clients affected by adoption or related family separation. Those services involve the location and provision of information to applicants within the parameters of the Adoption Information Act. These specialised services are provided by the registry in addition to its traditional responsibilities in relation to registering all new births, deaths and marriages in New South Wales and providing certificates to assist people to obtain a passport, driver’s licence and the like. Around 3 per cent to 4 per cent of the registry’s work relates to adoption services.
In conjunction with the Department of Community Services, and with the assistance of the consultant Mr Bruce Callaghan, of Callaghan and
Associates, my department has developed a request for tender for the provision of a specialised search service for people separated by adoption or other State intervention. The need for a specialist agency to assist in cases where adoption services become complex or difficult was considered by the recent Callaghan report on adoption search services. The report recommended the funding of a specialised non-government sector agency that would be accredited or contracted through a government department to provide such a service. The specialised search service is intended to cater for persons separated by adoption and other circumstances of State intervention such as foster care or State ward processes in circumstances where usual self-help search mechanisms have proved unsuccessful.
The creation of the specialised agency will enable an integrated approach to search services whereas at present different regimes apply to information concerning adoptions as opposed to information concerning people who have been placed in foster care or as State wards. A request for tender has been released, and I am advised that the period for tenders closed on 8 May 1998. I understand that the successful tenderer will be finalised by the end of July 1998.
The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, as the expert office in records access and management, will accredit the agencies and individuals involved. The Government is concerned to ensure the integrated and efficient provision of information services to people who have been separated by State intervention. The current proposal to establish a specialised search agency is an indication of the Government’s commitment to assist such people in accessing relevant information in accordance with the laws of this State.