Adoption and Care and Protection of Children: The Proposed Legislative Changes
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Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion.
Briefing Paper No. 10/2000 by Marie Swain
Major amendments were made to child protection legislation in 1998, culminating in the passage of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act in December of that year. However, much of the 1998 Act remains to be proclaimed. Until this occurs the relevant legislation remains the Children (Care and Protection) Act 1987 (pages 8-9). An extensive review begun in 1994 identified several areas in which improvements to the 1987 Act could be made, (pages 9-13) and suggestions as to how these could be achieved were outlined in the Review Team’s Final Report. The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Bill reflected in large measure the recommendations made in the Final Report (pages 14-15).
In the interim, the Minister for Community Services has announced possible changes to the 1998 Act to facilitate the adoption of children in care as a solution to the problem of children from abusive or neglectful families (pages 16-19). The Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Permanency Planning) Bill which was introduced on 21 June 2000 as an Exposure Draft for public comment has this as its aim (pages 19-22). A number of child protection professionals have already put forward their views on the Bill (pages 22-30). Similar proposals in certain overseas jurisdictions are discussed (pages 30-36). Whether the matter is ultimately proceeded with by legislation or through other means, if at all, will be determined by the Minister after the consultation process has been finalised.
The current position in relation to adoption in New South Wales is outlined on pages 36-38. A comprehensive examination of adoption law and practice was undertaken by the New South Wales Law Reform Commission, and in its 1997 Report, the Commission recommended a major overhaul of the Adoption of Children Act 1965 (pages 38-40). A Bill to modernise the state’s adoption law, and to bring it into line with contemporary community attitudes and views, was also introduced by the Minister for Community Services on 21 June 2000. The provisions of the Bill are largely based on the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations (pages 40-42).
It should be pointed out that while the process of adoption is discussed in both Bills, the focus of each differs: the Adoption Bill applies to the adoption of all children in New South Wales, whereas the Permanency Planning Bill deals with of adoption as a placement option for children from abusive or neglectful backgrounds, who are in care.