Deborra-Lee Furness Wants Aussie Families To Find 'A Home For Every Child'

With the NSW government overhauling child protection laws, the actress is asking families to support #YesVember to encourage adoption. But there are still concerns among Aboriginal groups about what this means for their kids.

Deborra-lee Furness has called for more Australian families to consider adoption after the NSW government relaxed laws to make the transition from foster care smoother this week.

Longtime adoption advocate Furness -- who with husband Hugh Jackman adopted son Oscar, 18, and daughter Ava, 13 -- stars alongside social influencer and adoptee Nicole Warne in a viral movement for November dubbed 'YesVember'.

The campaign comes after the Child Protection Amendment Bill was passed in NSW on Thursday, which saw a policy shift toward adoption and streamlined the court process for permanency.

The changes impose two-year deadlines on permanent decisions and narrow the grounds for these decisions to be varied or challenged.

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The state government has set a target of more than 1,000 open adoptions from foster home care over the next four years.

There are over 30,000 children living in out-of-home care in Australia with only 315 adoptions taking place last year, according to Adopt Change.

NSW Government has set a target of more than 1,000 open adoptions from foster home care over the next four years. Image: AAP

Adoption is a lengthy and difficult process in Australia and advocates argue permanency is critical to a child’s development and future prospects.

“Sadly, there will always be children who are unable to enjoy a secure upbringing with their parents, despite efforts to help them change. Those children deserve to grow up in protective and permanent homes with adults who love them and care for them," NSW Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward said on Thursday.

Adopt Change -- which Furness founded a decade ago -- was given $2.3m by the NSW Government in July this year to operate the My Forever Family program, providing recruitment, training, support and advocacy to carers and adoptive families for children from statutory care.

Deborra-Lee Furness, Hugh Jackman and their children Oscar and Ava at Hugh's Hollywood Walk Of Fame ceremony in December 2012. Image: Albert L. Ortega/Getty.

When the government initially sought feedback on “whether the Adoption Act should be amended to provide additional grounds for dispensing with parental consent”, critics were worried birth and legal parents would lose their rights.

Some claim a swifter adoption process will lead to another Stolen Generation with Indigenous children, whose families instead needed improved funding and support.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2018 Child Protection Report, 17,644 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were in out-of-home care at 30 June 2017. This is 10 times the rate for non-Indigenous children.

Over 17,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were in out-of-home care in the middle of last year. Image: AbSec.

At a recent child welfare conference, Olivia Cumpston from Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat stressed the importance of maintaining links with community.

"If Aboriginal children in the child protection system are to stay connected to community and culture, it is crucial that Aboriginal community-controlled organisations are adequately funded to provide input to decision-making, and to provide services to Aboriginal families," she said.

Labor and Greens have flagged similar concerns.

Aboriginal community advocates have voiced concerns at a new Stolen Generation with updated adoption laws. Image AAP.

Goward called political opposition to the bill a "stunt" as she announced the amendments.

"There have been many grandiose statements about parents and their loss and needs, but very little has been said about the impact of child abuse and neglect these children experience, sadly at the hands of those who say they love them most."

Featured image: Adopt Change.

Contact the author: samelia@networkten.com.au.