Lorena Allam for The Guardian writes:
Lawyers working with vulnerable families in New South Wales are demanding the government make public its plan to overhaul child protection laws, saying they are worried the government wants to significantly reduce the legal rights of birth parents in a greater push towards adoption.
More than 20 of the state’s community legal centres and Aboriginal legal services have written to the NSW government to call for public consultation on its draft bill. They claim a draft has been shared with some government agencies but not with the sector itself.
There has also been a policy shift towards adoption. The non-government agency Adopt Change was awarded a $2.3mcontract to recruit and support foster carers for the next three years, with an emphasis on finding carers who can double as adoptive parents if needed.
The government is also offering a fortnightly adoption allowance, to encourage eligible carers to adopt, and last week said it would pay specialised foster carers $75,000 a year to temporarily look after children with complex needs.
It also sought views on “whether the Adoption Act should be amended to provide additional grounds for dispensing with parental consent”, a question that has alarmed community legal centres and the Aboriginal legal service.
They are “particularly concerned about proposals to transfer jurisdiction to decide adoption matters from the supreme court to the children’s court and to dispense with parental consent in these matters”.
“To dispense with parental consent … for many of our clients, there’re reasons why people don’t want that to happen. Homelessness is sometimes due to domestic violence. And they are potentially going to have no say in the custody of their children.”