Since the age of six, Bernadette Formosa has wanted to adopt a child. Her dreams came true a few years ago when she adopted Anusha, an 18-month-old girl who had been living in foster care since birth.
“I never had any desire to have biological children,” she said. “There’s such a high need in Australia that, for me, that was the best option. I wanted to be a mum and have a family.”
She says adopting Anusha, now four years old, is the best thing she ever did and that she now has a family all of her own.
“It’s been extremely life changing,” she says. “For me, being single, I just thought ‘wow this is actually happening’.”
Sunday marks the start of National Adoption Awareness Week, a week dedicated to promoting adoption as a way of giving children a safe, loving and secure home.
NSW Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward says the week is a great chance to promote the positive role adoption plays in changing the lives of children.
“We want all children in NSW to have safety, permanency and a loving home for life,” Ms Goward says. “Open adoption can transform the lives of children. Our first priority is to work with families to keep them together, but in cases where this is not possible we must ensure children are given permanency as soon as possible.”
The NSW government has introduced a number of reforms to make adoption easier for children in out-of-home-care, investing $24 million over four years into making changes.
The government released a discussion paper on October 20 that looked at a number of proposals to simplify adoption.
Ms Formosa began the process to adopt in 2012 and spent more than a year going through the long process.
She said that she understood the process needed to be thorough, but wished it had been easier.
“It is a tough process. I think the process should be easier, but on the other hand I think the thorough assessments need to be done. At the end of the day the child is number one and they need to make sure the child is going to a good home,” she said.
Ms Formosa adopted with the help of Barnardos and says they had been instrumental in providing guidance.
“Barnardos have been amazing, truly amazing. I had a caseworker and they walked me through the whole process. Our adoption was made final this year on February 28 and from 2012 till then, I’ve always had contact. If I’ve had any issues or any questions they were always available.”
In 2016-17, a record 129 adoptions took place in NSW, with Barnardos responsible for 43 of them.
Barnardos is the largest non-government adoption agency in the state and second only to the Department of Family and Community Services.
Barnardos says it is always looking for more families who are willing to adopt children from foster care.
Ms Formosa says that she hopes the message gets out to families that they are able to adopt in Australia.
“People are always saying you can’t adopt in Australia and the simple fact is you can,” she says. “There are kids out there and there are wait lists with kids wanting families.
“I think there’s just going to get more and more now that people are starting to understand Australia actually does offer adoption. I’d totally recommend it.”