Yenda’s Jane Gibbs is one of a small handful of Australians who have adopted a child in recent times.
Ms Gibbs and husband Jamie adopted 10-year-old Damien in 2016, a child they had been fostering for many years.
Australia’s dark history on adoption – the stolen generation and forced adoption scandal – led to state governments making adoption very rare in Australia.
But with 46,000 children now living in state care, without a permanent home, there is a renewed push for change.
The NSW government is progressing reforms to encourage a new form of “open” adoption, and to make the procedure easier.
November 12 to 18 was National Adoption Awareness Week in Australia. New member for Murray Austin Evan said the week, “is a wonderful opportunity to increase understanding about the open adoption process in our local community”.
The Irrigator caught up with Ms Gibbs to ask her about what adoption has been like for her family, and hear her advice for those who might be considering adopting a child in state care. Her responses are summerised below.
Adoption is now “open” in Australia, meaning Damien remains connected to his birth family. What’s that like?
To be honest, I wouldn’t have gone through with the adoption had it have been closed.
Damien deserves to be in contact with his birth mother (Dianne Fletcher). He deserves to be educated about his history and his heritage.
It works well for Damien to have two mothers.
I even wanted Damien to keep incorporate his birth parents surname in his name – he is Damien Lee Fletcher Gibbs.
What’s the difference between having Damien as your foster son, and having him as an adopted son?
We now have the freedom to parent like every other parent.
We used to have to tell the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS, formerly DOCS) everything.
We needed permission to take Damien on trips of more than four days
My family is in Canberra, so we had to seek permission to cross the border into the ACT.
Damien too can be in school photos and can call himself by the “Gibbs” name, like he’s always wanted.
Adoption has created normality in our lives.
How long did it take to finalise the adoption of Damien after you started the process?
Why so long?
There was a system change after three years, so we had to start the whole process again.
The legal procedures move very slowly.
It took a long time to track down all the members of Damien’s birth family.
We had lots of meetings with his family.
Does adoption still take that long?
I understand FACS are pursuing reforms to make the process faster. They are aiming for two years.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of adopting a child in state care?
Go with your heart, but also use your mind, and think about the future impacts on your lives.
A lot of the children coming from the out of home care system have special needs. We no longer have access to the specialised support your get in the system.
But we have also gained a great deal of satisfaction from adoption.
My husband Jamie said it, “gives us the opportunity to see all our hard work, family building and love grow alongside Damien and his future and outs. Adoption just seals the deal”.