Gladys Berejiklian announces foster care changes
In March, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced new financial incentives to encourage more parents to adopt foster children.
For Meredith and Elliott Gordon, life has dramatically changed since welcoming their daughter, Kathleen, into the family.
The West Ryde couple first met their daughter when she was eight months old and came into their care as a foster child.
Last November, after caring for her for two years, they adopted Kathleen – a process that would have taken longer if it was not for reforms the NSW government introduced last year to encourage foster parents to adopt the children in their care.
"When we met her, we couldn't wait for her to be home and couldn't wait for her to be in our forever family," Mrs Gordon said on Sunday.
"We were absolutely amazed [when adoption was granted], we couldn't believe that it had finally come through.
"[The reforms] certainly made it quicker than what it was meant to be."
Foster parents can apply to adopt after the child has been in their permanent care for 12 months. The rate of adoptions of children in foster care has almost doubled in the past year, the NSW government says, since the fast-track program was introduced.
On Sunday, Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said 127 adoption orders were finalised before the NSW Supreme Court in 2016/17, after the launch of a four-year, $24 million plan that includes a taskforce dedicated to reducing the number of outstanding adoption orders.
"When we started this reform journey, I wanted to ensure that children who could not stay safely with their parents would have a safe and loving home for life," Ms Goward said.
"We hope to continue to see a change in attitude towards open adoption, one where the community understands that open adoption can provide a safe and loving home for life with an adoptive family."
Mr and Mrs Gordon applied to be foster parents after years of trying to conceive.
"We tried for a long time, we tried IVF as well, but that was really traumatic and unsuccessful and we couldn't put ourselves through that again," Mrs Gordon said. "So after realising that falling pregnant for us wasn't going to happen naturally, we decided to look into other options and for us, adoption or fostering was the natural choice."
After just five weeks of being in the foster pool, they received a call informing them of a successful match. "For us it was fast, we were surprised it was so fast," she said. "We were told we'd have to wait a minimum of two years."
It was love at first sight. Kathleen, a healthy Australian-Cambodian, was eight months old when she arrived at the Gordon home. She had been put into foster care when she was just three days old.
"We basically had to pick it up and get the ball running straight away," Mrs Gordon said. "Our family was the two of us and that was great – but now we can't imagine life before Kathleen came along."
Adopt Change chief executive Renee Carter said the organisation welcomed the increase in adoptions.
"Last year there were more than 30,000 Australian children living separately from their birth families for two or more years and yet only 196 Australian children were adopted, 5 per cent less than the previous year and the lowest number on record," Ms Carter said.
"The latest figures on adoption in NSW are encouraging and indicate a commitment from the state government to implementing urgent reform to ensure that permanency and adoption are a priority for vulnerable, at-risk children."