Improving Services for Australians Affected by Forced Adoption

Improving services for Australians affected by forced adoption: Up-skilling and enhancing the health sector

In Australia, between the 1940’s and 1980’s, around 250,000 adoptions occurred, and the majority of these are now considered to have been forced. Forced adoption has led to significant, long-term psychological effects, including prolonged grief, relationship difficulties, higher rates of suicidality and mental health disorders. The mothers, fathers and children impacted by these practices have also faced multiple systemic barriers when trying to find appropriate support services.

Significant legislative reviews and formal parliamentary inquiries have been undertaken, leading to the most recent inquiry by the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee in 2012, and culminating in a National Apology given by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 21 March 2013.  One of the Committee’s recommendations was the need to enhance the clinical skills of health professionals working with people affected, and funding was allocated to support the development of guidance and training materials for health professionals working in the field.

As a result, The Australian Psychological Society established an Expert Reference Group (ERG) to steer the development of the training, and to ensure it is accessible and useful to health professionals. The ERG represented the clinicians who are the target audience of the training:

  • Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists
  • Australian Association of Social Workers
  • Occupational Therapy Australia
  • Australian College of Mental Health Nurses
  • Australian Indigenous Psychologists Association
  • Australian Psychological Society
  • Australian Institute of Family Studies

Additionally, over 80 consultations were held across Australia with organisations representing those affected by forced adoption, service delivery organisations and individuals affected by forced adoption.

The resulting online training course covers:

  • Understanding past forced adoption policies and practices
  • A clinical framework for working with individuals
  • Working with mothers, fathers and adopted people
  • The search, contact and reunion process

Additionally, a series of webinars designed to enhance the content in the online courses has been developed, as well as a practice guidance that provides evidence-based approaches for working with people affected by forced adoption.

The Department of Social Services is funding complementary Forced Adoption Support Services in each state to provide support directly to people affected by forced adoption.

For more information, visit

Article provided by Natalie Milnes from the Australian Psychological Society Limited.

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