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.
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.