DSS Advisor Meeting

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On 14 May 2018, ICAV met with Advisor to Minister Dan Tehan, Wendy Summers.

The meeting was in response to the Australian Federal Government Department of Social Services (DSS) decision to no longer fund ISS Australia’s Intercountry Adoption Search & Reunification Search Service (ICATRS) for intercountry adoptees, established in 2016.

Attendees:
Lynelle Long (ICAV)
SueYen Bylund (ICAV)
Wendy Summers (DSS Senior Advisor)
Jo Manning (DSS Department Representative)

ICAV requested the reasoning for the decision to end the funding. We were referred to the reason outlined in the standard letter we were all sent in response to our requests for the decision to be reconsidered.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) provided ISS Australia with one-off funding to establish the ICATRS in 2016-17. In recognition of great than expected demand for the service, DSS provided ISS Australia with a one-year extension for ICATRS in 2017-18.

The Department veiwed this one-off funding and an opportunity to build the foundation of traciing and reunification services in Australia. The Department has advised that there is no option for further Australian Government funding for the ICATRS.

I note that the two years of funding that ISS Australia did receive allowed it to establish a service that was welcomed by intercountry adoptees and their families. I have encouraged ISS Australia to build on this foundation by considering alternative funding models(April 2018).

ICAV asked to understand whether there was ever a request to the Minister for specific Ministerial Funding of this service, since our 2015 meetings with the Prime Minister’s Senior Advisors in which we spoke about the huge need for search support. As intercountry adoptees, we require government to government assistance for many of our searches. For adoptions prior to the 1980s where no formal adoption processes existed, we require government assistance to obtain paperwork and deal with countries who’s adoption agents no longer exist.

Given there is a budget of AU$33.6m allocated by the previous Abbott government for prospective parent services in intercountry adoption for 2014-2019, and there are a recorded 10,000+ intercountry adoptees in Australia, we point out why there could not have been a specific request to accommodate our reasonably small service (in comparison) and why this cannot be considered given the funding period has not ended as yet. Our request was noted.

We spoke about the need for the Minister to sort out the Commonwealth-State Agreement in which it is currently the responsibility of the States to provide post adoption support. We point out the impractibility of this arrangement given searching requires government to government relationships and that currently, it is DSS who owns the Country Program Management responsibility of maintaining ongoing relationships with our birth countries.

We also spoke about the current climate of the Commonwealth acknowledging and redressing other similar groups – The Forced Adoption Apology, the Stolen Generation, The Forgotten Australians, and now most recently the Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse. We would like the Australian Government to consider the adoptees who came into this country under highly questionable and sometimes outright illegal means and consider how they will be responded to. We point out we have raised this issue a number of times over the years and this group is growing in number each year as they age and mature. We remind them of the legal action being taken by adult intercountry adoptees in The Netherlands.

We express we would like to work with the Commonwealth to explore other broader scope initiatives within DSS scope when niche services are not possible. Their mission is to improve the wellbeing of children and families and we would like to work further to explore how adoptees can be included. We seem to fall between the cracks of similar funded services. We mention the Forced Adoption Apology and how we are unable to access those services. Couldn’t the scope be broadened to include intercountry adoptees? We give the example of the most recent call for submissions for those at risk for welfare dependence and long term unemployment and suggest intercountry adoptees be included in future.

We mention the parallels between the offspring of surrogacy and donor assisted technologies. These children, who grow up, and like intercountry adoptees will want similar supports we ask for, in seeking to understand one’s origins and searching for identity. In years to come, our Government needs to think and plan ahead to consider how these vulnerable groups will be supported, crossing international borders and requiring government to government cooperation. What is the role and responsibility of government if they are facilitating and supporting families to be created via these means.

We thank them for their time. Our 30 minutes is well and truly up.

So the long story short is: YES we hear you, but the answer is still NO with a tiny ounce of Maybe for a look into other avenues of how adult intercountry adoptees can be included in other broader initiatives.