5 May 2024

Anti-adoption governments will ensure more children are raised by strangers in motel rooms

| Oliver Jacques
Join the conversation
A child sitting next to window

A shortage of foster carers means children are often kept in hotels. Photo: rawpixel.

The insanity of so-called child protection systems across Australia is summed up by a simple stat – last year, foster care children living in hotels outnumbered those who were adopted into permanent loving homes.

New data shows just 73 out of the 55,000 children living in temporary out of home care (OOHC) were adopted in 2022/23, a drop of 55 per cent since 2019/20.

State and territory governments need to get over their distaste for giving children permanency to stop inflicting further trauma on kids who have known only suffering in their short lives.

In NSW, almost 15,000 children live in OOHC. Most have been removed from their birth parents by the government due to repeated abuse or neglect and placed with foster carers.

The problem is, there are almost no willing carers left.

As a last resort, caseworkers are checking abused children into motels, hotels and caravan parks and assigning a roster of unqualified shift workers to stay with them.

In other words, we are leaving our most vulnerable kids in soulless accommodation to be looked after by a procession of strangers.

Region recently broke the news the NSW Government kept a two-year-old baby in a hotel with their four-year-old sibling for just over five months.

READ ALSO NSW Government kept two-year-old foster care baby in hotel-style accommodation for five months

The average cost to taxpayers in NSW of keeping a child in what government calls “alternative care arrangements” is $829,000 a year. That’s because the hotel owners and for-profit companies providing the babysitters can name their price, knowing the government is desperate and don’t want the situation publicised.

There were 118 children in hotel-style accommodation in NSW in June 2023. One child has been there for almost two years.

The government says media can’t name, obtain information or publish photos of these kids, for their own “privacy”, which conveniently also prevents scrutiny and public sympathy.

At the other end of the foster care system are children fortunate enough to have lived with the same carer for two years. If there’s no hope the child will ever return to their birth families, the carer may want to adopt them.

This seems like a win-win. Adoption permanently transfers full parental rights to the foster parents – so children have the security of a forever family, rather than living on eggshells knowing bureaucrats could move them to another house at any time.

Research indicates adopted children have better outcomes than foster care children in later life, primarily due to the stability and sense of belonging adoption provides.

NSW Legislative Assembly hearing

Former NSW minister Natasha McLaren Jones (blue jacket) questioned current Minister Kate Washington at a parliamentary hearing about foster care kids living in motels. Photo: NSW Legislative Assembly.

Furthermore, when a child is adopted, departments no longer have to pay the foster carer or assign caseworkers to monitor and regulate the family. The number of children in OOHC decreases, while resources are freed up to deal with kids entering the system.

This logic is lost on governments across Australia, who have turned adoption into mission impossible.

Caseworkers often don’t consider adoption an option at all, and if they do foster care families face mountains of red tape in a process that takes up to eight years to finalise.

Last year, just 60 children were adopted from the NSW foster care system. In the ACT, there were just eight, while in Victoria there were no adoptions from foster care at all.

“There are thousands of people willing to consider providing a nurturing and stable family home for children … however when adoption is not even on the radar it makes it almost impossible for willing families to step up,” Renee Carter of advocacy group Adopt Change says.

READ ALSO It’s a human right to be able to read

Bizarrely, departments seem more willing to walk abused kids into hotel foyers and check them into a room than allow them to stay in a permanent family home.

Adoption has been a taboo topic in Australia ever since the backlash against past practices of forced adoptions that targeted single mothers and Indigenous women.

State governments now say their priority is to restore children to their birth families. But what happens to the kids of parents who are dead, in jail or remorselessly abusive?

There’s no need for our anti-adoption culture to continue. We have learnt from past practices – all adoptions must now be ‘open’, meaning children are taught about their past and remain in contact with birth families wherever possible.

A child protection system that embraces and prioritises permanency for vulnerable children will see fewer kids enduring the horror of living with strangers in hotel rooms.

Note: This author previously worked on adoption policy for the NSW government and has written articles on the need for adoption reform for The Guardian, Herald Sun and Adopt Change.

Original Article published by Oliver Jacques on Region Riverina.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

I have a real problem with this article.

I wish that those hand wringing right-wing do-gooders get over their moralising, inflicting themselves on others who do not share their views. Lecturing families on how to bring up children and live their lives.

All families are different and many have their own unique circumstances.

Not every child that comes into the foster care system is abused, unloved or up for adoption!

Yes I see your problem … if there’s any moralising and lecturing to be done, they should defer to you. The cheek of these, these, far right wing extremists!

Those nasty right-wingers like those protesting on university campuses and abusing a certain race of people. Right, yeah

As an adoptee who experienced forced adoption, reading Oliver Jacques’ article struck a chord with me.

I appreciate the author’s call for reform and the recognition of adoption as a complex issue. However, I align with the abolitionist perspective on adoption. Adoption, as it currently stands, often perpetuates trauma by severing vital connections with birth families and communities. It’s a band-aid solution to deeper societal issues like poverty, lack of support services, and systemic discrimination.

Instead of pouring resources into an inherently flawed system, we should focus on preventing the need for adoption in the first place. This means investing in programs that support struggling families, addressing root causes of family instability, and promoting community-based care models like kinship care.

Abolition doesn’t mean abandoning children in need. It means reimagining how we support families and prioritize children’s well-being in ways that honor their identities and preserve their connections. It’s time for a paradigm shift in child welfare that prioritizes prevention, equity, and family preservation over adoption as the default solution.

Adoption has not been seen as the ‘default solution’ for decades. There will always be some parents permanently unfit to parent and the current system insists on leaving the option open regardless, to the detriment of the children. All adoption is open by law these days in Australia therefore it doesn’t involve children being cut off from extended family, supports and culture.

We have been foster carers in the ACT. Children come from many different backgrounds and their circumstances are not always comparable or bad. Many of the children come from very loving backgrounds but their lives are just chaotic.

Caring for children in the foster care system takes empathy and an understanding of when to step back. Some people are just too quick to judge. Foster care and adoption are two very separate and complex issues!

Jack D. i very rarely, if ever, agree with you, however this is one time where you are spot on the money and my hat off to you sir for being a foster carer.

Gregg Heldon8:30 pm 06 May 24

Governments also make every attempt to discourage people to adopt domestically and would prefer you to adopt from overseas.
They will, in fact, reject your domestic application but encourage an overseas application.

With all the societal energy spent in pontificating about “social justice”, this is a strangely neglected policy area.

GrumpyGrandpa6:33 pm 06 May 24

“State governments now say their priority is to restore children to their birth families”.

My sister-in-law has been a foster carer in Victoria. She is a nurse by trade and has a qualification in childcare.

The system is a disaster.

My SIL has taken the kid under her care to multiple court cases, lodged by the drug addict mother wanting permanent custody of her kids. The Courts to date have ruled against the birth mother.

In the meantime, the carer has no authority, because kids have rights.

My SIL’s kid refused to go to school and complained to the Department when she didn’t get her way. She was eventually moved to a school that concentrated on vocational learning – ie a non-academic school. Attendance was voluntary.

This kid had been removed from a previous carer after attempting to take her life. Eventually, she manipulated the Department to move her back to the original carer, because she had a half-sister living there.

There are 5 kids and 5 seperate fathers. One of the fathers is dead, two of the kids lives with their father.

We know the girl I mentioned earlier (and her younger half-sister). The situation is very sad. Drug addicted parents, multiple fathers/step fathers who neglected her needs, a system that is underfunded and poorly resourced. On many ocassions, the Department staff who were to take the girl to visit her sisters, failed to turn up, due to staffing issues.

This girl is broken, uneducated and on prescription drugs to manage her bi-polar.

She will turn 16 later this year and will be free of the department’s responsibility.

I fear for her future. The thought of her being reunited with her birth mother is hardly a good thing, in my opinion.

Hear hear – great article.
The system will continue to fail because the sector is obsessed with keeping the child connected to the birth family regardless of how dysfunctional or criminal it may be.

Until the starting point is the best interests of the child the system cannot be fixed.

Its not the system that keeps children connected to their parents. Its the billions of years of evolution and environment tempering. Unless you can change the DNA, its not going to change easily.

Cost of living causes issues at home, a family gets less support than two individual parents.
Fix the family home

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.