Despite Victoria’s change in the law allowing same-sex couples to adopt, fewer than five adoptions have taken place in the state since 2017. The Department of Justice confirmed that there have only been a handful of placements involving same-sex couples since the law change, which permitted couples to adopt regardless of their gender identity. During the same period, there has been an overall decline in adoption, with just 76 local and overseas adoptions occurring in the state.
According to the Australia Institute of Health and Welfare, adoption numbers have declined by 63% over the past 25 years, the lowest number on record. Experts attribute this decline to a combination of factors such as the availability of contraception and abortion, the end of forced adoption practices, and improved child protection systems. However, same-sex couples seeking to adopt in Victoria are encountering difficulties, with permanent carers, including LGBTQ+ couples, left in limbo.
Support group Gay Dads Australia’s convener, Rodney Chiang-Cruise, advises same-sex couples seeking to adopt in Victoria not to bother, describing the adoption process as almost impossible, even for straight couples. Chiang-Cruise is not alone in his assessment of the difficulties faced by LGBTQ+ couples when trying to adopt. Some couples have been subjected to invasive questions about their lifestyle, and others have experienced blatant homophobia.
While adoption figures for same-sex couples may be on par with the general population, their experiences navigating the system can differ greatly from that of straight couples. Gay men, in particular, face considerable scrutiny of their lifestyles, parenting ability, and capacity to raise children. Some foster care agencies reject applications from LGBTQ+ people on religious grounds, while implicit bias could be present in others.
To address these issues, experts are calling for additional training for child services workers to identify their implicit biases and how they affect their work and case decisions. However, until these biases are addressed, LGBTQ+ couples seeking to adopt in Victoria may face significant hurdles. The state government has taken steps to ensure that same-sex couples are not discriminated against throughout the adoption process, but there is still work to be done to create a more equitable adoption system for all.