New adoption laws that mean children must be considered for adoption before being placed into temporary foster care, have been passed in NSW.
In the first legislation of its type to be passed in Australia, child protection authorities will now be required to investigate putting vulnerable children, aged under 18, up for adoption before the option of temporary fostering is considered.
The rule would apply only in cases where courts have ordered the child cannot return to his or her family until the age of 18.
The state-government’s reforms, which are aimed at providing a far more stable environment for children, instead of a situation where they might be shunted from home to home, passed the NSW parliament on Wednesday night.
“The new laws are designed to give vulnerable children the best possible chance of a safe and stable home for life,” said NSW Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward.
She described the reforms as the most important for child protection “in a generation”.
They also mean courts receive new powers to force parents to undergo treatment to deal with issues, such as drink or drug addictions, that might put children at risk.
The laws also allow authorities to seize babies at birth if their mothers abused drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, rather than having to wait until after a child is born before they can intervene.
The reforms also have implications for women and children affected by domestic violence, with mothers to be given an opportunity to end a relationship before their child is seized.
“Tonight’s passing of the legislation is a step in the right direction for at-risk children and their families across this state,” Ms Goward added.