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Monday, December 20, 2010

Body language said it all - first same-sex couple to adopt in NSW are great dads

By Kim Arlington -

FIVE-YEAR-OLD William and his baby sister, Jane, suffered a life of neglect until they were placed with foster carers.
One took a year off from his job as a child welfare worker to care for the troubled siblings; both foster parents work four-day weeks to maximise their family time.
The children are now thriving and their foster parents - affectionately called ''Dad'' and ''Papa'' - have become the first same-sex couple in NSW to adopt.
A Supreme Court judge, George Palmer, last week made orders for the adoption of William, 9, and Jane, 5, by their foster parents, Mr Smith and Mr Jones (the family has been given pseudonyms).
Mindful of the debate surrounding same-sex adoption, Justice Palmer took the unusual step of publishing his reasons for the landmark decision. ''Many in the community have expressed, and continue to express, a strongly held belief that adoption by same-sex couples is, in its very nature, contrary to religion, to morality and to the best interests of the child, and that it undermines the long-established concept of the nature of a family,'' he said.
Though the court and the community would ''grapple for some time with the novelty of same-sex couple adoptions'', such applications did not require a specially cautious approach.
The judge said the court was not concerned with ideological debate, only what was best for the children, and Mr Smith and Mr Jones were ''unquestionably capable of parenting these two children''.
Although single gay men and women have been eligible to adopt children, the Adoption Act previously defined a ''couple'' as a man and a woman who were married or in a de facto relationship.
Amendments to the legislation introduced in September expanded that definition to ''two persons'', allowing adoption by same-sex couples.
William and Jane were born to a young woman with a history of substance abuse. She has only seen them once since June 2006, when they were taken into care by the Department of Community Services. She has had no contact with them since January but did not object to their adoption by a same-sex couple.
William's father could not be found to obtain his consent to adoption, which was dispensed with by the court.
Jane's father - who has never met her - consented to her adoption by Mr Smith and Mr Jones, who were among the 8 per cent of foster carers with the child welfare organisation Barnardos who are gay.
A consultant psychologist involved with the family viewed them as ''experienced, highly skilled and creative'' parents.
Justice Palmer described Mr Smith and Mr Jones as exemplary parents, observing that the children were happy and outgoing in court and ''stood close to their new fathers, hugging them in moments of excitement and at other times unconsciously reaching for their hands''.


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