‘Fatal flaw’ in new Mason-inspired laws


New child safety laws stemming from the Mason Jett Lee tragedy that encourage the adoption of neglected or abused children could leave them in new traumatic situations, MPs have been told.

Their concerns come as new figures show 197 children were sexually, physically, emotionally abused or neglected while in care last year.

A parliamentary inquiry is considering legislation that makes it clear adoption should be seriously considered in cases where a child cannot be returned to their family and can't be granted a long-term guardianship to another suitable person, like their grandparents.

Tragic toddler Mason Jett Lee
Tragic toddler Mason Jett Lee

Although legally allowed now, the legislation states adoption should be the third option considered and is expected to increase the number of adoptions in Queensland after just 35 in 2019-20 and 29 the year before.

Supported by some advocates, they have been panned by others who want them scrapped or redrawn before they cause more harm.

It comes as the latest Report on Government Services shows an increase in the numbers of children mistreated in care - the highest number since 2012-13.

Numbers of children reported to the system continued to grow to 23,266 in 2019-20, with 28 per cent substantiated and 11,570 on protection orders.

Commencement of investigation continues to be slow - 40 per cent not commenced for at least 29 days and 42 per cent taking more than 90 days to complete.

For children who were found not to be in danger, 544 were found to be in danger within three months after that investigation finished and 1500 within a year.

Meanwhile, advocates say legally severing children's' family links through adoption is not in their best interests and will leave them without adequate support.

The Association for Adoptees said some adoptees could be abused or mistreated by their adopted families, and counselling and support must be offered their entire childhood to address trauma.

"It is not enough to remove children from harm only to create more layers of trauma through ill supported adoption placements," its submission to the inquiry says.

"Tucking children away and assuming the book is closed, is grossly inadequate and irresponsible given that adoption impact is a lifelong issue."

New Queensland laws will make it clear the Department of Child Safety must consider adoption as a final outcome for children it can’t reunite with their parents or with other suitable carers.
New Queensland laws will make it clear the Department of Child Safety must consider adoption as a final outcome for children it can’t reunite with their parents or with other suitable carers.

Groups say simple adoption or permanency, where a person retains their birth certificate and family connection, should be used instead.

Act for Kids executive director services Dr Katrina Lines said the legislation did not promote the rights of children to have a voice in decisions about their future.

The Public Guardian argues adoption would breach the human rights of people with disabilities, who are often stripped of children at birth due to the untested view that they cannot care for them.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

A joint submission with signatories from a host of bodies, including the Queensland Family and Child Commission, Australian and Queensland Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Public Guardian complain that issues raised with the government "remain unaddressed".

They ask for greater oversight of permanency decisions impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people who "have experienced a long history of systemic racism in child protection systems, including the forced adoptions of the Stolen Generation".

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk accepted all recommendations of Mason's coronial inquest in June last year, including that adoption be "routinely and genuinely considered" where reunification was unlikely, particularly for children under 3.

Originally published as 'Fatal flaw' in new Mason-inspired laws