Is there anything more beautiful in this world than a precious baby? A small, cute, adorable child that you can hear speak its first words and see take its first steps. A sweet cherub-faced infant who will grow, and learn, and mature before your eyes. A little bundle of joy that, before you know it, will become a teenager who will resent you, borrow money from you, put you in a retirement village and ignore you until you pass away, sad and alone.
Well, in my view, yes, there are many things more beautiful than babies. It is therefore a good thing that I can’t father any children, due to some issues with my little tadpoles being – how can I put this – fucking lazy. Hey, don’t you go feeling sorry for me, or thinking about my baby-making parts too much. I assure you, they work in almost every way, and look just fine on the outside.
Well, as fine as those sorts of male body parts can look.
Just because I can’t do my part to help produce a child of my own in the good old-fashioned way like my parents did and their parents did before them does not mean that I will never be able get my hands on a baby (legally). Thanks to the law, I could, if I really wanted, bring a child into my life. And, importantly, I could do this without the trouble and guilt that comes with kidnapping the cutest kid I can find at my local park.
How can I do this? I can try to legally adopt a child.
I know we all have this idea that adoption is some magical process where good and loving couples who are unable to have children of their own, or who have lost their own child due to some misfortune, adopt an unloved or unwanted baby and raise it as their very own in a home filled with joy and laughter.
This is, sadly, not how adoption works under our legal system.
Adoption is as commercial of a transaction as you will find in our capitalist society. It is like shopping at Costco. In fact, it is eerily similar to shopping at Costco. Set aside the emotional aspect of the adoption process and it becomes clear that the laws on adoption in Australia are all about how someone can legally buy a baby as if it were a product on a Costco shelf.
Don’t believe me? That’s understandable, but let me prove it to you using the Costco example.
If I want to adopt a child, the first think I need to do is get myself accepted into a pool of people who are legally approved to adopt a child. This is pretty much the same as me getting a Costco membership. Once I have a Costco membership, I am allowed into the Costco store. Once I have been accepted into the pool of legally approved people, I am allowed into the adoption store.
The next step in my adoption journey is to submit a formal request to adopt a child. Once I do this, I must subject myself to a bunch of seminars, screening processes, and assessments on the adoption process. If I make it through all these without killing myself, I am told whether or not I am an approved applicant. This step is much like navigating a Costco store and dealing with the crowds, trolleys, and inconveniently placed displays. In both scenarios, my survival is not guaranteed, nor is my success in getting what I want.
If I make it through these two steps, I finally earn the legal right to take the item I would like off the Costco shelf (a baby available for adoption) and put it into my trolley (my life).
Now I face the final step: what is known in adoption law as ‘placement’ or (to continue our Costco example) the process of getting my adopted baby through the checkout line, out of the store, and into my car. And just like the checkout process at Costco, ‘placement’ involves me handing over my credit card and paying all the various fees and expenses that come with adopting a baby.
Of course, there are some obvious differences between adopting a child and shopping in Costco. Even the longest shop at Costco is over in a few, painful hours; the average length of time required to adopt a baby is (depending on the state or territory you live in) several years.
There is a bit of a difference in pricing, too. Surely I am not the only one who has gone to Costco expecting to spend $100, then finding out at the checkout that I have just bought $500 worth of stuff. Damn you, giant M&M’s boxes! The costs of adoption are higher than even the most enthusiastic of Costco shops. Think upwards of $20,000 in fees and expenses for an adoption in New South Wales, and perhaps more than that to adopt a child from overseas.
To be clear, I do not want to suggest that I am against adoption, nor the legal processes our country has in place to ensure the right child is adopted by the right parents. Rather, I would like any potential adoptive parent to know – if they don’t already – that there is no magic, no romance, and no beauty to the adoption process.
At its core, the laws on adoption set out the legal process for transferring a good, in the form of a baby, from a ‘store’ run by the government or private charitable organisations to the adoptive parents. These laws make the process of adopting (or buying) a baby cold, commercial, difficult, expensive, and frustrating. If you are going through this process, my heart and thoughts are with you, truly. I can highly recommend the Adopt Change website (https://www.adoptchange.org.au) if you would like more information on adoption laws in Australia.