Amanda Stephens is a single woman aged 50 who has opened up her home in Wauchope and her heart to 15 foster children, and has now adopted a little girl. Matilda, known as Tilly, was placed with Amanda when she was eight days old, and it has made them both very happy.
Tilly is now six, and the adoption was finalised in June this year. Tilly’s natural parents were unable to care for her and they acknowledged this. Amanda has no biological children and she is a single parent who hopes to adopt another child.
“Life is good, nothing has changed physically but now she is mine, she is my daughter, she has no stigma of being a foster child,” said Amanda, who grew up on a farm in Long Flat and used to work as a paramedic.
It’s been really rewarding. I get to be a mum and she gets to have a safe life.Amanda Stephens
“That was one of my big things - I didn’t want her to have a different name. She is my daughter and everything else has remained the same, she tells everyone she is Matilda Stephens.”
“Tilly is now my daughter. I get to be a mum and she gets to have a safe life. It’s a win-win. I think there is a stigma that kids in care are all problem children, and they’re not,” said Amanda.
“Some have problems, some don’t, but it’s not their fault, and you work through them. It can be challenging but it’s also really rewarding. I have seen some kids come into my house and within two weeks, you can see positive changes in them, just by being cared for.”
Amanda is flexible and supportive regarding Tilly’s contact with her birth parents which happens four times a year. She believes children need to know where they come from.
“Her mum and dad and I work together. We consult over things like birthday and Christmas presents, and I email them school photos and pictures of special occasions, so they get to see those bits of Tilly’s life,” she said.
Amanda got a lot of training and still gets support from the Department of Family and Community Services. She says she has also learned about being resilient and patient, and has enjoyed being trained in children’s behaviour and how to help kids with issues.
The NSW Government has introduced a number of reforms to streamline adoption and make adopting children in out-of-home-care easier including:
- $24 million over four years invested into the Adoptions Transformation Program, which includes a Taskforce of caseworkers and paralegals dedicated to reducing the number of outstanding adoption applications.
- A means-tested Adoption Allowance introduced on July 1 for foster families who want to adopt children in their care.
- A Discussion Paper was released on October 20 examining a number of proposals to simplify adoption and shorten the legal process.
- A record number of out-of-home-care adoptions took place in 2016/17 with 129 orders finalised before the NSW Supreme Court.
Anyone wanting more information on adoption should log onto the FACS website at https://www.facs.nsw.gov.au/