SYDNEY, Sep 14 (Reuters) Young children of drug-addicted parents should be forcibly adopted out, said an Australian parliamentary report that cites children dying in the custody of addict parents or being abandoned to eat dog food.
But the report drew widespread criticism today from anti-drug campaigners, who called it draconian and harmful in the fight against drugs.
The report on the impact of drugs on families recommended adoption as a ''default care option'' for children aged under 5 who come to the attention of child protection agents through their parents' drug addiction.
Drug-addicted parents would have to make a case for keeping their children or they would be taken away, inquiry chairwoman Bronwyn Bishop said today.
''The drug industry rhetoric is focused on the user to the detriment of children and other family members,'' Bishop, a government MP, said in a statement.
''Children who are being shunted from foster carer to parent and back or from carer to carer can't afford to wait for their parents to sort themselves out. Children need stable and loving homes and adoption must be one option available to provide this.'' Three members of the parliamentary inquiry rejected its findings, saying the report was an attempt to justify a ''zero tolerance approach'' to drugs, and issued a dissenting report.
The Labor opposition members said the universal ''best interest of the child'' test should determine whether a child was separated from parents, not simply drug addiction.
''DRACONIAN APPROACH'' ''This report is a disaster, it will cause more harm. It is a very draconian approach. I hope this report disappears in a black hole,'' Brian McConnell, president of Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform, told Reuters.
McConnell said he had never heard of any other country suggesting mandatory adoption for drug-addicted parents.
The Australian National Council on Drugs rejected the report's punitive recommendations, saying they were underpinned by a ''naivety'' about drug use.
''Often children are a parent's motivation to get off drugs.
Adoption is permanent, there is no second chance,'' said a council spokesman.
Australia currently places children in foster care if they are at risk from drug-addicted parents or uses programmes that involve the whole family, with the aim of parents managing their addiction or becoming drug-free.
The report found 78,000 children, aged 12 years or under, lived in a house with at least one daily cannabis user and more than 27,000 children lived in house with an adult using methamphetamine at least monthly.
The report cited cases of children being harmed or dying while in the custody of drug-addicted parents and of children being abandoned at home or left to eat dog food while their parents bought, dealt or took drugs.
In one case a 6-year-old girl died after her mother and boyfriend gave her methadone and another girl drowned while her prostitute mother and partner were on heroin.
The report said more than 20,000 grandparents were caring for 31,000 children up to the age of 17 because their parents were addicted to illicit drugs.
The parliamentary report will now go to government for a formal response, which may take months or even a year.
REUTERS SKB RAI0941