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Priority Questions - Foreign Adoptions

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 92.  Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace  asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  further to Parliamentary Question No 27 of 22 March 2012, the outcome of the Adoption Authority of Ireland visit to India scheduled for the end of April 2012; if prospective parents trying to adopt from India have been notified of any recent developments; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24235/12]

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald On 1 July 2011 the Adoption Authority of Ireland was notified by the Indian National Central Authority, known as CARA, that it would not be accepting dossiers from Irish applicants either until 30 September 2011 or until further notice. It has come to the attention of the Adoption Authority of Ireland that CARA proposes to introduce a new computerised e-access system of online dossier registration. To date, CARA has not invited the AAI to participate in such a scheme. The AAI now proposes to visit CARA in India in mid to late June of this year. Should CARA invite Ireland, in the form of the AAI, to participate in a new inter-country adoption scheme between the two countries, the invitation will be given careful consideration by the board of the AAI, taking into account the advice of the Irish Embassy to India and the Hague Conference Permanent Bureau in the Hague. In the meantime, a number of potential adoptive parents have received referrals of children from India under the old system. There was some difficulty in obtaining the necessary assurances from CARA with regard to these referrals, which caused a delay in the AAI’s agreement to the placement of these children. Fortunately, the AAI has now received a response from CARA which has allowed the processing of these referrals to continue to the next stage. The Adoption Authority keeps people up to date with changes through its website. Currently, the plan is that the AAI will visit India in June to further develop its relationships with CARA.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I thank the Minister for her reply. Originally, the delegation was supposed to go in April, but the Minister is now saying it is likely to be late June. A few of the families involved have been in contact with me. I realise there are problems on all sides and that many aspects on the other end leave a lot to be desired, but from the point of view of the rights of the families, it does appear things could have been handled a bit better. One parent in particular pointed out some areas in which he thought things could be done better by the AAI. For example, the AAI needs to understand there are young children at the centre of this process, as sometimes it seems to lose sight of this. He also said its communications with prospective adoptive parents could probably improve, that it needs to respect the processes established with Hague-compliant countries, that it should start working with more Hague-compliant countries rather than concentrating all its efforts on setting up bilateral arrangements [234]with countries that will never be Hague-compliant and have no interest in becoming so, such as Russia, Vietnam and Ethiopia, that it should tap into the wealth of knowledge gathered by prospective adoptive parents, and most importantly, that the delegation to India should seek to repair the damage it has done in some areas. There are some people who have been waiting to adopt from India but are at the mercy of the authority because of red tape. Without understanding it all myself, I get the impression, while admitting these things are complicated and multifaceted, that there seems to be a certain amount of inefficiency. In some ways the authority could be described as dysfunctional. Would the Minister agree?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I do not agree. I agree that adoption work and the international relationships among countries participating in inter-country adoption are very complex because we must take into account the law in Ireland and in the other countries, and most countries have very different systems for handling adoption. It is a complex issue which requires major attention to detail. As the Deputy said, the key issue is the best interests of the child. This is about the child, not the parents. Having said that, we want to work with Hague-compliant countries where possible. Where adoptions have taken place from countries that are not Hague-compliant, that is, where there is a history of adoption between Ireland and a particular country, such as Russia or Ethiopia, we are examining the possibilities for bilateral agreements. The Hague Convention was signed only in November 2010, so we are in a relatively new situation with regard to procedures. I want to support the parents as much as possible.

The new CEO of the AAI has taken up his position only in recent weeks. I wish him the very best. I have had a number of meetings with him and with Geoffrey Shannon, the chairman of the board. The board and staff are very committed to their work. There is considerable demand and there are very complex circumstances to deal with.

With regard to India, I have spoken to the Indian ambassador to Ireland and have asked him to give us whatever information he can. I have been using diplomatic channels to assess the circumstances in India. There have been some difficulties in correspondence.

After signing up to the Hague Convention, many countries have stopped the process until they get their own law and processes in order. There has been something of a delay and it has been very tough on some of those who have been caught up in the changes. The circumstances after the Hague Convention are quite different from those that obtained before it. I assure the Deputy the Adoption Authority will be very conscious of the issues regarding communication with those who want to adopt and the of giving high-quality information. I have been in discussions with the board on those issues.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace On the issue of communication, individuals have been very frustrated about not getting through to and not getting responses from the board, despite incredible efforts. Is it true there is no adoptee, birth parent or adoptive parent on the board? Perhaps I am wrong in believing there is none. Would it not be a good idea to have a board member with such a background?

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I assure the Deputy the communication issues are being dealt with. Efforts are being made by all concerned to ensure the best possible communication with those who want to adopt.

The representation of the board is laid down in legislation. It could well require legislative change if the nominee did not have the background described. I can examine this and I will correspond with the Deputy thereon.

[235]Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell Zoom on Olivia Mitchell The time for Priority Questions has expired. We will now move to Question No. 93 in the name of Deputy Stanley.

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