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Written Answers - Inter-Country Adoptions

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 119.  Deputy Sean Fleming Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming  asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  the steps she has taken to facilitate the inter-country adoption process between Ireland and Hague-compliant countries since taking office; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24019/12]

 125.  Deputy Jerry Buttimer Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  if she will provide details of her policy position on inter-country adoptions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23792/12]

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I propose to take Questions Nos. 119 and 125 together.

The Adoption Act, 2010, which was commenced on 1st November 2010, coincided with Ireland’s formal ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. The purpose of the Adoption Act, 2010, is to improve standards in both domestic and intercountry adoption.

The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) is an independent statutory body charged with implementing the Adoption Act, 2010. The Authority has responsibility for the direct operational implementation of legislation and Government policy. It has a quasi-judicial role and is independent in its decision-making functions.

[332]The Authority has responsibility for the management of the various stages of the inter-country adoption process including the forwarding of applicant adoption packs under Article 15 of the Hague Convention, the receipt of the proposed match under Article 16 and the approval of the match under Article 17 (which provides that a child may be placed with the prospective adoptive parents). The issuing of an Article 23 certificate by the country of origin is the confirmation process between contracting States that the adoption has been made in accordance with the Hague convention. The AAI has no role in this process but relies on the certificate as part of the recognition process under Hague.

In considering matters relating to inter-country adoption the Authority must satisfy itself that the adoption complies with the terms and conditions of the 1993 Hague Convention, which is a co-operative agreement drawn up to allow countries to mutually support one another in protecting the best interests of children in the inter-country adoption process. It is designed in such a way as to allow for mirrored mechanisms and structures to mutually assure countries of the safety and standard of inter-country adoptions in those countries. The AAI has been extremely proactive in developing relationships with their counterparts around the world and this will continue. The building of such relationships will help to bring greater clarity to the inter-country adoption process generally, including the timescales involved for adopting from different countries.

Since the establishment of the AAI in November 2012 the AAI have visited Vietnam, Florida and Bulgaria with a view to developing administrative agreements with these Hague ratified countries. The AAI have initiated desk top examinations of the legislation with other Hague countries such as Kazakhstan, Panama, South Africa, Lithuania, Thailand, and Philippines with a view to assessing the compatibility of Irish adoption legislation.

Adoptions from non-Hague ratified countries, such as Russia and Ethiopia, effected under the transitional arrangements provided for in the Adoption Act 2010, are ongoing and are currently being examined, and recognised, by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). These transitional arrangements may lead to adoptions from Ethiopia taking place up to the end of October 2012. The Adoption Act 2010 also contains provision for a one year extension to declarations of eligibility and suitability to adopt which may lead to a one year extension to this date. Russia and Ethiopia are not signatories of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption. In these circumstances, adoptions from such countries which are not covered by the transitional arrangements referred to above would require a bilateral agreement. The negotiation of bilateral agreements on intercountry adoption with states who have not ratified the Hague Convention is governed by Section 73 of the Adoption Act 2010 which states that “the Authority, with the prior consent of the Minister, may enter into discussions with any non-contracting state concerning the possibility of the Government entering into a bilateral agreement with that State”. Any bilateral arrangements which might be entered into would be required by law to meet the minimum standards set out in the Hague Convention. The AAI has visited both Russia and Ethiopia in the last 6 months in relation to bilateral agreements.

The Adoption Act, 2010, which provides the legislative framework for adoption in Ireland, is designed to provide a framework to ensure that all adoptions are effected in the best interests of the child and to the highest possible standard. The phrase ‘in the best interests of the child’ is absolutely key in this regard. It must not be forgotten that inter-country adoption is a service for those children who cannot be raised by their birth parents or cared for in their own country. The interests of the child must always be paramount throughout the adoption process. This is best achieved through the full implementation of the highest national and international stan[333]dards governing adoption practice. This is the primary concern for the Adoption Authority of Ireland in conducting its business as it relates to inter-country adoption.

It should be noted that the AAI has been allocated €3.3m in State funding this year in recognition of the new responsibilities set out in the Adoption Act, 2010. This is an increase of some 35% of the level of funding provided in 2011.

Question No. 120 answered with Question No. 101.


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