Ahern warns of ‘anti-adoption bias’

The Irish Times – Friday, November 27, 2009

A FORMER minister has suggested there may be an “anti-adoption bias” at senior levels of the Department of Health and of the Health Service Executive.

Noel Ahern (FF, Dublin North West) questioned why people were obliged to wait five years to adopt when “it only takes nine months to have a baby”.

And he challenged why Ireland had let the bilateral agreement with Vietnam go into abeyance.

Mr Ahern said Minister of State Barry Andrews had referred to reports critical of Vietnam’s procedures. “But it is extraordinary that other countries, and I do not mean banana republic countries but countries such as France, Denmark, Canada and Italy, do not seem to have difficulties with the bilateral arrangements with Vietnam.”

He wondered “whether we are being a bit too careful”. He was speaking during the ongoing Dáil debate on the Adoption Bill, which brings the Hague Convention on the protection of children and co-operation in respect of inter-country adoption into statute law.

Mr Ahern said during the debate that “often over the years I felt there was an attitude at a high level in the department or the HSE long before the Minister of State or his officials were there, which was not exactly friendly to the adoption process”.

“Some people see adoption as something that happened decades ago. Perhaps concerns were raised in a few cases, but there were also thousands of children being placed in loving homes here and elsewhere.

“I am not sure whether there is an anti-adoption bias somewhere at the high levels of the Department of Health or in the HSE.”

Echoing the comments of many speakers in the debate, Mr Ahern said there was “great unhappiness relating to the HSE’s adoption process”. He sharply criticised social workers “who drag out the work and create extra interviews and layers of bureaucracy to slow down the end product”.

The former minister of state said the Bill wants expeditious processing of adoption but includes the phrase “as soon as practicable”.

This meant “we are picking the bits that are best practice to suit ourselves and where the HSE is making a mess of the assessments, we are watering down best practice as stated in the Hague Convention because it suits inefficiency in the HSE”.

It was “fine to introduce a document that outlines what will be best practice into the future. However, it is important that we assist those couples who have been involved with the process for a number of years to finalise their adoptions. It was a question of where to draw the line.”