Irish couples may adopt from three new countries

The Irish Times – Monday, September 13, 2010

CAROL COULTER, Legal Affairs Editor

IRISH COUPLES will be able to adopt children from Bulgaria, South Africa and Thailand through administrative agreements being discussed by the Adoption Board under the new Adoption Act, The Irish Times has learned.

These are the first agreements being sought under the new Act.

This follows a year in which adoptions from Vietnam, the country supplying the largest number of children for adoption into Ireland, were suspended in the light of a critical report on Vietnam’s adoption procedures from Unicef’s international social service.

Among the issues it highlighted was the Vietnamese practice of seeking substantial sums in “humanitarian aid” from prospective adoptive parents.

However, adoptions from Vietnam are expected to resume when Vietnam ratifies the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoptions, which could be as early as November, according to Brian O’Callaghan, chairman of the International Adoption Association (IAA).

The Adoption Act, which brings the Hague convention into Irish law, was passed by the Oireachtas before the summer recess and comes into operation on November 1st, after its formal ratification.

Under the Act a new Adoption Authority will replace the Adoption Board, with responsibility for recognising all adoptions, both from Ireland and abroad, and for accrediting and regulating the bodies involved in adoption.

At an information meeting of the IAA at the weekend the chairman of the Adoption Board, Geoffrey Shannon, outlined how the new Act would operate, and the new opportunities for inter-country adoption it offered.

Mr O’Callaghan said there were 80 countries in Hague, of which about half were “sending countries”, so the ratification will bring certainty to the inter-country process for couples seeking to adopt abroad.

Transitional arrangements will be put in place so that people within the adoption process under the old system will not be disadvantaged when the new system comes into place, the meeting heard. This includes a provision whereby anyone with a declaration of suitability and eligibility to adopt will still be able to adopt from non-Hague countries like Russia and Ethiopia, or any jurisdiction whose adoption law is Hague-compatible.

The new Adoption Authority will also be drawing up criteria for the accreditation and regulation of adoption bodies such as the mediation agencies that work with individual countries.

Mr Shannon told the meeting that the board was working on administrative arrangements for adoptions from Bulgaria, South Africa and Thailand, though they were not yet finalised.

Mr O’Callaghan said that between 10 and 15 application packs had already gone from Ireland to an agency in Bulgaria.

Mr Shannon said that the board’s committee was also looking at the UK as a place couples could go to adopt. He pointed out that Kazakstan and Togo would formally ratify the Hague convention on the same day as Ireland, which would be sending countries.

Complaints of differences within different areas of the HSE with regard to assessments for adoption were heard at the meeting, which was assured that the new authority would work to establish clear standardised processes and the uniform application of the law.