Minister seeks to reopen Vietnam for Irish adoptions

The Irish Times – Monday, April 4, 2011

THE GOVERNMENT will begin talks on securing a new administrative agreement with Vietnam shortly to help reopen the southeast Asian state for Irish couples pursuing intercountry adoptions.

An estimated 200 Irish couples seeking adoptions in Vietnam were left in limbo following a decision by the government last year to suspend all adoptions from the country. The suspension, which was announced in January 2010, followed international concerns about the process of adopting children from Vietnam.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald told The Irish Times yesterday she wanted officials at the Adoption Authority of Ireland to travel to Vietnam to begin talks on an administrative agreement. She said she believed Vietnam would ratify the Hague Convention on intercountry adoptions and securing an administrative agreement with the country would speed up the process of adoption for Irish couples waiting to adopt.

“I’d like to bring some clarity to the situation of intercountry adoptions so that adoptive couples are not having to reinvent the wheel,” said Ms Fitzgerald, who is meeting the Adoption Authority of Ireland “as a matter of urgency” later this week.

Under the Adoption Act, which entered into law last November, couples can only pursue inter-country adoptions from states that have ratified the Hague adoption convention or that have a bilateral agreement with Ireland.

Vietnam signed the Hague convention in December 2010, and is expected to fully ratify the convention shortly. By negotiating an administrative agreement with Vietnam, the Government hopes Irish couples stuck in limbo can begin adopting as soon as Vietnam ratifies the Hague convention.

An estimated 200 Irish couples had received their declaration of eligibility and suitability to adopt from Vietnam when adoptions were suspended. Some 20 Irish couples were even further through the adoption process in Vietnam and had received adoption packs before the suspension.

The Government announced the suspension of adoptions from Vietnam following publication of a report commissioned by Unicef and the Vietnamese ministry of justice, which identified concerns.

The report found that adoptions from Vietnam were essentially influenced by foreign demand rather than the needs of “abandoned” and orphaned children; the circumstances under which babies become “adoptable” were invariably unclear and disturbing; and the intercountry adoption system was grounded in a “remarkably unhealthy relationship between the mediating agencies and specific residential facilities”.

Russia is closed for new adoptions because it has not ratified the Hague convention. However, the Government is seeking a full bilateral agreement with Moscow in a bid to reopen Russia for adoptions.

Ms Fitzgerald also said she would prioritise the passing of new legislation to help adopted children trace their parents.

Birth parents hoping to trace the 42,000 children adopted in Ireland since 1952 often face huge delays when they approach the Health Service Executive or private adoption agencies to start the tracing process.