Remarks by Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald that the Adoption Act is “restrictive” and may be re-examined to allow Irish couples to adopt more easily from a wider range of countries, have been labelled as “worrying”.
Under current legislation, Irish couples may only adopt from countries which have signed up to the Hague Convention or with which we have bilateral agreements.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner from Washington, where she signed an adoption agreement with the US, Ms Fitzgerald said the Adoption Authority (AAI) had indicated that the Adoption Act was “quite restrictive” as it required a bilateral agreement in order to make arrangements with non-Hague countries.
She pointed out that other Hague countries worked successfully with non-Hague countries without the need for bilateral agreements and Ireland was unusual internationally in having this requirement.
“We are required to have a bilateral and these can be quite difficult to negotiate so it’s quite restrictive. It’s something that behoves me as minister to look at along with the Adoption Authority to see if there is anything we can do around this.”
However, Ms Fitzgerald stressed that any arrangement Ireland entered with a non-Hague country would be along strict Hague principles and Ireland’s commitment to the Hague standard “was as strong as ever”.
The minister’s comments are likely to be welcomed by adoptive parents, many of whom feel progress on securing adoption arrangements with other countries, since the Adoption Act came into force in 2010, has been too slow.
However, writing in this newspaper, international consultant on child protection policy and one of the authors of Unicefs’ 2009 ISS report into adoption practices in Vietnam Nigel Cantwell said any consideration of changing the Adoption Act to make it easier for Irish couples to adopt from a broader range of countries was “worrying”.
“The minister reportedly sees the bilateral requirement as ‘very restrictive’. Does this indicate a willingness to forsake internationally agreed frameworks to protect children’s rights and best interests in order to enable prospective adopters’ dreams to be fulfilled more easily? If so, this would be reminiscent of a pre-Hague stance, bringing with it all the dangers the Convention has sought to address.
“The question the minister needs to be asking is not ‘how can we increase the number of inter-country adoptees coming to Ireland?’ but, very clearly, ‘why do some countries still refuse to accept the safeguards set out in the Hague Convention?’. Unfortunately, the answer to that second question will certainly bring to light some highly disturbing facts about how and why some children come to be adopted abroad,” he said.
Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said any move to re-examine the legislation would be retrograde. “When countries ratify Hague, the numbers available for adoption often fall dramatically. Is this about providing loving homes for children that need them or providing children for couples that want them.”
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