Senator Averil Power urges foster care bill

The Government must move quickly to draft legislation to allow children in foster care to be adopted, senator Averil Power has urged, in line with the Children’s Rights Referendum, which was passed in 2012.

“It’s important that legislation be brought through as fast as possible. The Children’s referendum removed the constitutional barrier to legislation, but now we need a bill,” Ms Power said, speaking after an Adoption Seminar in UCC. A legal challenge to the referendum’s amendment to article 42A of the constitution was dismissed by the Supreme Court in April, clearing the way for new legislation.

The awaited changes will allow children with living parents, no matter what their marital status, to be put up for adoption if they have been in care for a length of time determined by law. The child’s opinion must also be taken into consideration.

The potential implications of a care-to-adoption policy were discussed at the seminar, which was an initiative between UCC’s School of Applied Social Studies and the Unesco Child and Family Research Centre in NUIG.

The seminar was opened by Ms Power, and included speakers from Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Kent in the UK, where a care-to-adoption policy has been in place for years.

“The accompanying legislation hasn’t appeared and a bill hasn’t been published, but the Department of Children and Youth Affairs has said that this legislation will be prioritised,” said UCC law lecturer and specialist in children’s rights Aisling Parkes.

“Children have to wait until it has been proven that parental abandonment is permanent, which can take until they are 17 or 18. At the moment they can’t be adopted because the parents can resume their duty of care at any stage. Those children are in legal limbo.”

Ms Power, who is adopted, said “ensuring redress for the 60,000 of us who have been adopted in the past, when Ireland had a real culture of secrecy”, also remained a vital issue for adopted people.

Ms Power’s Adoption (Identity and information) Bill was passed unanimously by the Seanad in February. An amended version is due to be debated in the Dáil.

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