Responding to concerns from social workers, Celia Loftus, the AAI’s principal social worker, acknowledged “a number of ethical issues” in relation to adopting from Florida.
Principle among these was that domestic adoption was not used when available in Florida, a key requirement of the Hague Convention which Ireland ratified in 2010, and that the adoptive parents were chosen by the natural mother while she was still pregnant.
Under Irish law, a child cannot be placed for adoption until the age of six weeks, nor can the natural mother choose the prospective adoptive parents.
The natural mother can also withdraw her consent at any time before the making of the adoption order — usually about six months post-birth. As a result, Ms Loftus noted that children adopted from Florida may have to be placed in care for six weeks “so as to bring the Florida situation more in line with Irish law”.
In the email, sent in April 2013, and released under Freedom of Information, Ms Loftus pointed to “ethical issues” including:
n“Inter-country adoption exists to find homes for children in need of permanent families where such families cannot be found in their own country. The Hague principle of subsidiarity is not adhered to where birth parents are given profiles of US couples at the same time that they are informed about Irish couples, as happens in cases in Florida”.
n“The child’s needs should be the basis for matching with a specific couple, but in Florida the Paps [prospective adoptive parents] are chosen by the birth mother when she is pregnant (even though the child’s needs are unknown at that point)”.
n“Future talking by Paps with children adopted from Florida will necessitate having answers for the questions of why a first world country would take a newborn from another first world country when there are thousands of US couples assessed for adoption who are prepared to adopt very disabled children from third world counties and from institutions.”
Two days later, Ms Loftus wrote to social workers indicating it was “clear that all adoptions from Florida are legal adoptions” but the difficulties centred on the “practice and ethics” associated with pre- birth matching and not using domestic adoption when available.
The AAI declined to respond to questions issued by the Irish Examiner.
Under the wording of the adoption agreement with the US of September 2013, couples will only have adoptions recognised if a number of provisions are satisfied:
*A relevant authority in the US provides a letter showing why the child could not be placed with suitable prospective adoptive parents in the US, detailing what steps have been taken.
*The appropriate consent is given after the child has reached six weeks of age.
*A relevant authority in the US has confirmed in writing that a US state court order placing the child with prospective adoptive parents in the US was not issued before the AAI approved the placement.
*Informed consent has been given by the biological mother and/or father or institution with lawful authority over the child.
*Where identification of the biological father is possible, the father was offered the opportunity to participate in the adoption hearing