Meanwhile in Malta
The Adoption Bill, which has been presented in Parliament, follows the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in respect of inter-country adoption. The Family and Social Solidarity Ministry explained to CARLA GATT that this bill was drafted with the best interests of the child in mind.
Adoption has always been a subject of great public interest, largely because it affects so many families.
Being a tightly-knit community, it has not always been easy for Maltese couples to adopt children from Malta, and they have often been constrained to adopt children from abroad. The adoption of a child is a traumatic experience for both the child – especially if he or she is already old enough to understand the enormity of what has taken place, and also for the parents.
With this in mind, an Adoption Bill has been drawn up to cater to the needs of all the parties concerned, with an obvious particular attention to the children in question. It was presented in Parliament but it is still to be debated.
The right to a child’s
According to the new bill, the court may appoint a child’s advocate, or a social worker or both to ensure that the child is effectively represented and its best interests are safeguarded in adoption proceedings.
The spokesperson explained that with the present law, a curator is appointed for these children. Although curators have done excellent work, the bill will propose a new structure that will be more child-focused and child-oriented.
“It is vital that these children are constantly informed and supported throughout the adoption proceedings,” the spokesperson said.
The family lifestyle offered by the adopting persons has to match the personality and the needs of the individual child. This is called matching.
The bill will propose that an accredited agency has to make all reasonable efforts to match prospective adoptive parents with children who need an adoption placement.
Matching has to be in the best interests of the child to be adopted. All social workers who are assigned to carry out duties of matching with regard to the adoption proceedings have to be adequately trained to carry out this function.
The ministry spokespersons said that it was important to let the families know that adoption is not an alternative to filling the void of not having a child. They have to understand that some children might be faced with a nagging feeling at the back of their mind that their natural parents have abandoned them or cannot take care of them. This makes the provision of a permanent environment for these children an issue of paramount importance.
The spokespersons mentioned that in the example of a seven-year old Muslim girl who is up for adoption and whose religious beliefs have already been instilled, the Prospective Adoptive Parents would have to provide the adequate means and be ready to accommodate this child and respect her religious beliefs.
This bill aims to introduce the concept of open adoption, whereby the natural parents may retain the right to maintain contact with the adopted child.
An open adoption may take place in the case of a child over 11 years of age, if it is in his/her best interest. In these circumstances, the accredited agency shall draw up an agreement of open adoption, either directly or through a family mediator, after hearing the child, and obtaining the consent of the parents and the Prospective Adoptive Parents.
The Adoption Board
This is composed of a Chairperson and a minimum of another four members. These members will be professionals representing different disciplines, as well as persons who have adequate knowledge and are proficient in the area of adoption.
An innovative idea in the Bill will be that the minister shall endeavour to have a person over the age of 18 who is adopted, and a person who is or was an adoptive parent as part of the Adoption Board. These persons may be appointed at any time during the term of office of the Adoption Board.
Some of the functions of the Adoption Board will include examining Home Study Reports drawn up by a social worker of an accredited agency, determining eligibility and suitability or otherwise of a Prospective Adoptive Parent, and ensuring that the placement will be in the best interest of the child to be adopted.
Other functions include making recommendations to the court or to the central authority regarding a Prospective Adoptive Parent, making recommendations to accredited agencies or the minister on training programmes and counselling sessions for Prospective Adoptive Parents, and making recommendations to the minister on the parameters to be established for the organisation of counselling sessions.
The central authority
The ministry’s spokespersons told TMID that the central authority was initially set up in line with the relevant Hague Convention.
The central authority will be responsible for the receipt of applications for accreditation from organisations that apply to carry out inter-country and, or local adoption. It has the responsibility of assessing each of the agencies and granting, refusing or revoking accreditation in conformity with the Hague Convention, and the provisions of this proposed Act.
It shall also monitor the proceedings for an inter-country adoption which may proceed upon the approval in writing of the central authority in accordance with this proposed Act.
Any organisation may apply to the central authority for accreditation in the form approved and provided for by such authority, in order to carry out local and, or inter-country adoption.
The central authority has the right to require an organisation to provide any documents and information deemed necessary, to ascertain whether accreditation should be granted.
The central authority may accredit an organisation if it is satisfied that the organisation has sufficient expertise and experience in dealing with child and family matters; has an adequate number of staff who are trained to carry out local, and, or inter-country adoption; and has the administrative and legal competency to carry out the functions appertaining to adoption procedures. The agency should also comply with the accreditation criteria specified in the Hague Convention.
The central authority shall have the right to revoke accreditation of an agency at any time, if the agency files a request in writing for revocation, ceases to comply with the criteria of eligibility for accreditation, is no longer deemed suitable to provide adoption services, or is in breach of the conditions for accreditation, in accordance with the provision of this proposed Act.
If accreditation is revoked, the accreditation certificate including the records and documents relating to the pre-adoption and adoption services of that agency become the property of the central authority.
Part of the accredited agency’s work is to draw up the Home-study report on the situation of the Prospective Adoptive Parents, including any recommendations on whether such parents should be allowed to adopt and the reasons for this.
The post-adoption report holds the function of documenting the period after adoption. This also enables the adoptive parents to discuss any difficulties they may encounter with the social worker.
The report details how that child is settling with the family, and the family with the child. It is important to ensure that the aims of adoption, i.e. permanence and the best interests of the child are being reached.
The social worker may also be of help in informing the adoptive parents about any services that their child may require.
“These parents would not be in a position to know all the child services out there. Natural parents come to know about these services gradually, but adoptive parents who all of a sudden find themselves looking after an older child might not know,” the spokesperson said.
According to the bill, the media will not be allowed to make profit or to capitalize from individual cases of adoption.
No party to adoption proceedings, or anyone who has been party to such proceedings should be exploited on these terms, and use by the media of cases involving adoption proceedings, may only take place once an accredited agency or a court of law gives its approval, according to the circumstances of the case.
The interests of the child should be protected and nothing should be done to jeopardize them.
The new bill proposes that no person should publish or broadcast on any medium, whether or not in relation to a particular child, that a child may be adopted, a person intends to adopt a child, or a person intends or is willing to make arrangements with a view to the adoption of a child.
It also proposed that unless authorised by the court, no person should publish or broadcast anything related to the adoption proceedings or the adoption of a child; the name of the applicant or applicants; the name of a person who is or will be adopted; the name of the father, mother, curator, or tutor of the child who is or will be adopted; or any matter likely to enable any of the persons mentioned.
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