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January 23, 2009 / The Irish Times
New legislation providing for uniform standards of child protection for all inter-country adoptions has been published by the Government.
The Adoption Bill 2009 gives force of law to the Hague Convention, the main international statute governing inter-country adoptions. Ireland signed the convention in 1993 but has yet to ratify it.
The new bill also consolidates all existing laws on adoption into a single piece of adoption, and establishes the Adoption Authority of Ireland with expanded powers to replace the Adoption Board.
Minister for Children Barry Andrews, who launched the bill in Government Buildings today, said children’s interests would be paramount at all times in the adoption process. “The Government’s aim in bringing forward this piece of legislation is to support and protect prospective parents, and even more importantly, the children for whom adoption services are devised and provided," he said.
The Hague Convention provides safeguards to ensure that the fundamental rights of a child in an inter-country adoption are respected in both its country of birth and the country of adoption. Further safeguards aim to prevent the abduction, sale of, or trafficking in children for adoption.
Once the bill becomes law, it will only be possible to adopt children from other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention, or countries with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement. In effect, this means that Irish parents will no longer be able to adopt from countries which do not have agreements with Ireland or have not ratified the convention, unless agreement are drawn up before the bill is enacted.
Mr Andrews said his officials were working to “assess the possibility” of entering bilateral agreements with countries such as Vietnam, Ethiopia and Russia. Some 5,000 children have come to Ireland under inter-county adoptions, with about 1,400 of these coming from countries not covered by the Hague Convention or bilateral agreements.
The bill reflected the fact that adoption had changed greatly since it was legislated for in the 1952 Adoption Act, he said. At that time, and until the 1990s, the vast majority of children adopted in Ireland were Irish children. However, since attitudes softened towards lone parents, such adoptions were relatively rare and most adoptions in Ireland today were inter-country ones.
The Minister acknowledged the drafting of the bill had been a lengthy and complex process but said this had the advantage of allowing Ireland to benefit from the experience of other Western countries which ratified the Hague Convention before us.
Under the bill, adopting parents will have to show they are of good moral character, healthy and of adequate financial means before their adoption is approved. While no upper age limit is included in the bill, there must be a reasonable expectation that prospective adoptive parents will be able to fulfil their parental duties until the child turns 18.
Mr Andrews rejected calls for a “grandfather clause” which would allow parents who have already adopted a child from a country not covered by the Hague Convention or a bilateral agreement to adopt a subsequent child from the same country. He said there could be no dilution of the standards in the bill: “Allowing some individuals to adopt from a country simply because they’ve adopted from there before would create a double standard and a dilution of the standards which must apply all the time”.
The bill is likely to take a year before it come into law.