Vietnamese adoptions thrown into doubt

Date: 2009-04-07
Source: Times Online
A decision not to renew an adoption agreement with Vietnam could leave up to 300 Irish prospective parents in limbo

Mark Tighe

Almost 300 people who have been approved to adopt children from Vietnam have seen their plans left in limbo after the Irish government decided to negotiate a new adoption deal with the country.

Ministers have decided not to continue a five-year agreement with Vietnam because they are planning new adoption legislation and there are concerns about the Vietnamese system, amid reports of kidnapping and child trafficking.

The Asian country accounts for nearly 60% of international adoptions to Ireland, but the agreement expires on May 1.

Last year both America and Sweden suspended new adoptions from Vietnam. According to the state department’s annual report on human-rights practices, released last month, there are serious problems with the Vietnamese system.

It said: “There were multiple arrests of private citizens and government officials for offering payments to birth parents in exchange for relinquishing infant children for adoption, creating fraudulent documents to conceal the child’s identity and trafficking these children to other provinces where they were offered for adoption.

“In addition, there were documented cases in which small children and infants were kidnapped and sold for adoption to persons in Europe, north America or China.

“The [Vietnamese] ministry of public security identified the problem of kidnapping and trafficking in children for purposes of adoption as one of increasing concern.”

All Irish adoptions from Vietnam are arranged through the Helping Hands intermediary agency, based in Cork and Hanoi. Irish officials say because they use one closely monitored agency, compared with 41 used by America, it is not open to abuse.

Ireland will ratify the Hague convention on child abduction later this year once it passes a new adoption law. This means parents will not be able to adopt from countries that have not signed up to the convention, unless there is a bilateral agreement in place.

Barry Andrews, the minister for children, issued a new draft bilateral agreement on adoption to the Vietnamese authorities last Friday. He told the Seanad: “We will have to be satisfied and have reassurances about the basic principles of international adoption relating to consents, ensuring there is no improper financial gain, and the protection of children.”

International adoption sources believe it will be difficult for Ireland and Vietnam to ratify a new agreement before May 1. If this deadline passes with no arrangement in place, parents who have been approved to adopt from Vietnam but have not been allocated a child will have their fee of $11,000 (€8,700) returned.

John Collins, the chief executive of the Adoption Board, said 291 people have been granted declarations of eligibility to adopt from Vietnam but have yet to be referred a child.

Shane Downer, the chairman of the International Adoption Association, is pleased Andrews has issued a new draft agreement to the Vietnamese. “Our members realise there are no certainties in inter-country adoption, but there has been a lot of anxiety about this,” he said.

“It is a stressful time, and uncertainty about whether they will be able to proceed has created concern, particularly for those who have spent years going through the Irish assessment process.”

Russia is the second most popular country for adoptions. There is no bilateral agreement with it, however, nor with Ethiopia, the third most popular. Andrews said he will try to negotiate a agreement with both once a deal with Vietnam is done.

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