By Carrie Coulter
January 15, 2010 / irishtimes.com
THE GOVERNMENT has decided to suspend intercountry adoptions from Vietnam until both Ireland and Vietnam have ratified the provisions of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption.
Minister of State for Children Barry Andrews announced last night the Government had decided to suspend indefinitely negotiations on a new bilateral intercountry adoption agreement with Vietnam, with the effect of suspending adoptions.
He said the decision was taken in response to the “serious findings and recommendations” contained in the report on intercountry adoption commissioned by Unicef and the Vietnamese ministry of justice and carried out by International Social Services (ISS). Among the issues raised were: the conclusion that intercountry adoptions from Vietnam were essentially influenced by foreign demand rather than the needs of “abandoned” and orphaned children; the circumstances under which babies become “adoptable” were invariably unclear and disturbing; and the intercountry adoption system was grounded in a “remarkably unhealthy relationship between the mediating agencies and specific residential facilities”.
“I am acutely aware of the disappointment that will be felt as a result of this announcement,” Mr Andrews said. He said most prospective adoptive parents had asked for certainty above all else, and though this was not the news they were hoping for, it would help them make future choices.
He said he had asked the Adoption Board to identify Hague countries willing to enter into administrative arrangements with Ireland to facilitate intercountry adoption.
Other interim arrangements include permitting people with a declaration of eligibility for Vietnam to select a new country, while maintaining their place on the list for Vietnam, pending the ratification of Hague.
The Government had also committed to providing technical assistance to the Vietnamese authorities in the area of child welfare and protection to help prepare the way for ratification of the Hague Convention should the Vietnamese wish to avail it, he said.
The Helping Hands Adoption Mediation Agency, which specialises in adoptions from Vietnam, expressed its regret at the decision, and also stated that attempts to meet Mr Andrews to discuss the situation had been refused.
Helping Hands chief executive Sharon O’Driscoll said it had worked tirelessly with both Irish families adopting from Vietnam, and those on the ground in Vietnam. “Since our formation and presentation of credentials to the Irish Government in 2006, we have continually pointed out to the Irish Government our concerns with the process and what points needed to be addressed in order to improve standards,” she said.
“Helping Hands would strongly recommend that the Irish Government engage with the rest of the international community to help in improving adoption conditions in Vietnam as the door has now simply been slammed in the face of helpless young Vietnamese children who are in need of loving and caring families.
“The Government has also managed to alienate the dozens of Irish families who are currently in the process of adopting Vietnamese children, many of whom have patiently waited years to do so.”
Shane Downer, chief executive of the International Adoption Association, expressed deep disappointment with the Minister’s decision and said the report was based on “flawed, fragile and incomplete analysis”: “The report itself is based on a nine-day trip to Vietnam, which only included visits to two of the 58 Vietnamese provinces. Neither of the provinces visited by the ISS team are provinces from which Irish applicants currently adopt.”