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Talks begin on new deal with Vietnam over adoption laws


May 17, 2009

Talks begin on new deal with Vietnam over adoption laws
Children's minister Barry Andrews is bidding to thrash out a new agreement after Irish couples are left in limbo Mark Tighe
The Irish government will ask Vietnam to re-open international adoptions on an interim basis after coming under intense pressure from prospective adoptive parents.

About 275 Irish couples who have been approved to adopt from Vietnam have been “left in limbo” after a bilateral agreement between the countries lapsed on May 1.

Barry Andrews, the minister for children, is trying to negotiate a new, stricter, agreement with Vietnam which protects children, while placating the hundreds of couples whose plans to adopt have been thrown into disarray.

Politicians from all parties are being lobbied by couples and adoption support groups to put a new deal in place.

A well-placed source said Andrews, who has been criticised for not beginning negotiations sooner, has come under pressure from senior cabinet members to get a deal in place.

The source said a legal issue dating from 2002 meant that there were concerns over the compatibility of Irish and Vietnamese law, which meant that adoptions might not be allowed to be registered under an interim arrangement. The issue has been referred to the attorney-general.

New figures released by the Adoption Board show that 182 out of 397 international adoptions registered in Ireland in 2008 were from Vietnam.

Russia was second, with 117 adoptions, while Ethiopia was third, with 26. Adoptions from Vietnam came under renewed scrutiny when America and Sweden suspended them last year, after discovering discrepancies.

The American embassy in Hanoi had detected the use of fraudulent documents and found that some orphanages offered financial incentives to workers for children made available for international adoption.

“We sent a delegation to Vietnam to inform the government about what to do next,” said Andrews.

“When we got that report, we were satisfied that there were enough distinctions in the way we operated and the way the Americans have been doing it to allow us to negotiate a new bilateral agreement.”

Andrews said Irish parents, through the Helping Hands agency in Vietnam, usually adopted relinquished, rather than abandoned, children. This made it easier for the state to establish whether the mothers had given the correct permission. “We are trying to improve standards all the time,” he said.

The government plans to enact new adoption law later this year that will ratify the Hague Convention on International Adoption. Irish couples will be able to adopt only from countries that have have ratified the convention or have state-to-state agreements with Ireland. Andrews confirmed that negotiations with Russia began several weeks ago.

2009 May 17