Adoptions from Vietnam may not be recognised, says board

Monday, September 21, 2009

CAROL COULTER Legal Affairs Editor
THE ADOPTION Board has warned prospective adoptive parents that any planned foreign adoptions from Vietnam have no special status here and may not be recognised under Irish law.

The board sent out the notice last week, warning prospective adopters that any application to adopt from Vietnam would be examined to ensure it complied with Irish adoption law, and would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

According to a notice from the Minister for Children, Barry Andrews, on the website of the Adoption Board last June, the mediation licence of the Irish adoption agency operating in Vietnam, Helping Hands, has been revoked by the Vietnamese government.

This follows the expiry of a bilateral agreement with Vietnam last May. Although talks had been taking place with the Vietnamese government about an interim agreement, such an agreement has been put on hold by Mr Andrews, pending the consideration of two UN reports by his department. In the absence of an agreement, no legal adoptions can be processed in Vietnam.

The two UN reports follow the publication of a highly critical US report on adoption in Vietnam in April of last year. Among the abuses it found were instances where children were described as “deserted” when their parents could be found and identified, unexplained pockets of “desertions” in certain areas and payments to the birth parents of “relinquished” children, though these are outlawed by Vietnamese law.

The problem it identified was the autonomy of local officials, and the inability of the central authority in Vietnam, the Department of International Adoption (DIA), to police what happens at local level.

These concerns are reiterated in the two reports at present under consideration by the Minister. One of them, an unpublished draft report carried out by the UN’s International Social Service (ISS) in co-operation with the Vietnamese authorities, is highly critical of the Helping Hands agency, whose public information it describes as “at least somewhat misleading and consequently disturbing in its implications”. The ISS draws attention specifically to the fact that the fee to the agency for an adoption from Vietnam is $11,100, while the official Vietnamese fees are less than $200. The Helping Hands agency told the ISS that of the $11,100, $2,100 went on administration and $9,000 in “humanitarian aid”. The figure of $11,100 included a recent increase of $1,000.

The ISS report comments: “We wonder in what form and by which entity of the Vietnamese authorities Helping Hands had been advised of such an increase, whether any explanation had been given and whether the increase related to ‘fees’ or ‘aid’.” The unpublished draft report added: “We were unfortunately not able to obtain this information within the time-frame of this assessment.” The information may be contained in the final report when it is published.

When asked by The Irish Times to comment on the ISS report, the chief executive of Helping Hands, Sharon O’Driscoll, said she had nothing to say, but a spokesman would be in contact later this week.

Analysis, page 5

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times