irishtimes.com – Last Updated: Monday, November 1, 2010, 16:58
The establishment of a new Adoption Authority from today is a key element of a “complete overhaul” of the adoption process in Ireland, Minister for Children Barry Andrews has said.
Mr Andrews was marking the enactment of the Adoption Act 2010 and the appointment of the new authority.
“The establishment of the Adoption Authority will be central to the administration of adoption, domestic and intercountry, for many years to come,” he said.
He said the new authority was charged with “ensuring high standards, setting guidelines for the HSE and other bodies and regulating and monitoring all adoption activities”.
“The central focus of all of this work will be the best interests of the children, both Irish born and children adopted from abroad.”
The new law is designed to give force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption.
Mr Andrews said the new law was designed to provide a framework to ensure that appropriate procedures have been followed and that all adoptions were effected in the best interests of the child.
Membership of the ‘Hague Club’ was intended to improve standards in intercountry adoption and allow for adoptions between countries that were compliant with the convention.
“However, the desire to further improve standards should not end with Hague ratification,” Mr Andrews said.
Solicitor and senior lecturer in family and child law Geoffrey Shannon has been appointed to chair the new authority.
Mr Andrews paid tribute to the work and cooperation of the HSE in preparing for the new legislative framework.
HSE assistant national director Phil Garland said: “As the statutory childcare authority the HSE welcomes the commitment under the Hague convention to strengthening the focus on placing the child at the centre of the adoption process in Ireland.
Chief executive of Arc Adoption, Shane Downer, said the commencement of the new Act was a “red letter day” for all those involved in adoption.
“Arc Adoption, subject to the approval of the new Authority, looks forward to helping establish the improved infrastructure enabled by this Act, which will improve adoption processes on behalf of children, as well as providing enhanced assurance over what is a complex, legal and fundamentally human activity.”
Mr Downer said adoption placements must be “child centred, and focused on helping prospective adoptive parents prepare for, and cope with welcoming a child into their lives and families”.
His own organisation would seek to complete accreditation as Ireland’s first accredited adoption mediation agency over the coming weeks. It aims to establish programmes with “at least four countries”.
Subject to the approval of the authority, the organisation will initially apply to work with countries such as Bulgaria, Vietnam, Mexico, India, Brazil, Kenya and Cambodia, among others.
“Arc will introduce a comprehensively transparent facilitation service, and looks forward to being subject to tight regulation by the Adoption Authority of Ireland,” Mr Downer said.
Over 42,000 adoptions of Irish children have taken place, and a further 5,000 children have been adopted into Ireland, Arc said.
During the introductory phase of the Adoption Act 2010, members of the public who have any queries about adoption both, from a domestic and an inter-country perspective, should contact their local HSE social work department.