The Irish Times – Saturday, October 30, 2010
Pat and Nora Butler: “Vietnam is going to ratify the Hague Convention next year, so we are hopeful.”
JAMIE SMYTH, Social Affairs Correspondent
THE GOVERNMENT has moved to ease the concerns of people in the process of adopting children from abroad promising a new adoption regime will provide more partner countries for them to adopt from.
It has also been claimed that the long and stressful assessment process that couples must undergo before they are allowed to adopt children should also speed up under the new regime due to begin onMonday.
Minister for Children Barry Andrews said yesterday the Adoption Act 2010, which enters into force on Monday, would open the doors to a host of new countries for Irish couples hoping to adopt abroad.
By ratifying the Hague Convention on inter-country adoptions, Irish couples could theoretically adopt from 83 countries such as Britain, Mexico and the Philippines, he said.
The Hague Convention safeguards the fundamental rights of children in inter-country adoptions, in both their country of birth and the country of adoption. Further safeguards aim to prevent the abduction, sale and trafficking of children for adoption.
Many couples going through the assessment process with the Health Service Executive are concerned because the Authority will not authorise new Russian adoptions because it has not ratified the Hague Convention.
Russia currently supplies the largest number of adopted children to Irish couples. In 2008, 117 Irish couples adopted a child from Russia and 1,229 have been adopted from Russia since 1991.
Several parents of adopted children from Russia, or who are going through the adoption assessment process, told The Irish Times they fear there could be long delays to new countries coming on stream under the new adoption regime.
“I fear that people who get declarations to adopt after November 1st will face delays as the new adoption system beds down. The structures may take a few years to get into place,” said one parent
Mr Andrews said the Adoption Board had worked very hard to issue “declarations of eligibility and suitability to adopt” to ensure very few people would “get caught out” in the transition period.
Any couple who is provided with a declaration from the board is still allowed to proceed with an adoption from non-Haguecompliant countries such as Russia for a maximum period of three years.
Mr Andrews said the new Adoption Authority, which will be appointed on Monday, would also move very quickly to agree the necessary administrative agreements with Hague compliant states to facilitate adoptions for couples.
“These administrative agreements are different from the type of bilateral agreements we have negotiated between countries to facilitate adoptions. They are far less complex,” said Mr Andrews.
He said he was also willing to travel to Moscow to try to agree a new bilateral adoption agreement with Russia.
Mr Andrews said the Act provided for the appointment of accredited agencies to do assessments that were previously undertaken by the HSE. This would “speed things up” for couples, although it would take a while for the transfer to take place, he said.
Mr Andrews said he acknowledged the pain that the closure of certain countries – Vietnam, Guatemala and Ethiopia – to Irish couples seeking to adopt abroad had caused in the past. He said he was trying to resolve the situation for 20 couples seeking adoptions in Vietnam when all adoptions to Ireland were halted in June 2009.
The Adoption Board will be formally dissolved on Monday and replaced with a new Adoption Authority. Child law expert Geoffrey Shannon will remain on as chairman of the authority. The authority will see the appointment of a psychologist, a social worker and a GP to its board as decreed under the Adoption Act.
COUPLE STUCK IN LIMBO
Pat and Nora Butler have been trying to adopt a child from Vietnam for the past 5½ years. A decision by the Government to suspend adoptions from Vietnam last year has left them, and 19 other Irish couples, stuck in limbo. Here Nora tells their story
I was 38 years old when we started on the adoption process with the authorities. I am 42 years old now, but I still have no family, says Nora Butler.
It is the length of time that it is taking that is the biggest problem, and your age does catch up with you. Our lives have been on hold during this whole stressful adoption process. We kept putting holidays off, thinking that we’d be travelling to Vietnam to pick up our baby. But it just hasn’t happened.
We had an unhappy experience with several IVF programmes, which turned out to be unsuccessful. This took five years, so all-in-all we’ve been trying to start a family for a decade. Time is our biggest enemy, because the likelihood of being allowed to adopt a second child reduces as you get older.
It took about two years before the process properly began after our application. Our social worker started our assessment and we took our pre-adoption course.
The country that you choose to adopt from is a very personal issue for each couple. We undertook research and chose Vietnam because we thought it would be safer, as the guidelines were well established.
Adopting from Vietnam costs about €7,000, while other countries can be much more expensive than that.
We got our “declarations of eligibility and suitability to adopt” after about three years. We then went to Helping Hands Adoption Mediation Agency, which mediates with the Vietnamese government.
However, the bilateral agreement between Ireland and Vietnam lapsed in June 2009. A few months later, a report came out on Vietnamese adoptions, which was negative towards adoptions from abroad.
About 79 Irish couples already had referrals of Vietnamese children and they were able to proceed with the adoptions.
But 20 couples who were still awaiting referrals of children, including us, were not allowed by the Government to proceed due to the findings of the report.
We are just waiting now. The Minister for Children has told us he is trying to get the adoptions through and is awaiting a response from the Vietnamese government.
Our biggest problem is the lack of communication from the Government. We know a lot of people who are finding it very difficult to keep going. It is a very personal issue for the couples involved. We know there isn’t a hope in hell of our adoption going forward this year, but I think next year it will come through for us. Vietnam is going to ratify the Hague Convention next year, so we are hopeful.
Our hearts are set on Vietnam now. If we had switched country we may have had a child by now but we see a good happy culture and a good attitude to Irish people adopting from the country.