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Authority chief draws line between humanitarian aid and adoptions

By Conall O Fátharta

Irish Examiner, Tuesday, November 02, 2010

THERE must be a clear distinction between humanitarian aid and individual adoptions in any future dealing with countries involved in inter-country adoption, according to the chairman of the new Adoption Authority of Ireland, Geoffrey Shannon.

Mr Shannon was speaking at an event marking the enactment of the Adoption Act 2010 and the appointment of the new authority.

The new act sees Ireland finally ratify the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption.

Mr Shannon said the new act was "a world-class piece of legislation" that would provide potential adoptive parents with assurances in relation to adoption. "It has been a source of embarrassment internationally that it has taken so long to ratify this key international treaty, a standard-setting instrument. Sometimes there is an overemphasis in the media about what country we are doing business with and an under-emphasis on actually ensuring that adoption be a child-centred process."

Mr Shannon spoke forcefully on the issue of humanitarian aid and the dangers of putting pressure on other jurisdictions to enter into bilateral agreements.

"The issue of humanitarian aid is an issue that has arisen. I think it is hugely important that we now draw a line between humanitarian aid and adoption. We are talking about establishing standards in adoption. That doesn’t mean to say that humanitarian aid cannot take place but there cannot be a link between humanitarian aid and adoption. We will redouble the efforts of the authority to ensure there is a clear demarcation between both those things.

"Putting pressure on jurisdictions to enter into agreements is actually contrary to the spirit of Hague. In a spirit of co-operation we will work with jurisdictions and jurisdictions that feel that they are in a position to enter into an agreement, we will work with them. However, putting pressure on jurisdictions to enter into agreements has the potential to lead to child-trafficking and child-laundering and sometimes that is a message that people just don’t want to hear," he said.

Mr Shannon also stressed that the new authority intended to deal with the issue of illegal birth registrations and welcomed Minister for Children Barry Andrews’ announcement that work had begun on legislation to provide tracing and information for adopted people and natural parents.

For his part, Mr Andrews said the new act and the establishment of a new adoption authority was a key element of a "complete overhaul of the adoption process in Ireland".

"In terms of inter-country adoption, we have now joined the ‘Hague Club’, a group of countries, which aims to promote high standards and good practice in adoptions of children.

"Though inter-country adoption will always involve an element of risk, Hague countries work together to reduce such risk and to build confidence in the process in both sending and receiving countries. The central aim of the legislation is to provide children and prospective adoptive parents with greater protections when affecting an adoption."

During the transition phase of the Adoption Act, people who have queries about both domestic and inter-country adoption should contact their local HSE social work department. 

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“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting loneliness." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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