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Adoption body takes child-first approach

CAROL COULTER, Legal Affairs Editor

Irish Times, Tue, Nov 02, 2010

THE ADOPTION Authority, which came into existence yesterday, will ensure that the best interests of the child prevail in all adoptions, according to its chairman, Geoffrey Shannon. At the core of that must be consent, he said.

The authority was established by the Adoption Act 2010, which came into force yesterday. It provides a framework for both domestic and inter-country adoptions, including the ratification of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoptions by Ireland.

Mr Shannon stressed the importance of consent in inter-country adoptions. “That cannot be produced by payment,” he said.

The authority would end the practice whereby prospective adoptive parents made a financial contribution to the child’s country in “humanitarian aid”.

“It is hugely important we draw a line between humanitarian aid and adoption,” he said. “That is not to say there should not be humanitarian aid, but there must be a clear dividing line between humanitarian aid and individual adoptions.”

The new authority will also have the task of accrediting mediation agencies, which will work with countries from which children are adopted and prospective adoptive parents, and of agencies that will assess people for their suitability as adoptive parents.

That work is carried out by the Health Service Executive at the moment and there has been criticism of the delays in completing the process, which can take a number of years. Under the new Act, the HSE will have the task of supervising independent assessment agencies, to be accredited by the Adoption Authority.

“We will have a robust framework for accrediting bodies,” Mr Shannon added.

He said that there would be a single standard for assessments all over the State and a working group had already been established to ensure uniformity.

While the Adoption Act does permit the conclusion of bilateral adoption agreements with countries that have not signed up to the Hague Convention, Mr Shannon warned prospective adoptive parents against putting pressure for the conclusion of such agreements. “Putting pressure on countries to enter into agreements contrary to the spirit of Hague could lead to child-trafficking,” he said.

Minister for Children Barry Andrews said the Adoption Act catered for domestic as well as inter-country adoptions, “more so if constitutional change occurs soon”. The Act permits adoption by couples and, in exceptional circumstances, by single people.

He also said that the officials who worked on the Adoption Act had now begun work on a new Bill providing for tracing and birth information for adopted people.

Mr Andrews also launched a new website of the Adoption Authority, which will bring together information on adoption from all sources.

The members of the new authority are Helen Collins, solicitor, who is its deputy chair; Siobhán Keogh, social worker and member of the previous board; Ann McWilliams, social worker; Corina Carrick, solicitor; Dr Helen Greally, a psychologist, and Dr Cyril McNulty, a medical practitioner.

Arc Adoption, which was set up seeking to be an accredited mediation agency under the new Act, welcomed the legislation. Its chief executive, Shane Downer, said it aimed to establish programmes with at least four countries.

© 2010 The Irish Times

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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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