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The Adoption Act

Irish Times, Fri, Nov 05, 2010

THE ADOPTION of children – domestically and from overseas – has been given a firmly regulated framework with the enactment of the 2010 Adoption Act. The legislation lays the foundation for greater transparency in an area of life which has been influenced by very significant social change. In the 1940s and 1950s, Ireland exported children for adoption, mainly those born to unmarried mothers who also comprised the majority of children adopted in this State. Some 96.9 per cent of non-marital children were adopted in 1967. By 2007 that had dropped to 0.81 per cent.

This reflects changing attitudes towards non-marital births and the impact of additional supports for one-parent families. However, for those who could not have children, it meant the only option was to seek to adopt abroad. The result is that foreign adoptions now account for a majority of adoptions. Since the first foreign adoption legislation enacted in 1991, more than 5,000 such adoptions have been registered. Thus in the past 50 years, Ireland has gone from being a “sending” country for adoption purposes to being a “receiving” country.

This transformation has presented a range of legal, practical and social challenges. These include lengthy delays in obtaining assessments and uncertainty about the status of the sending country which have brought additional trauma to prospective adoptive parents. This has been compounded by reports of abuses in the adoption process in certain countries.

The Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption is designed to minimise the possibility of abuse. The coming into force of the Adoption Act means that Ireland has signed up, very belatedly, to Hague, and foreign adoptions will only take place now from Hague countries and countries with which we have a bilateral agreement. Although this does not necessarily mean that more children will be available for adoption, it should mean that adoption will be safer and more child-centred, with fully informed and free consent to the adoption at the core of the process.

Other measures in the Act – and addressed by the Minister for Children in announcing it – should help streamline the process so that people no longer have to wait up to six years to complete an adoption. All this is welcome. But much work remains to be done, notably in bringing into being an information and tracing system for those who were adopted in Ireland decades ago. The Minister’s commitment to legislation in this area should be acted on quickly.

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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