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Blacklisting reflects child welfare fears

Irish Times Sat, Apr 10, 2010

Families caught up in the diplomatic dispute over adoption do not know whom to blame, writes JAMIE SMYTH 

RUSSIA’S DECISION to place Ireland on a new inter-country adoption blacklist reflects growing concerns about the welfare of the tens of thousands of its citizens who have been adopted by foreigners.

Several high-profile murders of adopted Russian children in the US at the hands of their parents have prompted Moscow to tighten up adoption procedures in recent years.

The shocking incident yesterday where an US nurse placed a seven-year-old Siberian boy she had adopted on a one-way flight to Moscow because she could “no longer cope with him” will probably heighten these sensitivities.

Several hundred Irish couples currently in the middle of the inter-country adoption process with Russia face an anxious wait to see if the current block on adoption referrals will be lifted.

At least one couple who travelled to Moscow this week were unable to finalise their adoption while other couples are being refused visas to travel because of the current blacklist.

The Russian authorities pinpoint the failure of Irish families, who have already adopted Russian children, as the reason they are blocking adoption referrals. The embassy says up to 70 Irish families have not supplied “post-placement reports” to the authorities.

These reports, which must be overseen by the Health Service Executive (HSE), are intended to provide information on how the children integrate into the family and their general welfare.

Four reports must be compiled within the first three years of an adoption and sent to the Russian Ministry of Education and Science. The Russian authorities say they raised concerns with the Government over the failure to provide the reports last year. At the time the Government worked to reduce the backlog.

Now though it appears there are renewed concerns that the reports are not being submitted on time by families, which has led to the new blacklisting.

One of the biggest frustrations for the families caught up in the diplomatic dispute (couples who have not yet adopted but are going through the lengthy legal process) is they do not know whom to blame.

The HSE, which would not comment on the issue yesterday, must oversee the process of drawing up the reports. Social workers have to liaise with adoptive families in this process and delays are likely to occur.

It is also possible that some families, who have successfully adopted a child from Russia, find the process of preparing post- placement reports – which must be translated into Russian – onerous.

Wherever the blame lies though, the reality is bleak for the hundreds of families attempting to adopt a child from Russia. Many of these couples, who could be years into the process of adopting, face uncertainty on whether they will be allowed to proceed by the Russian authorities.

“Adoption is a long journey. The average time it takes people is five years and this uncertainty is deeply distressing for couples going through the process,” says Derek Farrell, chairman of the Irish Families for Russian Adoptions, an agency helping people to adopt children from Russia. The Department of Health and Children say they are dealing with the problem as a “priority”.


STEPHEN BRENNAN and Janet Whiteacre met Kirill, the beautiful 18-month-old Russian child they plan to adopt this year, for the first time in February.

“He is a loveable and affectionate child. We spent two wonderful days with him at his orphanage in the town of Kudymkar,” says Janet, who remembers the heartbreak when she had to leave him and return to Ireland.

“When it came to the time to say goodbye it was very, very difficult. We knew we wouldn’t see him for a couple of months until the adoption was finalised, and to us he is our little boy,” she says.

Janet and Stephen have invested six years of their lives in arranging an inter-country adoption in Russia. They are now terrified that the international dispute between Russia and the Republic of Ireland could, at this late stage, sabotage their dream of adopting Kirill.

“Kirill turns two on the 21st of July and our adoption declaration is only valid to adopt a child up to 24 months,” says Stephen, who works as a solicitor in Dublin and is threatening to take legal action against the Health Service Executive (HSE) on the matter.

“It is the HSE’s legal obligation to follow through on these post-placement reports and make sure they are filed on time,” he says.

Stephen and Janet began their adoption journey in April 2004 when they applied to the HSE to be considered eligible for a foreign adoption. Progress was slow. They had to file a huge amount of personal information to support their application, and finally were called to attend a six-week course in September 2007. They faced a further delay while they waited for a social worker to assess them.

In November 2008 they finally got a declaration from the adoption board, which allows them to adopt a Russian child.

“It is a race against time for us with Kirill. We have invested emotionally big style, and now find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place with the HSE playing games,” says Janet, who is praying that the blocks can be removed.

Jamie Smyth 

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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