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Adoption board chief to visit Vietnam

EITHNE DONNELLAN, Irish Times, Wed, Apr 13, 2011

THE CHAIRMAN of the Adoption Authority of Ireland is to travel to Vietnam to assess what progress has been made in addressing concerns which led the Government to suspend all adoptions from there in January 2010.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald made the announcement yesterday after meeting Geoffrey Shannon, the authority’s chairman, and its new chief executive Elizabeth Canavan.

Ms Fitzgerald said in view of the fact that Vietnam hoped to ratify the Hague Convention on the protection of children and co-operation in respect of intercountry adoptions in June, it would be appropriate for the authority to visit now.

Some 200 Irish couples had received their declaration of eligibility and suitability to adopt from Vietnam when adoptions were suspended following publication of a report commissioned by Unicef and the Vietnamese ministry of justice identifying concerns.

The report found that adoptions from Vietnam were essentially influenced by foreign demand rather than the needs of “abandoned” and orphaned children; the circumstances under which babies become “adoptable” were invariably unclear and disturbing; and the intercountry adoption system was grounded in a “remarkably unhealthy relationship between the mediating agencies and specific residential facilities”.

Ms Fitzgerald said Mr Shannon would report back to her after his visit to Vietnam “so that we can give clarity to Irish people who are anxiously awaiting information on progress in Vietnam”. However she said she did not want to raise expectations unduly.

Mr Shannon said he would be travelling to Vietnam as soon as possible. He stressed adoption was about children and that nobody had a right to adopt.

Meanwhile Ms Fitzgerald said she would look at the resource issues which resulted in some Irish couples waiting years to be assessed in relation to their suitability to adopt. “I don’t think those very long assessment periods are in anyone’s interests . . . it is an area of concern to me.”

A number of agencies have recently been accredited by the Adoption Authority to assist the HSE making these assessments, and this should help speed things up. Four agencies have been accredited to date.

Ms Fitzgerald also said she would like to see tracing legislation introduced.

“There are people who have been very emotionally scarred by a lack of information but equally there are issues about respect for birth parents, but it is an area that there should be legislation in.”

Mr Shannon said he would welcome such legislation because a child’s right to identity was a human right.

“We are one of the last jurisdictions in Europe to actually have robust legislation in this area.”

He also said the authority has been proactive in attempting to establish administrative arrangements with other jurisdictions in relation to intercountry adoptions, including Bulgaria and South Africa. Mr Shannon is encouraging couples wishing to adopt to travel only to jurisdictions that have ratified the Hague Convention.

2011 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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