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Regulating adoption

Irish Times, Wed, May 20, 2009

IN RECENT days the anguish of prospective adoptive parents whose hoped-for adoptions have been stalled by the ending of a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Vietnam has been graphically described in these pages. The devotion of these parents to their hoped-for children and the difficulties they are experiencing are beyond doubt.

The existing adoption agreement with Vietnam, in existence for just under five years, lapsed at the beginning of this month leaving families in the middle of the process in a state of suspension. But this should not lead to a hasty or ill-considered renewal of the agreement which is currently under renegotiation.

The renegotiation was necessitated by concerns on the part of the Government about adoption procedures in Vietnam following the publication last year of a highly critical report by the US government. The latter suspended adoptions from Vietnam, a course followed some months later by Sweden.

The concerns relate to the ability of Vietnamese central state authorities to ensure that procedures followed by local authorities and orphanages meet best practice and guarantee the rights and interests of adoptive children and their families of origin. Best practice requires that the families of origin are fully informed and counselled in relation to their consent to adoption and that no money changes hands. The US report indicated that this is not always the case.

Although there are many differences between the situation involving American adoptions in Vietnam, where there are several competing agencies, and the Irish one, where there is only one which is authorised by the Adoption Board, the Minister for Children is correct to proceed with caution.

Inter-country adoptions raise many complex issues and reveal sharply the inequalities that exist between “sending” and “receiving” countries. Not only are income levels vastly different, it is inevitable that the administrative infrastructure in most of the “sending” countries will rarely match that in the “receiving” and that there will be room for bad practice to develop as a result. In such circumstances, responsibility lies on the “receiving” country to ensure that everything is done to protect the children involved.

The alternative is a scenario where in the years to come as adoptive children reach adulthood, they will have legitimate questions for the Irish authorities as to what steps were taken to guarantee their interests. The Government must ensure it has the answers.

2009 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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