2010 Act saves
adoptive child and couple from pitfalls
Irish Times, Fri, Jan 27, 2012
ANALYSIS: THE QUESTIONING of 11 Irish couples in connection with alleged
illegal adoptions in Mexico has highlighted once again the pitfalls to
be found in the world of intercountry adoptions.
Until late 2010, adopting a child from abroad into Ireland involved
obtaining a declaration of suitability from the Adoption Board,
following an assessment by the Health Service Executive. This could be
lengthy and onerous, and delays in obtaining such a declaration were the
subject of many complaints.
Having obtained their declaration, the couple concerned were then at the
mercy of whatever adoption system prevailed in their country of choice,
subject only to its adoption law being substantially the same as Irish
adoption law. This often involved paying large sums of money to
facilitators who arranged transport, accommodation, translations, legal
services and medical checks, and, in some instances, “humanitarian
aid” to the institutions providing the children.
The family’s next encounter with the Irish State was when they arrived
back in Ireland and went to register the child in the Register of
Given that most of the countries sending children abroad for adoption
are much poorer than the receiving countries, the possibilities for
corruption are considerable and issues have been raised by the UN’s
International Social Service, among others, about the nature of the
consent to the adoption given by the natural mothers.
In 2010, a new Adoption Act was passed, repealing previous Adoption Acts
and incorporating into Irish law The Hague Convention on Intercountry
This means that the entire process of intercountry adoption, and not
just the issuing of declarations of suitability, is now regulated and
arranged between the central authorities of the sending and the
receiving countries. In Ireland, the central authority is the Adoption
Children may only be adopted from countries that have signed up to The
Hague convention, or with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement, and
adopted children are matched to adopting families through the two
central authorities, following guidelines laid down by the convention.
It is no longer possible for prospective adoptive parents to contact an
orphanage or an agency and arrange an adoption directly with them.
In addition to signing The Hague convention, countries from which Irish
couples can adopt children must sign an administrative agreement
spelling out how adoptions are effected. This includes the preparation
of a report on the applicant in a form to be agreed in advance and a
report on the child, also in a form to be agreed in advance.
The report on the child includes establishing that consent to the
adoption on the part of the birth mother is freely given, following
counselling; is not induced by payment; and has not been withdrawn
following a period of reflection. Proofs of such consent are required,
and the report must specify how and why the adoption is in the best
interests of the child. The placement of the child for adoption can only
be made when the consent of the Irish authority has been obtained.
This means that both central authorities have to sign off on the
adoption and on the process. It is they, not any third party or the
families themselves, who arrange the matching of the child with the
adoptive parents, and this matching process has several stages.
While this process may appear bureaucratic and cause frustration to many
adoptive parents, it is there for their protection and for that of the
children, who must be at the centre of the adoption process, according
to the chairman of the Adoption Authority, Geoffrey Shannon.
“We have been criticised for delays but that is due to the rigour of
the process,” he told The Irish Times.
On the bright side, from the point of view of prospective adoptive
parents, obtaining approval to adopt should take much less time now,
following the accreditation by the Adoption Authority of three
organisations to carry out the assessments previously conducted by the
However, The Irish Times understands that the HSE has not yet handed
over to any of these organisations any applications for assessment. This
is puzzling, given that the HSE has been severely criticised for not
having sufficient social work resources to cater for the needs of the
children in its care, and its assessment service requires social
Meanwhile, as recent events in Mexico show, couples who do not go
through the process provided for by the 2010 Adoption Act could face
severe difficulties if they attempt to bring to Ireland children adopted
abroad. If the children have not been adopted legally under the Act,
they will not be registered in the Register of Foreign Adoptions and
will have no legal status.
Indeed, they could face even further sanction. Under section 41 of the
Act, a declaration of suitability can be withdrawn or amended if new
information on the couple emerges. Involvement, even unwittingly, in an
illegal adoption abroad could amount to such new information.
Carol Coulter is Legal Affairs Editor
© 2012 The Irish Times
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