Adoption red-tape is a cruel process but a necessary one
Irish Independent, 21st
Anyone who complains about the bureaucracy which can be encountered when
engaging with the State -- be it applying for the dole, or headage
payments for livestock -- should attempt to adopt a child from abroad to
get matters in perspective.
Assessment for an overseas adoption has to rank as one of the most
cruel, head-wrecking processes ever to be endured. The chances are that
if you are a couple considering inter-country adoption you have been
trying to have a baby for years already anyway.
You've possibly spent thousands of euros on fertility treatment. Once
you finally accept this is not going to work for you there is the
prospect of (a ballpark figure of) €20,000 more to adopt a child from
overseas -- by the time you've sorted out all the various fees,
administrative, flights etc, involved.
Many people want to keep this matter a private one so have the added
pressure of the secrecy, compounded by the question constantly asked of
childless married couples: "So, have ye any news for us?"
Then there is the extended, seemingly endless, interaction with the HSE.
For some it has taken up to seven years between initial contact and
final approval. There is a process of approval to be gone through which
is lengthy and thorough. In many aspects it is relevant, informative and
necessary. In others it can be ridiculous, tedious, inconsistent and
small-minded. There are some excellent people working in inter-county
adoption, but also some who are a lot less so.
But all the way through the prospective parents just grit their teeth
because this is a relationship where all the power rests on one side.
There is no choice. So through out it all one must remain (outwardly)
calm and balanced. The ever prevalent fear is that at any visible sign
of stress could immediately deem you as an unsuitable candidate to
Once couples got that all important piece of paper from the Adoption
Board approving them for adoption, the next battle was to actually find
This involved facing the rigours of whatever process existed in their
country of choice, quite varied from country to country. In the last two
to three years this final hurdle became all the more complicated as
difficulties arose in a number of the countries to which Irish people
traditionally travelled to adopt.
Vietnam has received particular attention, but there were also problems
elsewhere, including Russia and Ethiopia. These countries were excluded
for us to adopt from once Ireland enacted a new Adoption Bill and
ratified the Hague Convention in 2010 covering international adoption
While inter-country adoption was first recognised in Irish law in 1991
and numbers had been increasing, the changes mean that it's no surprise
that the latest figures show the number of children adopted here from
abroad has fallen significantly from just under 400 in 2008 to just over
200 last year.
Since we do not have a good history with adoption in Ireland societal
attitudes can be mixed. Adopting a child from abroad raises a whole host
of additional issues and complexities. On the face of it, the process
usually involves a wealthy couple (relative to the local population)
removing a child from their culture and bringing them back to their own
country so they can fulfil their need to have a family. The flip side of
this is that if you're living in a orphanage there usually isn't much
culture to be had; there is no one to pick you up and give you a cuddle
when you need it most; and if you are not adopted you are destined to
remain in state institutional care.
All the while when foreign adoption is being discussed the spectre of
cash being exchanged for babies has hung in the air. After all, if you
are dealing with countries which have a culture of corruption to begin
with, or even those that don't, things can get complicated.
Everyone is very well intended. It's entirely understandable that on a
human level people might want, for example, to contribute financially to
an orphanage from where they are going to adopt or have adopted from. Or
that, after waiting for so long a couple might wonder what harm there is
in throwing in an extra few hundred US dollars, if it speeds up the
process a little.
The danger though, as evidenced by international reports examining the
situation in Vietnam, or by those recent reports from Mexico, where 11
Irish couples are caught up in an alleged adoption scam, is that an
adoption 'industry' can spring up which becomes dependent on
impoverished mothers handing over babies.
Lately things have begun moving again here in the world of overseas
adoption. Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who takes an active
interest in the area, has just returned from a trip to Vietnam. It looks
as if the adoption of Vietnamese babies is set to resume shortly after
the two governments reached agreement on issues concerning the rights of
children. The safeguards relate to consent on the part of the mother,
money, and having to deal with central authorities, rather than simply
those in a local area.
But it's not just for Vietnam that things will change. Back at home the
aim is that the ridiculously long assessment process will be shortened
because the new legislation allows for the HSE to outsource adoption
assessments to accredited agencies.
We have our first Hague accredited adoption agency, Arc, a mediation
agency, and a second, Pathways to Adoption, to be involved in conducting
Initially all of these changes, overseen by the Adoption Authority, will
be a further bureaucratic nightmare for those waiting couples. But in
the end it will mean that when it comes to adopting a baby the process
will be transparent, and to the best international practices.
That is in the best interests of prospective parents, and -- most
importantly -- the children.
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