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There is an enormous difference between what works on an individual level and what works as a social policy.  As a public policy, adoption cannot be the long-range solution for infertility, even though it obviously works for many individuals.  It does not work as a social policy because it makes us dependent on the grief of one group of people to solve the problems of another group of people.

Barbara Katz Rothman
Recreating Motherhood, Ideology and Technology in a Patriarchal Society

We believe that the Irish State is shoring up major breaches of human rights with regard to children being adopted from overseas.  The Irish State has always focused on the demands of prospective adoptive parents for access to new countries of origin, despite well documented cases of corruption surrounding adoption in countries such as Vietnam where domestic adoption does not exist. When it is considered that Vietnam does not have a domestic adoption department with clear procedures to encourage adoptions within the country, it seems unlikely that present Vietnamese adoptions are not influenced by foreign demand. Our concerns are so grave that we have raised the human rights violations associated with intercountry adoptions in our report to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review.   

Adoptions from the US
The Adoption Act 2010 ratified the Hague Convention for the Protection of Children in Intercountry Adoption, which opened up new countries to Irish prospective adopters.  It emerged some time ago that the AAI sent a delegation to the US to discuss adoptions from there.  As there is undoubtedly no shortage of prospective adopters in the US, we fail to understand the necessity for Irish people to “rescue” American children.  From what we have seen to date, the ratification of the Hague Convention appears to be seen as an opportunity to procure children from previously unavailable countries, rather than a child protection measure.  

Bilateral agreements
The act of ratifying the Hague Convention was diluted under the Adoption Act 2010 because under the legislation bilateral agreements have been permitted, merely requiring these agreements to “have regard for” Hague, rather than being conducted “in accordance with” the Convention.  This begs the question that if a country has not yet ratified the high water mark of the Hague Convention, then should the AAI even consider them as a suitable sending country?  This proved to be the case with the 2005 bilateral agreement between Ireland and Vietnam, which the then Minister for Children only suspended on foot of international revelations about illegal adoption practices in Vietnam .   

We are gravely concerned that Vietnam has now "re-opened" for prospective adoptive parents who were allegedly “caught in limbo”.  The Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan appears to share our concerns, as outlined in her opinion piece in the Irish Times, yet we were alarmed to hear the reaction of a representative group for prospective adoptive parents which suggested that the Ombudsman for Children should remain quiet about potentially questionable adoptions that have already taken place, for the sake of the children involved.  It is even more important to speak up in these instances, so that if there is anything dubious about a particular adoption, the correct information can be obtained from the country of origin so that a full, comprehensive and truthful family history is available to the children in question.  Brushing corruption under the carpet is never child centred.  

In the absence of a Guardian ad Litem in the Irish adoption process, contrary to the assertions of the aforementioned organisation, we believe it is very appropriate for the Ombudsman for Children to speak up for the rights of the voiceless child in intercountry adoption.  In her article, Emily Logan correctly reminds us of the long-term effects of adoption and Adoption Rights Alliance can bear witness to those effects because of the work we do with adult adopted people every day.  

Principles of the Hague Convention
We fear that in the effort to find “available” children to adopt, that the principles of the Hague Convention are often forgotten about.  The Hague Convention stipulates that intercountry adoption should be a measure of last resort, when all other avenues (such as placing a child with his/her extended family or with a family in their local community or elsewhere within their own country) have been exhausted.  Contrary to this principle, the focus seems to be on finding countries with adoptable children, rather than focusing on how best to help vulnerable children in the developing world.   

Alternatives to adoption
A truly child centred agenda would pursue alternatives to adoption (such as child sponsorship programmes) in developing countries, regardless of whether these countries are available to prospective adopters.  We are concerned that there is a disproportionate focus on the availability of children for adoption, rather than a determination to do what is actually best for the children of Vietnam and other developing countries. 

Register of Foreign Adoptions
The Adoption Act 2010 discriminates even further against children adopted from abroad by making the register of such adoptions closed to public inspection so for the ill-educated, impoverished natural mother from China, Vietnam, Russia etc who might actually make enquiries about her child, the doors to self-searching have already been cut off.  

Learning from the past
When American couples adopted Irish children from the 1940’s to the 1970’s, they were told (and believed) that these children were orphans.  We now know that the 2,000+ children secretly sent to America for adoption were not orphans at all, in fact they had mothers who would have been happy to raise them, were it not for the stigma of unmarried motherhood and the resulting regime implemented by church and State.  Our US Coordinator, Mari Steed is one such “orphan” who reunited with her natural mother in 2002.  

We must learn from our own nation’s past and realise that all may not be as it seems in countries like Vietnam when it comes to “available” children for adoption.  In the rush to “rescue” so-called orphans, we must not lose sight of the possibility that they may well have families and communities willing to raise them in their own country.

Adopted children in care/follow ups
We have been made aware that a number of intercountry adoptions have broken down, whereby the adoptive parents cannot cope and the children involved have ended up in in the Irish care system.  To date we have been unable to obtain records to investigate the issue thoroughly and there appears to be a lack of transparency and accountability in this matter with neither the AAI nor the HSE bothering to record or report on such adoption breakdowns.  We are deeply concerned for the welfare of these children and we believe that follow up services and regular reporting procedures should be arranged for all adoptions.   

We are aware that arguments have often been made by adoptive parents that they are not allowed to get on with their lives, just like any other family.  However, this is exactly the point – adoptive families are not like other families and adoptive parenting is not like regular parenting.  Adoptive parenting involves taking on a vulnerable and traumatised child who will forever be linked to his/her natural family.  Even in non-adoptive families, parents can never claim ownership of a child; however this is even truer in adoptive families.  Like divorced or separated people, who may not particularly like each other, yet work together for the sake of their children, adoptive parents should be selfless and ensure that their child knows they have another family.  E.g. the term “forever family”, however well intentioned, is completely inappropriate and can cause adopted children to feel they must abandon thoughts about their natural family in order to be loyal to the adoptive family.  

Adoption can never be child centred as long as it is seen as a solution to infertility.  It is not the responsibility of vulnerable children to fulfil the needs of adults who cannot conceive children of their own.  By worrying more about the sensitivities of adults who want to be just like everybody else, the Irish State is failing these children who have been brought here from other countries.

“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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