Breen urges Minister to resolve Bilateral Inter-Adoption Agreement with Vietnam – Debate on the Adoption Bill 2009

November 30th, 2009 - Pat Breen

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this Debate. While, 42,000 adoptions orders have been made in this Country, since 1952, there has been a dramatic change in the pattern of adoptions. We know that, in the past, mainly in the 1950s and 1960s, over 2,000 Irish Children were adopted in the United States. They were mainly placed with families with Irish connections, however, in 1996, it emerged that more than 200 of them who were sent to the US as young children, found it very difficult to trace their origins because in many cases their parents names on their birth certificates were false.

From 1990 onwards, there has been a significant change in the pattern of adoptions, and I suppose that is reflective a change in the Country. In 1990, Mary Robison was elected President of Ireland, it was a defining moment in Irish History and in her inauguration speech she spoke about “the fifth province”, which she said “It is a place within each of us. It is that place that is open to the other, that swinging door which allows us to venture out and others to venture in”.

As a Nation, we began to show a new confidence in ourselves, that changing attitude and acceptance made it a lot easier for single mothers to keep their children, where in the past they were forced to give up their children. Of course, as a result of this, Irish couples wishing to adopt increasingly turned their attention to Countries like Russia, Vietnam and Romania. Between 1991 and 2007, there were 3,565 children adopted here from abroad, 31 % of whom were from Russia and 22 percent from Romania.

The majority of children adopted from abroad were on average around 17 months old and 80 per cent of the children had spent time in institutional care.
From 2007, onwards, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of adoptions from Vietnam.
In 2007, 130 babies, mostly girls, were adopted compared to 68 the previous year. The number of children adopted from Russia also increased, from 143 in 2006 to 160 in 2007.
Various studies report that it costs a minimum of $11,000 to arrange an adoption in Vietnam, so families do not make this decision lightly. That is why; families are distraught at the failure of this Government, to agree a new bilateral agreement with Vietnam, with the previous agreement ran out in May. Several of those families have contacted me and I am in regular contact with them.
Let me tell you some of their stories. “The waiting is the worst, we are left in limbo”, the delay, in agreeing a new bilateral probably means that we will never have the chance now to have our own child.”
Another couple first applied to adopt a child in 2003, and had been very close to taking the final step, that mothers words are just harrowing, “I had a room ready, I spent days deciding on the colour, the pictures, I wanted to make sure that everything was right, I was going to adopt a little girl, I had bought her clothes, I had her little cot, I am absolutely, gutted.

Another Couple!
“My Husband and I have been in the adoption process for over five years now, we received our declaration of suitability last August and have been registered to adopt from Vietnam since then.
We would have expected to receive a referral for a child next month. I cannot describe to you, what we, and hundreds of people like us, are going through right now. We are heartbroken, by the way, the government is treating us, it is beyond cruel. We have travelled to Vietnam, we are learning the language and we can’t believe that what we have worked so hard for is slipping away from us, please help us.”
Over 240 families who are already registered with the Helping Hands Agency are now left in limbo since the old agreement ran out in May. These families feel very left down by this Government and the Minister needs to clarify the situation as to whether or not he intends to agree a new agreement with Vietnam. It is important to ratify the Hague Convention, and I would remind, the Minister that Countries like France and Italy, who have ratified the Hague Convention have new bilateral agreements with Vietnam. I would appeal to the Minister, here again today, to clarify the situation; the lack of a new agreement is very distressing and traumatic for the families involved.
The Lack of a Grandfather Clause is another issue which I would like to address. This would allow post-adoptive applicants conduct a subsequent adoption from a country they have already adopted from.
The previous Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan promised that there would be a grandfather clause in the Adoption Bill. In the 2005 Annual Report, the Adoption Board also reported that there would be a Grandfather clause; the Law Commission also recommended a Grandfather clause.
The Minister could include it by amending Section 81 of the Bill and I would appeal to him to do so, before this Bill finally becomes Law.
It is important in the first instance that children are protected, and the ratification of the Hague Convention is a positive step. But, there is a lot more which could be included in this Bill and I hope that the Minister will address some of the issues I have raised here today, before the Bill is finished its passage through these Houses.