Written Answers. - Foreign Adoptions.

Ivan Yates

Question:

269 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Health the proposals he has to facilitate foreign adoptions, having regard to the lack of adoption opportunities in this country; if he has any proposals to establish an agency in this regard; if he will outline the position in relation to social workers and home studies for couples wishing to adopt abroad; if he will facilitate such studies through health board personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I have great sympathy for people who are finding it difficult to adopt due to the decline in the number of children available for adoption.

However, the guiding principle in adoption is that the best interests of the child is the first and paramount consideration. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was recently signed by the Taoiseach with a view to its ratification by the State, includes a provision in relation to inter-country adoption. This requires states to "ensure that the child concerned by inter-country adoption enjoys safeguards and standards equivalent to those existing in the case of national adoption".
My Department is in consultation with the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Justice with a view to identifying the legislative or other measures required to enable the State to regulate the adoption of foreign children by Irish people in compliance with the U.N. Convention.
With regard to home study assessments, the legal position appears to be that a social worker acting in a private capacity may carry out such assessments provided he or she does not receive any payment. However, I understand that the Adoption Board would have grave reservations about individual social workers taking on this work. The board expects assessments for inter country adoptions to be carried out to the same standard as for Irish adoptions.
This involves assessments carried out by social workers experienced in adoption, supervised by an independent committee, obtaining Garda clearances and medical reports and arranging pre-and post adoption advice and support for the natural mother and the adopters.
The role of the health boards in relation to inter-country adoptions is one of the matters being examined in conjunction with the introduction of safeguards for such adoptions as required by the U.N. Convention.