Work on a bilateral agreement with the Russian Federation has not ceased. It remains the aim of my Department to achieve a bilateral agreement, but I do not believe this will be possible to finalise it in the short term because of a number of difficult issues outstanding.
I recently met representatives of the Russian Irish Adoption Group. I am conscious that members of the group have adopted Russian children in the past, prior to the current arrangements, and many, very understandably, seek to adopt another child from Russia. The Russian Irish Adoption Group gave a powerful presentation of the sensitivities involved. I am of the view that it is essential to give clear, frank information about the likely timescale potentially involved in trying to secure an agreement with the Russian Federation in order to allow fully informed decision-making. I advised the group of the current position regarding a bilateral agreement and I outlined to it the issues that still remain despite our continuing efforts.
The Adoption Act 2010 provides for adoption of children into Ireland from countries that have signed and ratified the Hague Convention and from countries where a bilateral agreement on adoption is in place. The Hague Convention is a landmark in regard to inter-country adoption and provides an international architecture that prioritises the best interests of the child.
While it has signed the convention, the Russian Federation has not ratified the treaty, and this has prevented recent adoptions from Russia into Ireland. We have been trying to reach a bilateral agreement with the Russian Federation on inter-country adoption for a number of years, but significant issues remain in the way of an agreement. For example, the Irish Constitution is very clear on the integrity of the family unit and the Russian requirement for post-placement reports on adopted children poses a real difficulty in this regard. Other practical issues include the accreditation of adoption mediation agencies to facilitate inter-country adoption between Ireland and Russia, the fees to be charged by agencies for facilitating adoptions, and matters relating to re-adoption in cases in which an earlier placement has broken down. We will continue to pursue the matter and try to resolve the difficulties outstanding.
In the meantime, I will seek to progress very important improvements in Irish adoption services, including the draft legislation for adoption information and tracing, which is currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny by the Joint Committee on Health and Children. This is important legislation affecting all adoptions, past and future. We are also working on the adoption (amendment) Bill which incorporates amendments required to the Adoption Act 2010 arising from recent referendums, including the children's referendum. The Bill will include other important changes, including provision for step-parent adoption.