I move amendment No. 2:
In subsection (1), to delete paragraphs (a) and (b) and substitute "the application is made before the child attains the age of sixteen years".
We come again on this amendment to a question on which I unfortunately find myself once more taking the opposite view to that held by the Minister with regard to the best means of achieving the maximum degree of welfare in relation to certain types of children. It is only proper that I should on the Committee Stage of this Bill state quite clearly what I believe are the principles involved. There is general agreement that infant adoption is preferable but there are many people who believe that children over seven years of age should have their cases for adoption considered on their merits.
The Minister has told us that he cannot agree with this point of view and that he feels the difficulties involved in adoption over seven are so great that the whole of child adoption would be endangered if adoptions of children over seven were allowed. In support of this contention, the Minister referred to a quotation he gave in the Dáil. It will be found in volume 206, column 908 of the Official Report. The quotation was from the report of a European Seminar on Inter-Country Adoption. I should like to express my viewpoint now that the way in which the Minister introduced these quotations into his argument shows that he failed to point out clearly that these quotations, being part of a report on inter-country adoption, were largely directed towards the problems of such adoption. Thus, in the first quotation, the Minister did not commence his quotation at the beginning of the paragraph of the United Nations Seminar Report. The first sentence reads:
Here a word of caution should be posed concerning the consideration of children over seven years old for inter-country adoption.
That is the first sentence and, in the good writer, it is the topic sentence which gives us the background; what the Minister quoted were the sentences following. The last sentence of the paragraph—it was not quoted by the Minister—reads:
The task of the rehabilitation of an emotionally damaged child is one for experts and such children should not be subjected to the hazards of transportation to a new country with a new language, culture, etc.
The Minister's first quotation was clearly directed towards inter-country adoption and I submit it is not relevant, certainly not directly relevant, to the problem of the appropriate age for adoption within a country. In the second quotation, the Minister quoted the last sentence:
For a child of seven identity and emotional ties may also include identification with his——
There then follow five dots, and the word "neighbourhood". When we turn to the United Nations report we find this reads "identification with his country, language and neighbourhood". Neighbourhood comes third and is not necessarily the most important of the barriers of which the writer was talking in this report. I think, therefore, we should look beyond what the Minister said and I should like to put on record here now two other quotations indicating how thinking has developed in regard to this question of the adoption of the older child. The first quotation is 12 years old and there has been a great deal of development since then but, even 12 years ago, in a Report on a Workshop held in May, 1951 in New York, attended by 94 agencies, on the subject of "Adoption Practices, Procedures and Problems", there is the statement:
In actual practice close to 50 agencies report that they accept for adoptive placement children of any age. The trend is towards placing a child of any age for whom a home can be found. With the exception of four agencies that place only infants the agencies for all practical purposes have no age limit if a home can be found.
I should like also to place on record a quotation from an article by Ann Leatherman, M.Sc., on placing the older child in adoption, which appeared in the journal Children, in the issue of May-June, 1957, published by the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare:
Older children, those between six and fourteen, who are without parents, have special needs. However, progressive child placement agencies and their board members are no longer saying that older children cannot be placed for adoption, for many such childrren are being placed with considerable success.
I submit there are a number of cases of children above seven years in which we have a duty to see that their cases are examined on their merits by the Adoption Board. We do not look for adoption on such a widespread basis for children over seven as for children under seven but it is, I think, unfair that a complete curtain should be brought down.
The Adoption Board, on which the Minister relied when he spoke of the success of the operation of the 1952 Act, recommended the raising of the age in its reports for 1957 and 1960. As far as can be gathered from the Minister's Second Reading speech, the Board again recommended in their memorandum to him that the age should be raised, with the limitation on this occasion, that the child should be placed before seven. So far the Minister has not brought forward any real grounds for his belief that the adoption of children over seven years in special cases would endanger infant adoption. As I have said, there is no need for such adoption to be widespread. Subsection (1) of Section 3 refers to "the particular circumstances of the case."
The section as drafted gives the Board discretion to limit adoption over seven years in any way they wish. If the section were amended as I have suggested here, there is no doubt that the present Board, on the basis of what they said in their memorandum to the Minister, would limit such adoption to those placed before seven years of age. This appears to be the opinion of the present Adoption Board. It would appear that the Board of 1960 or 1957 might not have put in that particular limitation. But I think there is a case, not for the widespread adoption of children above seven, but for a right in those cases to come before the Adoption Board for special consideration. This is the reason I have put down the amendment raising the age of possible adoption to 16 years, taking that age as being the age at which children would normally leave an institution.