Under section 72 of the Adoption Act 2010, the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) may enter into administrative arrangements with another contracting State to the Hague Convention. An administrative arrangement is not mandatory for intercountry adoption between countries that are both signatories to Hague. However some contracting states, including Ireland, may determine that in some instances co-operation in the field of intercountry adoption is best served by the development of such arrangements.
The Adoption Authority is continuing its work to establish administrative arrangements with a number of Hague countries in relation to intercountry adoptions, as provided for under section 72 of the Adoption Act 2010. The Authority has travelled to a number of jurisdictions in order to make contact with the Central Authorities, advise of our processes and procedures, assess the need for additional administrative arrangements or agreements; and to glean as much information as possible of relevance to prospective adopters from those countries. The visits also provide opportunities to streamline processes on both sides and obtain up-to-date information for prospective adopters on developments in these countries.
In relation to intercountry adoption with Bulgaria the AAI has advised me that referrals for the adoption of Bulgarian children by Irish applicants have commenced. In September 2012 the Adoption Authority and the Vietnamese Central Authority for Adoption signed an administrative arrangement for intercountry adoption. The administrative arrangement is the first international arrangement for intercountry adoption entered into by the AAI and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam since both countries ratified the Hague Convention. The Adoption Authority accredited Helping Hands for activities in relation to facilitating adoptions from Vietnam and Helping Hands has recently received confirmation from the Vietnamese authorities of its approval to operate there. I met recently with representatives of Helping Hands who informed me that they expect adoptions to commence shortly.
A delegation from the Adoption Authority made an official visit to the US State Department in Washington in 2012. Following this visit administrative arrangements in relation to intercountry adoption between the United States of America and Ireland were drafted by the AAI. The AAI and US State Department have recently finalised these administrative arrangements. The AAI has information on its website (www.aai.gov.ie) in relation to intercountry adoption from the USA, including information in relation to the arrangements and the criteria which must be met before the adoption process can proceed. These criteria will apply to all adoptions taking place between Ireland and the United States of America with immediate effect.
In March I lead a delegation to India which included the Chair of the Adoption Authority of Ireland and a departmental official. The visit, which was in conjunction with representing the Irish Government at official functions in India for St Patrick's Day, afforded me the opportunity to assess the position in relation to intercountry adoption in India and to clarify issues in relation to the requirements of the Indian authorities in that regard. I was advised that registration is now open with CARA (the Indian Central Authority) only for special needs cases; this includes children with intellectual or physical disabilities, siblings including twins, and children over 5 years of age. It was explained that India currently operates intercountry adoption with other Hague countries without the need for any specific administrative arrangements of the type in place with Vietnam. In order for adoptions, other than special needs cases to reopen, an Irish accredited agency will need to be approved by CARA to work in India.
Work has also been undertaken in terms of agreements on adoption from non-Hague countries. Russia and Ethiopia are not signatories of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. As such, future adoptions from Russia and Ethiopia would require a bilateral agreement between Ireland and these countries. I travelled to Moscow, accompanied by Dr Geoffrey Shannon, Chair of the Adoption Authority, in order to discuss at a diplomatic level issues in relation to the potential for a bilateral agreement with Russia. My officials are in active discussions with officials in the Office of the Attorney General and in the Department of Foreign Affairs on advancing a draft agreement for consideration by the Russian authorities. I have invited the Russian authorities to visit Ireland in September in order to finalise consideration of this aspect of the draft bilateral agreement.
The Adoption Authority delegation visit to Ethiopia in April last year was an initial part of the Authority's deliberations on the feasibility and suitability of entering into discussions with Ethiopia on a bilateral adoption agreement. The Authority is examining the compatibility of the Irish and Ethiopian adoption legislation. As intercountry adoption is a constantly changing landscape, the most up to date information on individual countries can be found on the Adoption Authority website (www.aai.gov.ie).