Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Questions (175)

Michael Lowry


175. Deputy Michael Lowry asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will provide an assurance that the families seeking to adopt in Russia, who have been affected by the conflict in Irish and Russian law as a result of section 63 of the Adoption Act, will be provided for prior to the Christmas recess; if a response has been received from the Attorney General on this matter; if not, when a reply is expected; if she will bring forward legislation immediately to tackle this issue in view of the very short timeframe open to these families; if she will provide an update on progress to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50906/13]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

The Adoption Act, 2010, provides for adoptions from countries that have ratified the Hague Convention on adoption and from countries where there is a bilateral agreement in place. During the drafting of the Act a considered and detailed transitional process to deal with the change from previous legislation to the new Act was put in place. The transitional measure contained in Section 63 of the Adoption Act, 2010, allows those who held a valid declaration of eligibility and suitability to adopt before the commencement of the Act to continue with an adoption, from a non-Hague, non-bilateral country for a maximum period of three years. Such applicants were thus afforded an additional three year period to complete these particular adoptions from non-Hague countries, and must have completed the process by the 31st October 2013.

One particular concern that has coincided with the expiry of the transitional provisions provided for in Section 63 of the Adoption Act 2010, is the position of a small number of applicants who were at a late stage in adopting from Russia when changes to Russian legislation were enacted which meant that they were unable to complete the adoption of identified children before 31 October, 2013. It is my understanding that in order to adopt from Russia it is necessary to have a valid declaration of eligibility and suitability to adopt on the date of the court hearing to finalise the adoption, and for a specified period thereafter before the Court order takes effect. In order that these adoptions, which were stopped by this change in Russian law, could continue an amendment to the Adoption Act, 2010, would be necessary to extend the validity of the declarations of eligibility and suitability.

The advice of the Attorney General was sought and my Department is currently examining legislative options that might assist, possibly through the retrospective extension of the declarations of eligibility and suitability concerned. As the Adoption Act, 2010, is drafted on the basis of the incorporation of the Hague Convention, and the minimum set of standards outlined therein, the implications of amending the Act must be carefully examined before the Government is in a position to consider any proposed amendment of the legislation. My Department, in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General, is examining if it is possible to address this situation within the parameters of Irish law and our obligations under the Hague Convention. I have already met and spoken with some of those prospective adoptive parents affected by the changes in Russian legislation and have undertaken to keep them informed of any developments.