The Adoption Authority of Ireland recently hosted an information seminar for stakeholders on developments in intercountry adoption. The meeting was addressed by two international experts in the area: Laura Martinez-Mora who is head of the intercountry adoption unit at the Hague Conference on Private International Law and Nigel Cantwell who is an international consultant on child protection policy and an author of a Unicef’s report into adoption practices.
The seminar was a very useful way to communicate to prospective adoptive parents and other stakeholders and provide them with an understanding of the challenges and the changing landscape of intercountry adoption. The implementation of the Hague Convention internationally and the changing economic and social environments in sending countries has led to a change in the age and needs of children eligible for adoption. It is important to note that this trend is not specific to ireland or Irish adoption procedures but rather reflects the international context. Of particular note, Ms. Martinez-Mora confirmed and detailed the decreasing number of children available for adoption internationally and the fact that increasingly the children in need of intercountry adoption are children with special needs.
These trends reflect the significant decline in recent years in the number of children, particularly infants, available for adoption, as child protection safeguards have improved in developing countries which previously placed large numbers of children for adoption. In many cases these reforms in countries of origin have been given expression and impetus by their ratification of the Hague Convention. The Convention requires members to strengthen protections for children, birth parents and prospective adoptive parents in the adoption process and to prioritise the improvement of systems for the care and adoption of children domestically. This requirement is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular Article 21.
The issue of adoption of children with specials needs, medical or disability related, or with needs related to the transition from long term foster care, are issues that must be considered as part of the entire adoption process. The assessment of the needs of these children must be comprehensive and transparent if their needs are to be effectively served by the intercountry adoption process and fully met by the receiving country and the adoptive parents. Prospective adopters also need guidance, advice and assistance both before and after such an adoption to ensure they can successfully meet these challenges. My Department is working with the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the Child and Family Agency in relation to the preparation and support of prospective adoptive parents. The enhanced provision of accurate, objective information to the community of potential or prospective adoptive parents is very important and I welcome the recently convened information seminar and other such mechanisms for informing those involved and the public generally.