Questions Nos. 1 to 37, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 38 to 97, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 98 to 108, inclusive, answered orally.

Adoption Legislation

Questions (109)

Catherine Murphy


109. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs his response to the Adoption Rights Alliance recommendations on updating adoption legislation; his views on the recommendation that a statutory inquiry into illegal adoption practices be established; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21048/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

My Department has received detailed submissions from the Adoption Rights Alliance which outline suggested amendments to the Adoption Act, 2010 and proposals in relation to information and tracing for those affected by adoption. This has been considered as part of the drafting process of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill.

My Department is continuing work on the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill and I hope to be in a position to seek Government approval to publish the Heads of the Bill as soon as possible. It is intended to provide for greater access to adoption records and birth information, in so far as is possible and in line with legal advices received, for persons previously involved in adoptions, notwithstanding the significant legal and operational complexities which arise in giving effect to this objective.

While I am anxious to improve the legal basis for access to adoption records, proposals to Government have to reflect the constraints on the Legislature in providing such access if they are not to fall foul of Constitutional challenge. The Office of the Attorney General has provided comprehensive legal advice to my Department that has assisted in identifying the Constitutional parameters within which the Heads of the Bill have to be drafted.

The legislative proposals will address the circumstances in which identifying and non-identifying information may be provided and examine what processes need to be put in place to assist those seeking information in accessing it. In the case of future adoptions in this country I want this legislation to provide for access to information as an integral part of the adoption process including the consent arrangements which must be satisfied before an adoption takes place. In the case of historical adoptions we will examine the legislation and ensure it will go as far as is possible.

The most difficult situations to address within the proposed legislation are those where the consent of other parties, such as natural mothers, does not exist for the release of information. Where there are barriers which can not be otherwise overcome, it may be possible, for example, to have a provision that would give access in certain circumstances, perhaps through the High Court, to the right to information.

I intend to proceed to finalise legislative proposals and will bring proposals to the Government as soon as possible. I would hope that the subsequent consideration by the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee will allow the issues to be carefully teased out and the views of different interested parties, including the Adoption Rights Alliance, on these important and sensitive matters to be fully considered.

I have no plans to establish a statutory inquiry.

Adoption Services Provision

Questions (110)

Shane Ross


110. Deputy Shane Ross asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will address the fact that delays in processing adoptions here means that children placed for adoption with Irish families are now less likely to be babies and consequently, these older children often have particular health and medical needs. [20869/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

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.

Child Care Services Funding

Questions (111)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin


111. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the efforts he has made and will make to help ensure the financial viability of Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service Limited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21037/14]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the importance of the services delivered by Darndale Belcamp Integrated Childcare Service Ltd. to some 260 children across the areas of Darndale, Belcamp and Moatview. In 2013 the Centre incurred expenditure of €2.022 million and received funding amounting to €1.960 million resulting in a deficit of €62,000. The Centre employs approximately 100 staff, including Community Employment participants. I understand that the Centre has been experiencing cash flow difficulties over recent weeks and that this has given rise to concerns regarding its future operation. The Centre has been in discussions with the Child and Family Agency, as one of a number of state agencies which provides funding to support the provision of services at the Centre. In order to alleviate the immediate cash flow difficulty the Agency prepaid funding due to the Centre in May and June. I would expect that the Agency will be open to providing some further pre-payments to the Centre if this is of assistance.

The Chairperson of the Centre has also been in correspondence with my predecessor, Minister Fitzgerald, regarding the current difficulties. Minister Fitzgerald advised, inter alia, that in her view the wider solution to the current difficulties would need to have regard to the overall provision of early years services in the area. This is important as we need to ensure that all available resources to support these key services are maximised. The Minister also expressed the view, with which I concur, that this will require some time and space.

The Deputy will appreciate that I am still in the process of familiarising myself with the issues involved. In this context, I have asked my officials to meet with the Child and Family Agency and with Pobal (which administers a number of childcare schemes on behalf of my Department) to explore all possible solutions to the current difficulties having regard to the overall provision of early years services. I can assure the Deputy that this matter is being given priority attention.