Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Ceisteanna (160, 161, 162)

Peter Mathews

Ceist:

164 Deputy Peter Mathews asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs her plans to publish a report following the Adoption Authority’s visit to Ethiopia for the purpose of entering a bilateral agreement with Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23088/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Children and Youth Affairs)

Adoptions from Ethiopia, effected under the transitional arrangements provided for in the Adoption Act 2010, are ongoing and are currently being examined, and recognised, by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). These transitional arrangements may lead to adoptions from Ethiopia taking place up to the end of October 2012. The Adoption Act 2010 also contains provision for a one year extension to declarations of eligibility and suitability to adopt which may lead to a one year extension to this date. Ethiopia is not a signatory of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. In these circumstances, adoptions from Ethiopia which are not covered by the transitional arrangements referred to above would require a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Ethiopia. The negotiation of bilateral agreements on intercountry adoption with states who have not ratified the Hague Convention is governed by Section 73 of the Adoption Act 2010 which states that "the Authority, with the prior consent of the Minister, may enter into discussions with any non-contracting state concerning the possibility of the Government entering into a bilateral agreement with that State ." Any bilateral arrangements which might be entered into would be required by law to meet the minimum standards set out in the Hague Convention.

A delegation from the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) visited Ethiopia in April and held exploratory meetings with the Ethiopian authorities regarding the system of adoption which operates in that country. The delegation, in the course of its visit, held preliminary discussions with the Ethiopian authorities around the potential for a bilateral agreement on intercountry adoption. The AAI is currently preparing a report for me on its assessment of the situation which will inform the next steps to be taken.

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

165 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will address the need for a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Russia in order that the hundreds of families who were deemed eligible to adopt after 1 November 2010 but must now wait until a bilateral agreement is signed can proceed with the adoption process; if a bilateral agreement will be signed with the Russian authorities for the adoption of Russian children to Ireland in the near future; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23093/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Paul Phelan

Ceist:

169 Deputy John Paul Phelan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the recent development in the ongoing negotiation with regard to the inter-country adoption from Russia to Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23251/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I propose to take Questions Nos. 165 and 169 together.

The Hague Convention is a co-operative agreement drawn up to allow countries to mutually support one another in protecting the best interests of children in the intercountry adoption process. It sets out minimum standards regarding intercountry adoption and covers issues such as subsidiarity, consent and financial considerations. It is designed in such a way as to allow for mirrored mechanisms and structures to mutually assure countries of the safety and standard of intercountry adoptions in those countries. The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) performs the function of a Central Authority under the Adoption Act, 2010, in accordance with the Convention. In choosing to deal primarily with Hague countries, the AAI has the mechanism to work collaboratively with equivalent structures in that country. Each Central Authority has the responsibility to oversee standards in respect of those parts of the process taking place within their respective jurisdictions. This mutual arrangement is designed to give the AAI, the Government and, most importantly, those involved in the adoption process assurance as to the standards being set and the oversight of the system.

A limited number of adoptions from Russia are currently being processed under transitional arrangements as provided for in the Adoption Act, 2010. Under the provisions of the legislation, such adoptions may take place up to the end of October 2012, with the possibility of the Adoption Authority granting approval for an extension of up to one year. Russia has not ratified the Hague Convention and there appears to be no immediate prospect that this will happen. In the circumstances, adoptions from Russia, beyond those provided for under the transitional arrangements, may only be possible under a bilateral agreement developed to the standards of the Hague Convention.

An official delegation from Ireland recently visited Russia and held preliminary discussions regarding the potential for a bilateral agreement. I have received an initial assessment from the Adoption Authority which will inform the next steps to be taken in relation to this matter. My Department is in discussions with the Adoption Authority on this assessment and other issues which will influence any policy decisions to be taken in this regard. I am aware of the need to bring clarity to the situation in respect of Russia and I hope to be in a position to do so shortly.

The immediate priority of the Adoption Authority is the development of administrative arrangements with other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention. Any future bilateral arrangements which might be entered into would also be required by law to meet the minimum standards set out in the Convention.