Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Ceisteanna (108)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

108. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if he will provide an update on a Russian bilateral agreement in relation to adoption, an update he indicated would likely be due at the end of April; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21009/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Children)

My question concerns the bilateral adoption agreement with Russia. I am seeking an update on this and wish to know when the agreement will be realised.

Efforts are ongoing within my Department in relation to a bilateral agreement on inter-country adoption between Ireland and the Russian Federation. A delegation of Russian officials travelled to Ireland in October 2013 for further discussions on a bilateral agreement on inter-country adoption between both countries. The meeting was very positive and detailed discussions took place between the Russian officials and officials from my Department, as well as the Adoption Authority of Ireland, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Health Service Executive.

In order to explore the potential for agreement of specific areas addressed in the discussions, my Department subsequently undertook work on a revised draft wording which was forwarded to the Russian authorities in February of this year. In transmitting these revisions it was suggested that should these revisions be acceptable to the Russian Federation, it would be useful for both sides to meet again for further discussions.

The Russian Ministry of Education and Science has advised the Irish embassy in Moscow that all proposed adoption agreements are currently on hold while the Russian Government considers proposals in relation to how it deals with adoption agreements in general. It is understood that the Russian supreme court recently made recommendations regarding adoption agreements and these are being considered by the Russian Government. It is hoped that following the Russian Government's consideration of these matters, it will be in a position to examine and respond to these proposals as furnished.

Can I take it from the Minister's response, that the Irish Government and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs have done everything required of them from our end, and that the delay now is from the Russian end? Will the Department of Children and Youth Affairs also be in touch with the Russian authorities to try to speed up this process? I understand the need for it to be done legally and properly, because nobody wants problems in years to come. I understand, however, that there are 537 declarations of eligibility in existence and that only 11 post-Hague adoptions have been completed since 2010. In the meantime, we know what is happening to children in state care in Russia and about the families who are waiting to receive them into their homes in Ireland. It seems as if it is up to the Russian authorities, but can the Minister's Department do more to put pressure on them to come to a speedier resolution? As the Minister said, everything seems to be in place for these adoptions to happen.

I agree with what the Deputy said, that there is an element of anxiety, upset and trauma on the part of many prospective adoptive parents in this jurisdiction as to a perceived delay. I assure the Deputy that every effort will be made to minimise that delay and have matters resolved at the earliest opportunity. My Department prepared a revised draft wording on a number of specific points that were forwarded recently to the authorities in Russia. It was suggested that should these revisions be acceptable to the Russian Federation, it would be useful for both sides to meet again for further discussions. The Russian Ministry for education has again been in touch with our embassy. The Deputy will be aware that the Russian supreme court recently made some substantial proposals with regard to the text of the proposed agreement. These have not yet been completed or finally signed off on by the Russian Government.

Intergovernmental discussions on this precise issue were proposed in recent weeks but the embassy has agreed to speak to them again for a further update in the next couple of weeks. I assure Deputy O'Sullivan that we will try to have this matter resolved at the earliest opportunity. I hope she will accept the fact that at this stage the resolution is perhaps beyond our immediate capacity.

Quite a number of those prospective adoptive parents have been waiting for more than four years to adopt children from Russia. We know from other agencies that are working with children in state care in Russia of the dire need for those children to get away from there as soon as possible. I accept what the Minister has said and I hope this can be resolved. The matter has been ongoing for four years and there was supposed to be a decision at the end of April. We are now into May, yet the Minister is talking about a few more weeks, so it is dragging on. I take the Minister's word, however, that he will be following this up in order that we might get something sooner rather than later.

I wish to reassure Deputy O'Sullivan that officials in our embassy and in my Department are ready and willing to engage in any form of discussion to bring this matter to a resolution.