THE Government’s decision to suspend negotiations on a new bilateral inter-country adoption agreement with Vietnam, has devastated at least 30 prospective Clare parents.
The decision, which comes after 18 months of uncertainly, will stall adoption from Vietnam until such time as the Adoption Bill 2009 has been enacted and Ireland and Vietnam have both ratified the provisions of the Hague Convention.
Noreen Forde and her husband, Joseph, who are waiting to adopt a second child from Vietnam, had previously appealed to Minister for Children, Barry Andrews, for a definitive statement on whether or not the previous bilateral agreement would be extended.
Ms Forde told The Clare Champion that parents in Clare, particularly first-time adoptive applicants, are devastated by the decision.
She questioned why Minister Andrews decided to suspend negotiations instead of allowing them to continue until Ireland ratified the Hague Convention, which is expected in March.
She claimed the minister’s statement had caused confusion for parents who didn’t know whether they should try and adopt a child from another country or wait and see if a new agreement could be reached.
Noting Minister Andrews had stated that parents who were part of the process could continue, Ms Forde explained people don’t know what this means because there are three different stages in the adoption process.
“A lot of parents who had applied to Vietnam don’t know if they should now change and try to adopt a child from Russia or Ethiopia. It is important that Minister Andrews clarifies the issue further,” she said.
The decision was taken in response to findings and recommendations contained in a report on inter-country adoption commissioned by UNICEF and the Vietnamese Ministry of Justice and carried out by International Social Services (ISS). An earlier report published last August by the Vietnamese Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) was also considered in making the decision.
Minister Andrews said, “I am acutely aware of the disappointment that will be felt as a result of this announcement. Most prospective adoptive parents that I have met in recent weeks have, above all else, asked for certainty and an end to the speculation about the Government’s intentions”.
Having met with the Adoption Board to discuss future arrangements for persons with Declarations of Eligibility and Suitability for Vietnam, the minster said the board has agreed the following arrangements:
* All couples/individuals currently with a declaration of eligibility and suitability for Vietnam may select a new country to adopt from, subject to submitting the usual change of country report to the Adoption Board but may also retain their current place on the HHAMA list for Vietnam, which is being maintained.
* In the event of Vietnam re-opening, those on the Vietnamese waiting list whose declarations have not been used in the meantime to effect an adoption in another country, will be in a position to proceed without delay and having regard to their position on the Vietnam list.
* All couples/individuals currently with a Declaration of Eligibility and Suitability for Vietnam but who have sought to change in recent months will be in a position to avail of the foregoing arrangements.
* Couples/individuals wishing to change their country of origin are advised to contact their local social worker who will facilitate the change. The HSE has indicated that the process will not involve the need to revert to the Local Adoption Committee.
Meanwhile North Clare County Councillor Martin Conway has called on the government to publicly apologise for what he calls “the indefensible and incompetent manner in which it has dealt with the issue of Vietnamese adoptions”.
The Fine Gael councillor accused the Government of failing to act in the best interests of children or those hoping to adopt. “I have a deep sense of the frustrations felt by the people from Clare who have received Declarations of Eligibility from the HSE and indeed the people throughout Ireland in this position,” he continued.
Councillor Conway said he wanted to see Minister Andrews publicly address a number of questions including ‘what action was taken during the life of the bilateral agreement by Irish representatives to ensure that Vietnamese adoption practices met appropriate standards and what reports, if any, on this issue were made to the Minister for Children or his predecessors?
The Fine Gael councillor accused the Government of incompetence. “As a consequence of the incompetent manner in which the Government has dealt with this sensitive issue, hundreds of Irish adoption applicants including people from Clare who have Declarations of Eligibility from the HSE are now left in limbo and hundreds of children for whom adoption would provide a better life may remain in orphanages,” he said.
“Substantial HSE social work resources have also been wasted in the assessment of adoption applicants with a focus solely on Vietnamese adoptions instead of a focus on foreign adoption generally.
“Many of those left in limbo are now confronted with the prospect of their Declarations of Suitability and Eligibility expiring and will have to apply to the Adoption Board for extensions and, in some cases, to the HSE for updated assessments. Adopters are entitled to answers from the minister to the many questions which now arise and to an apology from the Government for its incompetence,” Councillor Conway concluded.