Law changes to allow 23 families complete Russian adoptions
Minister for Children says unsatisfactory situations not in children’s best interests arose
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.
Up to 23 families will be able to complete stalled adoptions from Russia after legislation was amended by the Dáil and Seanad.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald introduced the Adoption (Amendment) Bill after Russia changed its adoption law to increase from six months to one year the time a child needs to be on the national adoption database before becoming eligible for adoption in another country.
This interrupted the adoption process for up to 23 families. who already held a “valid declaration of eligibility and suitability”, which then expired before the adoptions were completed. Under strict criteria the declarations have been extended to October 2014, the Minister said.
Ms Fitzgerald said she had “pursued extensive diplomatic efforts” but these proved unsuccessful, and it was necessary to change legislation to extend the eligibility declarations by one year, specifically for Russia and with strict criteria.
She said they had to be sensitive to the risks involved in adoption. “A number of situations arose that were unsatisfactory, where the best interests of the children were not considered primarily and where unscrupulous people became involved.”
Independent Senator Jillian van Turnhout congratulated the drafters of the legislation on a “clear, tightly constructed Bill” but she pointed to Ireland’s very chequered history on adoption and asked when the children involved in the Russian adoptions turned 18, would they have access to information on their identity.
“I think of Ireland’s history with adoptions and how many ‘went to America’ or in reality were sold to so-called ‘good Catholic families’ for a better life.”
She said nobody who saw the film ‘Philomena’, about a forced Irish adoption to the US in the 1960s, was not touched and conflicted by her story. “We do not want to create scenarios today that will be the films of tomorrow.”
She pointed out that when a country ratifies the Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child “we have seen time and again how the number of children eligible for adoption dramatically falls.
“This happens because the children were never legitimately available for adoption and often have fallen foul to criminal activity, including corruption and the sale or trafficking of children,” she said.
She asked “can we be assured that in any one or more of these (Russian) cases significant money has not and will not change hands”.
Ms van Turnhout said there are some 50,000 adopted people in Ireland “who have no automatic legal right to their birth certificate, their medical information or history, or to tracing information about their identity”. And this could only partly be dealt with by legislation but needed constitutional resolution.
She asked if the State was ensuring it had access to vital records relating to children’s identities, and had the religious orders handed over records to the State.
And she said “let us not forget that adoption is the right of a child, not of adults, and we must ensure that this is not lost sight of. If anything is to be learned from the Ryan and Murphy reports, it is how crucial it is to have adequate systems in place to protect vulnerable children.”
Fianna Fail Senator Mary White praised Ms Fitzgerald for having the “courage and passion to address this issue”. She said she did not have the words “to describe the pain, anguish and yearning of the families waiting to adopt these children”.
The Bill now goes to the President for signature.