Yes vote would aid children in foster care, says expert

Wed, Oct 31, 2012, 00:00

SOME 700 children in long-term foster care could be eligible for adoption immediately if the children’s rights referendum is passed next week, an adoption expert has said.

Arc Adoption chief executive Shane Downer said the proposed constitutional amendment would make it easier for the children of married parents to be adopted.

“For those 600 or 700 there’s a very particular bar which is almost impossible. These kids are children of marital parents. We have this distinction between married and non-married parents in the Constitution so we need to fix that,” Mr Downer said.

He said about 1,300 other children in long-term foster care whose parents were not married also faced difficulties when it came to adoption. Under incoming legislation, such children could become eligible for adoption if they had spent three years in care and had been with a foster family for 18 months, he said.

Mr Downer was speaking at an event to promote a Yes vote in the referendum, organised by Independent Senator Jillian van Turnhout, former chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance. Ms Van Turnhout said she wanted to give a platform to organisations that supported the amendment but were not often “in the headlines”.

Ms Van Turnhout said she did not share the concerns of fathers’ rights campaigners in the Unmarried and Separated Families of Ireland group about the wording.

Margot Doherty of Treoir, which provides information for unmarried parents, said if the amendment was accepted, it would result in a clear statement of children’s rights in the Constitution.

“Treoir believes that inherent in these rights are a child’s right to identity and to a relationship with both parents.”

Paddy Connolly of Inclusion Ireland said the rights of children with intellectual disabilities and autism had been disregarded by successive governments. He said the referendum marked a progression towards the recognition of the rights of all children. “A Yes vote on November 10th will tell parents of children with disabilities that the people of Ireland support the rights of their children to the supports and services they need.”

Childminding Ireland spokeswoman Patricia Murray called for a large turnout on polling day, saying everyone had a part to play in ensuring all children were treated equally. Niall McLoughlin of the Irish Youth Foundation said his organisation strongly supported a strengthening of children’s rights.

He said due to a wide range of social factors some children were denied their most basic rights.

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