Challenge to board over recognition of Chinese adoptions


IRISH couples who want to adopt abandoned Chinese babies began a challenge in the High Court yesterday to the Adoption Board's refusal to recognise such adoptions.

The couples have been found suitable, but a dispute has arisen over reconciling Irish and Chinese law on adoptions. The Adoption Board has refused to recognise the adoptions under Chinese law, and has instructed the Irish Embassy in Beijing that the adoptions would not be recognised.

The Adoption Board is opposing the adoptions on the grounds that an Irish adoption order permanently ends all legal bonds between natural parents or guardians and the child. The rights arising out of those bonds are transferred permanently to the adoptive parents.

The board claims the equivalent Chinese adoption order does not accord with Irish adoption law in that it compulsorily reserves to the child, parents or guardian and the adoptive parents the right to review and/or rescind the adoption order. If the child is over 10 years, he or she must be consulted and consent obtained. An adoptive child may also retain the name of his or her natural parents.

The Irish couples claim the adoption order made in China had essentially the same legal effect on the termination, and creation of parental duties as one made under Irish laws.

The proposed adoptive children had been abandoned, and the whereabouts and identities of their natural parents were unknown. If permitted to enter the State under entry permits granted by the Department of Justice, the children would be eligible to be adopted under the Adoption Acts 1952 to 1991.

Mr James Connolly SC, for the Irish couples, said the couples were approved by Irish health boards as appropriate persons to adopt children. They had Department of Justice leave for the entry of adopted children from China. The couples suitability was not in question. They had also satisfied the requirements of China.

Mr Connolly said they had obtained the opinions of two Chinese lawyers. They believed there was no prospect of the adoptions being revoked or terminated under Chinese law.

The Adoption Board, he said, in interpreting Chinese law as having the potential to terminate an adoption, was looking at a theoretical situation only.

Mr Connolly said the couples had been informed that 1.7 million baby girls were abandoned in China every year.

In an affidavit, one of the couples said that after being declared suitable to adopt, they made extensive inquiries and made contacts with lawyers and an orphanage agency in China. After several months, they were satisfied there were children available for adoption in Chinese orphanages, most of whom were abandoned.

It was found that there was little prospect of these children being adopted in China, as they were mainly girl infants and most families were limited to just one child.

It was the view of an expert on adoption that an adoption order made in China had the same legal effect as an order made under Irish law. The couple believed the dissimilarities between Irish and Chinese law were more apparent than real.

Mr Aindrias O Caoimh SC, for the board, said the board was in the business of adoption and did not lightly decide not to allow an adoption.

An Adoption Board official, in an affidavit, said the board had had many meetings to consider whether a Chinese adoption order could be recognised under the Act. Some of the applicants supplied the board with the names of the two Chinese lawyers and got their opinions. However, the board disagreed with them.

The hearing continues before Mr Justice Flood today.