Adoptions into Ireland have dropped dramatically in the last four years from 307 in 2009 to 117 in 2012, new figures show.
But numbers may increase again following the signing of a new agreement between Ireland and the US in the last few days and the accreditation of an Irish adoption agency in Vietnam.
In 2009, a total of 307 children were adopted into Ireland including 136 children from Vietnam, 100 from Russia and 21 from Ethiopia. The balance of children came from 11 other countries including China, Mexico and Kazakhstan, according to figures supplied to the Sinn Fein Deputy Pearse Doherty in response to a parliamentary question.
In 2010, the total figure for inter-country adoptions was 200, and was down to 188 in 2011 and to 117 last year.
There were no adoptions from Vietnam last year or in 2011 and adoptions from Ethiopia dropped from a high of 75 in 2010 to 32 in 2012. Some 124 children were adopted from Russia in 2011, and 49 were adopted last year.
The drop in adoptions followed Ireland’s ratification of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption in November 2010. The convention outlines standards and procedures that should be followed when children are adopted from one country into another.
The ratification meant children could only be adopted into Ireland from countries that had signed up to the convention. Neither Russia nor Ethiopia have signed it and after 2010, children could only be adopted from those countries if they had already been approved.
In 2009, a bilateral adoption agreement between Ireland and Vietnam lapsed. The lapse followed a series of scandals relating to fraudulent adoptions.
In September last year a new agreement was signed with Vietnam and the country recently accredited an adoption agency to work with Irish couples. It is expected adoptions will begin again with Vietnam in the next few weeks.
Adoptions from the US should also be made easier following the conclusion of an agreement with Ireland. The US state department signed off on the agreement in the last couple of days.
Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said the agreement with the US was good news and she praised the work of her department and of the Adoption Authority of Ireland and its head, Geoffrey Shannon.
“It means we have streamlined the process in terms of the understood standards we want to reach in inter-country adoption,” she said.
“The feeling is that if you can have an arrangement satisfactory to both sides and meeting Hague standards, you have clarity and it smoothes the process in terms of adoption . . . it should make things easier.”
The Minister also said inter-country adoptions with Vietnam would recommence within the next couple of weeks.
But she warned it would not mean adoption numbers would return to levels experienced in the past.
It was a very challenging time in relation to inter-country adoption, she said.
In countries that had signed up to Hague there was more focus on adopting their own children and there were also “serious problems for the accredited bodies in terms of funding” because they were not getting the numbers through.
“The whole funding of agencies is just not happening,” she said.