Press Release

Minister Brian Lenihan publishes adoption consultation document and announces details of legislative proposals on adoption

Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan TD, today (05 January 2005) published a report on the Consultation Process on Adoption Legislation. The consultation process was established by the Minister in 2003 and is now being brought to a conclusion.

The Minister also announced details of a number of legislative proposals that he intends to bring forward, arising out of the consultation process.

The Minister stated –  “ When I came into office I decided that it was important to engage all of the parties involved in, or affected by adoption, in discussions in order to hear their views and to allow them to influence future developments.”

“ I found the experience of reading the submissions and in particular of listening to the discussions in October 2003 very enlightening.  I know that it was a difficult experience for many people and I would like to thank them for their courage in coming forward to help us bring about improvements for the future.”

Proposals for the future

As well as publishing the consultation document, which details the views of the various parties who participated in the process, the Minister today also set out a number of legislative proposals emanating from the consultation process.

These proposals received Cabinet approval in December of last year and legislation is now being drafted. It is hoped that the legislation may be published in autumn of this year.

The following are a number of the key points included in the proposals:-

Ratification of Hague Convention on Protection of Children and co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption

The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption is the international instrument that regulates intercountry adoption.

  •   The Convention will have the force of law
  • Adoptions will be allowed only from Hague Convention countries or countries with which there is a bilateral agreement
  • All adoptions of children who came from other countries to be treated as intercountry adoptions
  • Modernising of suitability criteria to reflect the child centred criteria developed for the standardised framework for intercountry adoption assessment.
  • “Grandfather” provision to allow adoptions from non-Hague countries in very limited circumstances where prior to the legislation a child has been adopted from that country and where the Adoption Authority believes that it is in the best interests of the child to have a sibling from the same background.
  • Age limit of 50 for eligibility for assessment.

Establishment of Adoption Authority

  • Adoption Board to be replaced by Adoption Authority
  • Board of Authority to be representative of those affected by adoption including adopted people, natural parents and adoptive parents as well as people with appropriate expertise.
  • Authority to take on role of central authority under the Hague Convention
  • Authority to develop best practice and set down guidelines for adoption services nationally
  • Authority to monitor adoption services in line with guidelines
  • Authority to carry out and commission research

Tracing and Reunion

  • Setting up of National Records Index, managed by the Adoption Authority
  • Setting up of the Contact Preference Register on a legislative basis
  • Access by designated staff in the Authority to State-held databases to speed up tracing
  • Authority to have extensive powers in relation to adoption records, including power to seize records

Other adoption issues

  • Option of adoption for people who are over 18 and who have been in foster care with the same family
  • Power for the Adoption Authority to attach conditions to an adoption order, allowing for ongoing contact with birth family, where this is in the best interests of the child.
  • Option for adoption by step parent without requiring adoption by mother
  • Options for adoption of children of marriage where a parent has died.

Guardianship

  • Option of guardianship for step parents
  • Option of guardianship for foster parents of children in long term foster care

The Minister concluded – “I wish to reiterate how pleased I am to be in a position to publish this document and announce the proposals that arise out of it. It has been a very rewarding experience for me to learn from so many people about their experiences of adoption and I appreciate the time, effort and  enthusiasm that so many of you put into the process.”

Summary of administrative actions by the Adoption Board

National Adoption Information and Tracing Service

  • Based on recommendations from an advisory group including representatives of adoption service users.
  • €1 million in 2005 estimates to implement recommendations
  • National protocols and standards being developed

National Voluntary Contact Preference Register

  • Will be managed by the Adoption Board
  • Register will be open to adopted people, natural parents and any natural relative
  • Minister will launch register later this Spring, beginning with a public information campaign
  • First step will be an explanatory leaflet  to all houses

National Adoption Records Index

  • Electronic scanning and indexing of Adoption Board’s files (47,000 files) commenced in September
  • Work on health boards’ files commencing shortly
  • Will allow speedier and more efficient access

Research into Intercountry adoption

  • Major study into outcomes for children adopted into Ireland since 1990
  • Will help to inform developments in the future

Addressing delays in Intercountry adoption assessments

  • The Board is looking at options
  • Health boards, agencies and support groups involved in identifying solutions
  • Extra funding available in 2005.

Minister’s Speech