10 October 2013
Question (Deputy Jerry Buttimer)
To ask the Minister her views on the need to amend or update the Adoption Act 2010?
The Adoption Act, 2010, which entered into force on 1 November 2010, gives force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Act was written against the backdrop of the Hague Convention and a commitment to improving standards outlined in the Convention. The Hague principles of subsidiary, support for birth families, free and informed consent for birth parents, and international adoption as a resource for the permanent care of children, are a means for improving standards in intercountry adoption and mitigating against some of the risks inherent in intercountry adoption.
There are two existing legislative commitments in the Adoption Area. Firstly, the Adoption (Amendment) Bill, which is to be progressed on foot of the Children’s Referendum, proposes to address the adoption of children of marriage. The second piece of adoption legislation which is being prepared is the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill. Complex issues relating to this bill are currently being examined within my Department and within the Office of the Attorney General. It is my intention is to bring the Heads of Bill before Government at the earliest possible date to seek approval to refer this legislation to the Oireachtas Health and Children Committee for discussion.
The Adoption Act 2010 has been in operation for nearly three years now. Since the implementation of the Act, as is often the case with complex legislation, issues have arisen in relation to the operation of the legislation and in the circumstances I think it is timely to consider a review of policy matters.
Issues which I believe should be addressed in such a review include:
- step-parent adoption;
- the rights of birth mothers and also birth fathers;
- issues relating to the right to an assessment;
- the age limit of prospective adoptive parents;
- the tenure of Declarations of Eligibility & Suitability;
- issues relating to the habitual residence of applicants;
- the possibility of introducing ‘open adoption’; and
- various operational matters, for example, the composition of Adoption Authority
I accept that many of these issues raise significant legal and policy questions which would need to be resolved, not just within the Adoption Act, but also within the broader framework of family law relating to parentage and guardianship. In this regard, I am also actively working with my Government colleagues, including the Minister for Justice & Equality Alan Shatter TD, to actively examine how legislative changes can be made in this broad area.
Finally, since taking office I have made improvements to the operation of the adoption process, without the need to amend legislation following consultation with the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the Health Service Executive. In particular I have streamlined the assessment process for those seeking to transfer from declarations of eligibility and suitability to adopt which are due to expire before the 31st of October 2013.
Furthermore I have moved to address the issue of the sustainability, and funding, of accredited bodies. In this matter interim funding has been provided to specific bodies and I am seeking agreement from these agencies on a pathway to securing a sustainable model for accredited bodies in the future