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Couples looking to adopt in Russia may lose children

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LIVING IN HOPE: Lisa and Michael Fennessy bonded with baby Alex during their time in Arkangel, RussiaCALL FOR HELP: Childrens' minister Frances Fitzgerald

LIVING IN HOPE: Lisa and Michael Fennessy bonded with baby Alex during their time in Arkangel, RussiaCALL FOR HELP: Childrens' minister Frances Fitzgerald

LIVING IN HOPE: Lisa and Michael Fennessy bonded with baby Alex during their time in Arkangel, RussiaCALL FOR HELP: Childrens' minister Frances Fitzgerald

LISA and Michael Fennessy returned from Russia with love – for a beautiful baby boy who would make their family complete.

But now their planned adoption of 19-month-old Alex from the Arkangel region has been caught in an international legal quagmire, which could yet scupper their dreams for Alex to become the latest addition to their family.

Alex was to become a baby brother to five-year-old Lee, whom they adopted from Vietnam as an infant.

Now the Fennessys, living in Ballyduff, Co Waterford, are among at least five couples who desperately want to adopt a Russian child and who have been caught in a legal morass not of their making.

"We received a referral for Alex earlier this year and went to Russia in June to meet him. We really bonded with him over the days that we were there. He is a wonderful little boy," Lisa said.

But just as they returned home full of joy and confident the adoption would go ahead, the Russian authorities changed their national adoption laws, which meant that children eligible for adoption in Russia have to stay on a federal database for 12 months – a change from the previous six months' duration.

"What that means is that Alex would not be available for adoption to us until December 29," Lisa told the Sunday Independent.

That would have been okay but the adoption has been thrown into doubt because of another legal problem in Ireland.

In 2010, our Adoption Act was changed on signing the Hague convention .

It means that for foreign adoptions with non-Hague countries, including Russia, families' declarations of eligibility/suitability (licence to adopt) were granted only until October 31, 2013.

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That means a race against time. Unless there is some change by our Government, the five families who want to adopt Russian children will fall into a legal abyss.

Last week, Lisa met Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald to ask for urgent legislative help to fast-track legal changes.

Diplomatic overtures to the Russian authorities have yet to bear fruit, the minister told the couple.

Fianna Fail spokesperson on Children Robert Troy told the Sunday Independent that there is an immediate priority for Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald to deal with the legislative roadblock.

She could do this by amending Section 41 of the Adoption Act 2010 to allow for licences of families affected to be extended for another year to allow these adoptions to be completed.

"Minister Fitzgerald must act in a humane and compassionate manner and confirm she will amend our Adoption Act," he said.

"As a result of these changes in Russian law, up to five families who have an existing referral will not be able to finalise adoption orders because Irish legislation prevents them from doing so.

"The licence to adopt for these couples ends on October 31. For a foreign adoption order to be recognised in Ireland, couples need to have a live declaration. The act allows couples adopting from a non-Hague country until October 31 to adopt but does not allow any extension, no matter what the circumstances.

"I have raised this issue directly with the Taoiseach in the Dail.

"It's clear the Government has not been on top of this issue to date and I am urging the minister to be much more proactive in this regard," Mr Troy added.


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