Foreign adoptions plummet as countries closed off to couples
THE number of children adopted here from abroad has fallen dramatically in the past year, the Irish Independent has learned.
There were just 200 inter-country adoptions between January and November, compared to a high of 397 in 2008.
The fall comes after the ratification by Ireland of the Hague Convention in November 2010, which excluded several countries popular with Irish people adopting children from abroad.
The treaty means that adoptions are limited to countries which have signed up to the international agreement, committing to high standards to ensure the protection of children.
The changes have added to the difficulties faced by prospective parents -- many of whom have already been waiting years to adopt a child from abroad.
Very few Irish children are placed with adoption services here, meaning that most families have to look abroad.
Around 80 other countries have signed up to Hague but Ireland does not have an adoption agreement with all of them and many -- including Ireland -- have few children eligible for adoption. The number of infant children eligible for adoption in many of these countries is also relatively low and many tend to be older.
Popular countries such as Vietnam, Russia and Ethiopia are no longer open to Irish people seeking to adopt.
A significant number of prospective Irish adopters here had already been given the green light before the November 2010 deadline and were entitled to adopt from non-Hague countries. This has extended the choice of countries available this year -- so the real impact will not be seen until 2012.
Between January and the end of September, there were 135 children adopted here from non-Hague countries, compared to just 29 from Hague countries like Mexico, USA, China and Kazakhstan.
The Adoption Authority, which took over from the Adoption Board as the regulatory body last year, has been criticised for the delay in registering children as it copes with the increasing red tape demanded by the Hague Convention.
A spokeswoman for the Adoption Authority said there were a number of factors influencing the numbers of inter-country adoptions, including increasing delays by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in assessing people's suitability.
"Child protection here is its priority so adoption is not hugely resourced. This influences the manner in which they are can take on assessments."
She said there also appeared to be a fall off in people proceeding with adoption because of the recession, while some were waiting to see if more countries would open up to Irish people.
Commenting on the number of children eligible for adoption compared to previous years, she said: "The simple reality is that, in a country with a lot of social problems and a lot of small babies, it might seen adoption is the natural solution. But it can be inadvertently discouraging it from developing its own systems.
"It is a good thing for children that what we are looking at no longer is a lot of very young infants being adopted. I appreciate not every adoptive parent would see it in the same light. Children are staying in their own countries more and more."
The Department of Children and the Adoption Authority are hoping to extend the number of Hague countries open for adoption by Irish people, including Vietnam, which ratifies the Hague Treaty in February.
A delegation has also gone to Russia, which is not a Hague country, but may be amenable to a bilateral agreement with Ireland.
Russia accounted for the largest proportion -- some 38pc -- of all adoptions into Ireland between 1991 and 2010 .There are 1,517 children here who were born in Russia.
A review of adoption laws in Lithuania, Panama and Kenya is also under way as potential prospective countries for adoption into Ireland.