Hundreds of parents in limbo on adoptions
HUNDREDS of parents were last night thrown into legal limbo as the Government announced that it will not renew negotiations for a bi-lateral adoption agreement with Vietnam.
The cabinet decision to suspend adoptions indefinitely followed two disturbing reports surrounding the adoption of abandoned and orphaned babies from the south-east Asian country.
The decision, reached at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, will provide clarity to some parents who have been waiting for months to see if the Irish Government would renew its agreement.
But it provides a dilemma for thousands of parents seeking to adopt babies from abroad as six out of 10 babies adopted from foreign countries are sourced in Vietnam.
In recent months, Children's Minister Barry Andrews received two significant reports regarding child welfare, protection and adoption in Vietnam that led his department to suspend adoption negotiations between the two nations.
Last night Mr Andrews said that he was "acutely aware of the disappointment that will be felt".
"Most prospective adoptive parents that I have met in recent weeks have above all else asked for certainty and an end to the speculation about the Government's intentions," he said.
"Inter-country adoption with Vietnam will be suspended until Hague ratification is completed in both countries."
The Irish Independent has also learned that the Government was unlikely to support or sanction the adoption of 20 babies whose prospective Irish parents were already at an advanced stage of the process.
These are a small cohort of adoptions that the Vietnamese authorities had agreed could go ahead despite the lapsing last May of a bilateral agreement on adoption between the two countries.
Fine Gael has asked the Government to introduce an interim adoption agreement to allow couples already cleared for the process to adopt Vietnamese children.
Irish parents can apply to adopt from 85 countries whose laws are compatible with Irish laws.
Apart from Vietnam, the biggest source countries to Ireland are Russia, Ethiopia and China. Some 400 inter-country adoptions take place each year.
Vietnam is expected to ratify the Hague Convention, the main international statute governing international adoptions, next year.
Ireland signed the Hague Convention in 1993 and is expected to ratify it next March.
Sharon O'Driscoll, chief executive of Helping Hands -- which had been criticised by a United Nations-commissioned report -- said the mediation agency was at "an utter loss" as it had worked tirelessly with Irish families adopting from Vietnam, as well as those "on-the-ground" in Vietnam.
"We have continually pointed out to the Irish government our concerns with the process and what points needed to be addressed in order to improve standards," she said.