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'Memory of holding babies for the first time will stay with us'

BREEGE and Shane Clarke delight in the happy family they have created by adopting two children from Vietnam.

The couple live in Ballylynan, Co Laois, with their son John (6) and daughter Le (3) -- but their hopes of adopting a third child are currently in limbo.

"We adopted John in 2006 and Le in 2008. It took three-and-a-half years from our initial assessment application to the HSE to our adoption of John," said Shane, a social worker with Carlow County Council.

"When we adopted Le, the process took just 18 months as we already had a social worker and the Irish Mediation Agency was in Vietnam.

"We chose Vietnam because there was a bilateral agreement with Ireland and regular communication with the Office of the Minister for Children, the then Adoption Board and the Vietnamese Department of Justice monitoring the adoption process.

"We felt that the process was ethical and transparent as possible at the time."

The couple travelled on both occasions to north Vietnam, adopting John at five months and Le when she was seven months old.

"For us the bonding process began when we received John and Le's referral. Experiences such as holding them for the first time -- those memories will stay with us forever."

When they returned home the registration process was efficient.

However, adoptions between the two countries were suspended in 2010 after a UNICEF report claimed there was poor regulation of the adoption process in Vietnam.

"The report highlighted some alarming irregularities which rightly required investigation. It was disappointing that the Irish authorities did not continue the previous level of dialogue between the two countries in order to allay families' concerns."

The suspension left 20 families who were ready to adopt from Vietnam in limbo. Another 250 families had registered Vietnam as the country they would like to adopt from.

Shane added: "We would love to have the opportunity to adopt from Vietnam again. We have a link with the country and its culture."

News that Vietnam will ratify the international child protection treaty the Hague Convention in February raised spirits that the country will open up to Irish couples again.

But members of the Vietnamese Network of Adoptive Families -- the support group for families who adopted from Vietnam -- are uncertain if adoptions will resume and are upset by the lack of official information.

Vietnam will not automatically accept adoptions from Ireland and a working agreement will be needed.

Irish Independent