Pressuring countries on adoption 'can lead to trafficking'
Putting pressure on countries to sign up to adoption agreements could potentially lead to child trafficking, a childcare expert warned yesterday.
Geoffrey Shannon, the chairman of the new Adoption Authority of Ireland, yesterday stressed that it was "hugely important" to avoid any links between humanitarian aid agreements and payments in the adoption of children from other regions.
The first major overhaul since adoptions began in Ireland in 1953 saw the appointment yesterday of the new seven-member board and the long-awaited ratification of the Hague Convention.
Irish citizens can now adopt from more than 80 other countries -- many of which are also recipient countries with few children for adoption -- who have signed up to the convention which safeguards the rights of children being adopted.
But this does not include the two countries -- Vietnam and Russia -- from which the largest number of adopted children in Ireland come. In 2008, 117 children were adopted here from Russia and 182 from Vietnam.
Minister for Children Barry Andrews pointed out Vietnam was believed to be close to ratifying the Hague Convention and he said he was willing to travel to Moscow to lobby for a bilateral adoption agreement.
"The legislation also permits the assessment to be done by accredited bodies other than the HSE which will mean hopefully the assessment process will be much quicker," Mr Andrews said.
Shane Downer, chief executive of Arc Adoption, said it will be seeking to become accredited to provide "transparent facilitation services" with countries such as Bulgaria, Vietnam and Cambodia.
The entire adoption system has changed radically from when it was first brought into place in 1953, Mr Shannon said.
Between 1960 and 1972 a total of 3,578 Irish children, mainly born outside of marriage, were placed for adoption. Last year, there were just 67 children placed for adoption within Ireland.
Mr Shannon stressed the importance of a "clear demarcation line" between humanitarian aid and adoptions.
"Putting pressure on jurisdictions to enter into agreement is actually contrary to the spirit of Hague," the special rapporteur on child protection said.
"What we should not forget is that where we put pressure on jurisdictions to enter into agreements that has the potential to lead to child trafficking."