Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Health
Michael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
Question 599: To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs if she will explain her views on the possibility of establishing a strong administrative agreement as an alternative to a bilateral agreement in respect of inter-country adoptions as per her statement in Dáil Éireann on 26 January; if she will elaborate on same; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7660/12]
Frances Fitzgerald (Minister, Department of Children; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
With effect from 1 November 2010, intercountry adoptions can be effected with other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention or with countries with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement. The Hague Convention is a minimum set of standards in intercountry adoption in areas such as subsidiarity, consent and financial considerations.
The Hague Convention is a formal state-to-state agreement between countries developed on a multi-lateral basis. The key difference between an administrative arrangement and a bilateral agreement is that Governments are bound to one another by a bilateral agreement. Administrative agreements are related to the sequence and process arrangements in place to support the safeguards already agreed between states. The Adoption Authority of Ireland works with central authority counterparts in the establishment of administrative agreements while bilaterals are Government to Government agreements.
If a country has ratified the Hague Convention then the Adoption Authority of Ireland may establish administrative arrangements, as provided for in Section 72 of the Adoption Act, 2010. The Authority has over recent months travelled to a number of jurisdictions and has had discussions with the relevant Central Authorities. The purpose was to advise of its processes and procedures and to assess the need for additional administrative arrangements or agreements with referring Hague countries in order to underpin the process. These visits also provided an opportunity to discuss ways to streamline processes on both sides and get up to date information for prospective adopters on developments in the particular countries.
If a country has not ratified the Hague Convention then a bilateral agreement would be necessary in order for adoptions to continue with that country. The negotiation of bilateral agreements on intercountry adoption with states which have not ratified the Hague Convention is governed by Section 73 of the Adoption Act 2010. Ireland has not to date entered into a bilateral agreement in respect of intercountry adoption. Under Section 73 of the Act, ”the Authority, with the prior consent of the Minister, may enter into discussions with any non-contracting state concerning the possibility of the Government entering into a bilateral agreement with that State.”
The priority focus for the Adoption Authority is the putting place of administrative arrangements with other countries which have ratified the Hague Convention. Any future bilateral arrangements which might be entered into would also be required by law to meet the minimum standards set out in the Convention.