Wednesday, 6 December 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
146. Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has any information in relation to the revised procedures for adoption of children from Russia; the number of visits required; and if the health boards or his Department provide any assistance to parents seeking to adopt in Russia in view of the revised regulations there. [29003/00]
Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Ms Hanafin): As the Deputy will be aware, I visited Russia in May this year to meet the Russian Federation Authorities regarding the situation of Irish couples hoping to adopt from there. The Russian Government changed its laws in regard to adoption around the time of the visit issuing three new decrees in relation to intercountry adoption. The key aspects of these decrees which have relevance for Irish couples are as follows: all foreign agencies operating in the territory of the Russian Federation must be accredited by the Interdepartmental Commission on the Adoption of Children Who Are Citizens of the Russian Federation by Foreign Citizens; under the accreditation arrangements, the non-commercial foreign agency must be licensed by a competent state body in its home country; accreditation of non-commercial foreign agencies is restricted to organisations which have been involved in the adoption of children in their home country for not less than five years at the time of applying for accreditation; and candidates who wish to adopt a child must be resident in the country where the foreign agency is located.
 Following my meeting with the Minister for Education, Mr. Fillipov, I understood that the main impact of the new laws for Irish couples is that they will no longer be able to use third country agencies to assist them in concluding adoptions in the Russian Federation. A native Irish agency could assist such couples. At present the following issues arise: there are no existing Irish adoption agencies providing mediation services to couples wishing to adopt abroad. Adoption societies are registered by the Adoption Board under the Adoption Act, 1952. However, existing legislation does not make any provision for the mediation of intercountry adoption by either the Adoption Board or other bodies. The board processes a small number of applications in relation to China, Thailand and Belarus under bilateral agreements with authorities in those States.
I took the opportunity to explain the Irish situation to my Russian counterparts during my visit and I was informed that it would be possible for individual couples to continue to adopt from the Russian Federation if they act independently and work directly through the federal authorities in the various regions of the federation of the Ministry of Education in Moscow. In my meetings I emphasised to the Russian authorities the strong State role in the assessment of couples; the rigour of our assessment process; the rights of adopted children under Irish law; the State's commitment to the principles of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and the intention to introduce legislation to ratify the Convention as quickly as possible.
The Russian Federation's requirements are intended to protect the best interests of children and to ensure high standards in the intercountry adoption process. Since my meeting with the Russian authorities the Russian Federation has signed the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and has indicated that it intends to bring forward legislation to ratify the convention. The legislation being prepared in my Department on the ratification of the Hague Convention will include, inter alia, provision for the establishment, accreditation and regulation of bodies providing mediating services for prospective adopters who wish to adopt from abroad.
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