Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
175. Deputy Arthur Morgan asked the Minister for Health and Children if the bilateral agreement on inter-country adoption between this State and Russia has collapsed; the reason for this collapse; when it will be restored; the measures she is taking to ensure the Health Service Executive and other parties here honour the terms of inter-country agreements; if inter-country adoption agreements with this State are now in danger of collapse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19407/09]
176. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Health and Children the status regarding the bilateral agreement relating to inter-country adoption between Ireland and Russia; if a copy of the agreement will be provided to parents in order that all parties are fully aware of their rights and duties under this agreement; the nature and legal status of the agreement between the Health Service Executive, the Russian Embassy and the Adoption Board; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19566/09]
180. Deputy Mary Upton asked the Minister for Health and Children if she will examine the inter-country adoptive system whereby the Health Service Executive have been lax in passing on post placement reports to the adoptive board and onwards to the foreign country; the reason an organisation (details supplied) has not been blacklisted by the Russian Federation as has the HSE; the steps being taken to ensure the HSE liaises with the Russian federal authorities and the Adoption Board; if her attention has been drawn to the causes of the current blockages; the number of outstanding post placement reports by region; and the length of time these are outstanding; the details of the agreement between the HSE, the Adoption Board and the Russian authorities as noted in the letters of commitment issued to prospective parents intending to adopt from Russia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18436/09]
184. Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Health and Children the position in relation to the bilateral agreement with Russia; if same will be dealt with; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18464/09]
209. Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Health and Children why, with regard to inter-country adoption with Russia, many post-placement reports are outstanding; the length of time they are outstanding; the action being taken to ensure they are followed up by the Health Service Executive; the nature and legal status of the agreement between the HSE and the Russian Embassy and the Adoption Board as per the letters of commitment required for adoption from Russia; when her attention was drawn to the fact that there was a problem with the Russian authorities in regard to these post-placement reports and by whom; if a copy of the agreement will be provided to parents to ensure all parties are fully aware of their rights and duties under this agreement; the status of discussions regarding a bilateral agreement between Ireland and Russia; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [18620/09]
212. Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of post-placement adoption reports by region for children adopted from the Russian Federation which are outstanding; the length of time they have been outstanding; and the action being taken to ensure they are followed up by the Health Service Executive. [18634/09]
213. Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children when and by whom her attention was drawn to the fact there was a problem with the authorities of the Russian Federation regarding post-placement reports. [18636/09]
214. Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children if a copy of the agreement with the Russian Federation will be made publicly available to ensure all parties are fully aware of their rights and duties. [18637/09]
215. Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Health and Children the status discussions regarding a bilateral agreement between Ireland and the Russian Federation have reached; the level at which these discussions are being held; and the timeframe envisaged for reaching agreement. [18638/09]
The Adoption Bill, 2009, which will give force of law to the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption, was published on 23 January, 2009. Under the proposed new legislative regime, prospective adoptive parents will be able to adopt from countries that have ratified the Hague Convention as well as from those countries with which Ireland has a bilateral agreement based on Hague standards. As part of the preparations for the likely passage and entry into force of these new legislative arrangements, my Office has been liaising with the Department of Foreign Affairs to identify and negotiate with countries who continue to seek homes abroad for children in need of alternative care that cannot be provided domestically. We are working actively to assess the possibilities of entering into bilateral agreements with a small number of countries, including with the Russian Federation.
Officials in the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, and colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs, have been taking soundings since April, 2008, in relation to inter-country adoption in the Russian Federation. This has included contacts with the Irish Embassy in Moscow and legal and other preparatory work on the possibility of a draft Inter-Country Adoption Agreement between the two countries. A first formal meeting was arranged with the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs. This meeting of officials of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ireland took place in the last week. I will continue to advance this matter with the assistance of my colleague Minister Martin and of his officials in both Dublin and Moscow.
While every effort will be made to conclude a bilateral agreement in advance of any of the proposed changes in Irish law taking effect, it must be acknowledged that these matters will be determined to a considerable degree by the Government of the Russian Federation. However, I would respectfully suggest that any applicant seeking to proceed with an adoption from a non-Hague country, or from a country with which Ireland does not have a bilateral agreement, should have regard to the likelihood of the adoption being completed in advance of the Bill being commenced.
With regard to the issue of outstanding post-placement reports, these are a requirement of a number of countries that send children to be adopted by Irish applicants. In order to provide assurance to the Russian Federation, the Health Service Executive has furnished a letter to indicate their on-going part in the provision of such reports and to their status as the statutory body with responsibility for child protection. This letter was provided at the request of applicants who may have experienced queries in relation to arrangements for the provision of such reports. The Health Service Executive has no statutory function in relation to the provision of post-placement reports, though it has and continues to facilitate the preparation of same. The key commitment given is the legal affidavit to co-operate with the provision of such reports that is required by the Russian Authorities from all applicants. Where parents do not co-operate, there is no legal basis to enforce their co-operation with post-adoption reporting in this jurisdiction.
My Office has been in touch with the Health Service Executive to clarify the situation in relation to any such list of outstanding reports. The Executive has confirmed that reports continue to be supplied from all regions and that it is following up in respect of reports which may be completed but not yet transmitted. Over 450 such reports were required in respect of 2008, and it is anticipated that around 400 will be required in respect of 2009 (not all due yet). The Health Service Executive in all ten areas has conducted an extensive search for these alleged “missing” post-placement reports and has identified in respect of 2008 and 2009, in total, some 34 which are due and have not yet been transmitted. The majority of the outstanding reports have been completed and are with the adoptive parents for translation, apostilling and notarisation — that is, the Social Workers have already conducted the home visit and the report.
In a small number of cases, parents have neglected or have been unwilling or unable to arrange for a home visit with their Social Worker. Further contact has been made again to arrange for all outstanding visits to be undertaken and is being prioritised by the Health Service Executive Adoption Services to ensure that the parents can have the required reports forwarded to the Russian Embassy. From information available at this stage, only one report has been “delayed” due to scheduling difficulties. I am given to understand that a re-scheduled visit is due to take place in relation to this particular case. In this regard, it should be noted that while the Adoption Board facilitates the transmission of completed reports to the Russian authorities, there is neither formal agreement nor obligation on the Board to do so.
Officials from my Office had an opportunity to raise the matter with the Russian Embassy at a recent meeting. The Russian side has provided a list of outstanding reports. This list, which was collated by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science, is currently being validated by the Embassy. In the meantime, I have asked the relevant authorities to assist me in pursuing the resolution of the issue as a matter of urgency. Officials have also indicated to the Russian side the importance that we are attaching to resolving the matter. I have also requested that this matter be raised directly with the Russian authorities.
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