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Former Minister suggests HSE guilty of “anti-adoption bias”

Lost amid the coverage of the Murphy report when it came out at the end of November was a very interesting comment by Noel Ahern TD that there might be an “anti-adoption bias” at senior levels of the Irish Department of Health and of the Health Service Executive (HSE). 

Speaking during a Dáil debate on the Adoption Bill, Mr Ahern asked why people had to wait five years to adopt when “it only takes nine months to have a baby”.

Mr Ahern also questioned Ireland’s letting her bilateral adoption agreement with Vietnam fall into abeyance.

Referring to reports mentioned by Minister of State Barry Andrews which were critical of Vietnam’s procedures, he said that it was “extraordinary that other countries, and I do not mean banana republic countries but countries such as France, Denmark, Canada and Italy, do not seem to have difficulties with the bilateral arrangements with Vietnam”.

He asked “whether we are being a bit too careful”.

During the debate, Mr Ahern remarked, “often over the years I felt there was an attitude at a high level in the department or the HSE long before the Minister of State or his officials were there, which was not exactly friendly to the adoption process.

“Some people see adoption as something that happened decades ago. Perhaps concerns were raised in a few cases, but there were also thousands of children being placed in loving homes here and elsewhere”. Echoing other speakers in the debate, he said there was “great unhappiness relating to the HSE’s adoption process”. 

He sharply criticised social workers “who drag out the work and create extra interviews and layers of bureaucracy to slow down the end product”. The former minister of state noted that the Bill calls for expeditious processing of adoptions, but includes the phrase “as soon as practicable”.

This meant “we are picking the bits that are best practice to suit ourselves, and where the HSE is making a mess of the assessments, we are watering down best practice as stated in the Hague Convention because it suits inefficiency in the HSE”. It was “fine to introduce a document that outlines what will be best practice into the future”, he said. “However, it is important that we assist those couples that have been involved with the process for a number of years to finalise their adoptions. It was a question of where to draw the line”.

Of course, insofar as is reasonably possible it must be ensured that adoptions take place in an above-board manner, that the mother is not effectively forced into giving up her child and that the child will later will told about his or her mother, but the safeguards cannot be such as to make adoption virtually impossible because there are many children, both here and overseas, who need adopting.

In addition, one hopes that in the forthcoming debate about the regulation of the Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR) industry some of the concerns about past adoption practice will be taken into account because currently the AHR industry is run in almost total disregard of the rights of the child.