So, the Adoption Authority of Ireland is now suggesting an upper age limit of 42 for prospective adoptive parent. Why 42? Is someone a Douglas Adams fan? Hardly, there seems to be little deep thought going into this. This proposal is because with the advent of the Hague Convention few intercountry adoptions are now being processed, and those tend to be for older kids usually with special needs. So, younger healthier etc parents are, it seems, needed. If the state really thinks this it should get on the case of the many children born to older parents.
This is a mess. the Hague Convention on Intercountry adoption is full of good intentions. We know where these lead. The practical effect has been that for irish people seeking to provide a home to a child there are few countries now available. You cannot simply wander into an orphanage overseas and adopt. Each adoption is for a particular country and age/health status child. Having managed not to put in place any bilateral arrangements with countries which cannot for constitutional reasons sign up to the Hague convention, the AAI now presides over a collapsed intercountry adoption process. A glance at the 2013 annual report shows this starkly. Indeed, across all categories we now have 1/4 the amount of adoption we had 10 years ago.
Throughout the whole issues around the implementation of hague there is a doublespeak in the system. AAI critique prospective parents for seeking younger children, while at the same time HSE, who are the assessors for suitability, are stressing the need of the child among which is the need to bond. Bonding is a complex process, and the longer the child is in an institution, no matter how good it is, the harder will be the process. This, as much or more as the desire for a cuddly baba, is at the heart of the desire to adopt kids as young as possible. Older kids, kids with special needs, they need as much love and care as others. One might however suggest that the best way to do this is to ensure that as many potential family units are made available as possible. One might also suggest that perhaps inexperienced parents and special needs kids are a mix that will require more and more complex intervention from all sides. Has this been thought out?
Having managed to in effect cut the chances of adopting to near zero, and for younger kids to zero, the AAI now proposes to impose an arbitrary limit on parental age. Again, this doublespeak. Part of the criteria for being accepted as a prospective adoptive parent is that one is checked out pretty well. This includes detailed medical checks. For some countries this may involve multiple consultant reports.Why, if there is a reasonably good likelihood of a person of say 50 making it to 68, or whenever a child would be of legal age, should they be barred? If the HSE five standards (See below) on suitability for adoption are to make any sense or have any real meaning then this is both arbitrary and illogical.
The sad fact is that intercountry adoption is over, in effect, in Ireland. Why this happened is complex. Our own bruising history on murky adoptions should cause us not to walk away from intercountry adoption but to instead ensure that we put in place a regime where such is as transparent, child focused, policy. UNICEF, no fan of intercountry adoption, estimates over 13m kids who have lost both parents. Ireland can and should play a part in providing these with a stable home. Instead, we have this sort of nonsense.
HSE five Standards
1. The capacity to safeguard the child throughout his or her childhood.
2. The capacity to provide the child with family life that will promote his or her development and well being and have due regard to the physical, emotional, social, health, educational, cultural, spiritual and other dimensions. The resources that families can draw on will vary from family to family and may change over time. Whatever circumstances the family find themselves in, the applicant/s will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the importance of maintaining an on-going and meaningful relationship with their child.
3. The capacity to provide an environment where the child’s original nationality, race, culture, language and religion will be valued and appropriately promoted throughout childhood. This will include the capacity of the parent/s to recognise the differences between themselves and their child within these areas and to recognise and try to combat racism and other institutional and personal oppressive forces within society.
4. The capacity to recognise and understand the impact of being an adopted child from an overseas country on the development of the child’s identity throughout their childhood and beyond.
5. The capacity to recognise the need for and to arrange for appropriate support and intervention from health, social services, educational, and other services throughout childhood.