Adoption law to help children of married parents
CARE: Call for more flexible system
CHILDREN of married parents will be allowed to be voluntarily adopted under new legislation planned by the Government.
Currently, the only way a child of married parents can be adopted by others is if the parents have been legally deemed to have failed or are likely to fail in their duties of care for the child.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said large numbers of children of married parents who could have been adopted in the past were barred from being adopted because of the Constitution.
The upcoming Children's Rights Referendum to change the Constitution will be accompanied by new laws allowing children of married parents to be adopted, she said.
Children of unmarried parents do not face the same hurdles when it comes to adoption. A mother who is not married can voluntarily give their child up for adoption.
Currently, married parents do not have that option and the new laws are intended to introduce more flexibility into the system to improve the care options for children.
Meanwhile, efforts to speed up the system for people seeking to adopt children from foreign countries are under way. Prospective parents may be asked to make a financial contribution to the cost of assessments regarding their suitability.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has been criticised for long delays in the assessment process and extra financing may allow these tasks to be outsourced to outside agencies.
The Adoption Act 2010 enables the HSE to use outside agencies to do assessment work but so far there has been no outsourcing of these functions.
The Adoption Authority has stated in recent months that there were a number of factors influencing the numbers of inter-country adoptions, including increasing delays by the (HSE) in assessing people's suitability.
Child protection here is its priority so adoption is not hugely resourced.
There has been a fall off in people proceeding with adoption because of the recession, while some were waiting to see if more countries would open up to Irish people.
Russia accounted for the largest proportion -- some 38pc -- of all adoptions into Ireland between 1991 and 2010.