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LEARN ABOUT ADOPTION, Foster care AND PARENTING. WHENEVER, WHEREVER.

We must not lose sight of the fact that they will experience terrible regret and loss. At the same time, we must acknowledge what children want, namely, care, love and affection. Regardless of whether it is two men, two women, a man and a woman or one person, provided they can nourish, cherish, love and encourage a child, they will be the answer. I salute the Minister because she has done a great deal of work in this area.

When I was seven years old, I knew I could never be adopted because at the age of seven, we were told we would stay in the orphanage until we were 16 or 17 years or until we could hack it in the world. That is what we did, but it is something no child should have to do. I met children who returned from a fostering experience with terrible stories. We must be careful about those to whom we foster children and those who are adopting children.

The Bill is wonderful and I thank the Minister for the 42 points she brought us through today. However, it will all be meaningless if the necessary resources, including care packages, scrutiny and monitoring are not provided. We need to ensure education, health services, care workers and advocates for children dovetail. People talk about the need for advocacy. Children need advocates. I knew what I was doing at six or seven years of age, as did most other children, and sometimes I was good, bad, wrong or manipulative. It is important to have advocates for children who can represent them.

A recent survey of care leavers shows that many of them would have liked the opportunity to have been adopted or fostered. There are three or perhaps more options because not everything fits together. I spoke about the important role of the birth family. How could anyone not support a Bill that allows married parents to place their children for adoption in certain circumstances?

I have received many nasty letters from people in recent days in which they refer to the suitability of people, the erosion of the powers of the family and the constitutional provisions that make family a very special place. That is not right. When children are shown love, care and support, they will flourish. It is important that cohabiting couples, those in civil partnerships and anyone else who is suitable, caring and loving and can provide stability for children be allowed to do so.

I am convinced that the Minister has done an exceptional job in bringing her insight, knowledge and experience to the Bill. I feel this in every word she has written and spoken. She is putting in place unique legislation and I am more than happy to support it. I welcome the Minister and the Bill before the House. I also commend Senator Victor Boyhan and thank him for sharing his personal experience. I found his contribution very touching and feel like a bit of a bore speaking after him because what he had to say will be much more meaningful than the result of my examination of the Bill and some of its interesting provisions.

The Bill is the result of the referendum on children's rights, which many of us will remember because in some ways it was sidelined by the referendum on Oireachtas inquiries held at the same time. Certain referendums often receive greater emphasis on the day. However, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of the provisions of the Bill.

This is open and forward-thinking legislation which provides a robust legislative basis for adoption. I have some additional suggestions and comments which I will make before I conclude. As the Minister stated, the primary purpose of the Bill is to give legislative effect to the Thirty-first Amendment of the Constitution which inserted Article 42A into the Constitution. It is welcome that the Bill treats all children equally, regardless of the marital status of their parents, allows for married parents to consent to and voluntarily place their child for adoption and standardises the threshold to be met before an adoption order can be granted.

Other features of the Bill which I welcome relate to step-adoption and the extension of eligibility to adopt to civil partners and same-sex couples.

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It is crucial that all aspects of family law keep up to date with different family formations, as Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee stated. The legislative changes arising from Article 42A of the Constitution and provided for in the Adoption Amendment Bill include providing that married couples may place a child for adoption on a voluntary basis in circumstances where both parents place the child for adoption and where both parents consent to the making of the adoption order.

It also provides for revised criteria in order that where an application to adopt is made in respect of a child in the custody of and who has had a home with the applicants for a period of at least 18 months and where the child's parents have failed in their parental duty, as the Minister has discussed, the High Court may dispense with parental consent and authorise the Adoption Authority to make an adoption order in respect of that child. The Bill also provides that the best interests of the child is the paramount consideration in respect of any matter.

In respect of applications or proceedings under the Act, the views of the child shall be ascertained by the Adoption Authority or the court, as the case may be, and given due weight having regard to his or her age and maturity. In addition to the legislative changes arising from the children's rights referendum, the Bill also makes a number of other significant changes. The Minister has spoken about each section, but I will discuss a few of the more significant changes this legislation will bring about. Provisions providing for the adoption of a child by civil partners and cohabiting couples are being made in the Bill by way of bringing forward the relevant section from Part 2 of the Children and Family Relationships Act into the Adoption Amendment Bill It is welcome that Part 2 of the Act requires amendment in order to ensure the Act adequately protects the rights of those persons who consent to an adoption and generally ensures a robust legislative basis for an adoption.

This drafting approach will assist in achieving clarity and coherence in adoption legislation with the added benefit of providing for adoption law in adoption Acts. It is welcome that the Bill also provides for the adoption of a child by their step-parent without requiring the child's other parent to adopt their own child.

Previously, if a step-parent wanted to adopt, both the child's parent and the step-parent had to apply to adopt and the parent became an adoptive parent. Under the Bill, the parent will continue to be a parent and the step-parent will become an adoptive parent. Section 45 of the Adoption Act provides that where a child's adoptive parents have died, a further adoption order may be made in respect of the child and that for the purposes of the order, the child should be taken to be the lawful child of the deceased adoptive parents.

It is welcome that the Bill amends section 45 of the Adoption Act to provide for this. Most importantly, in respect of the best interests and voice of the child, the Adoption Amendment Bill amends section 19 of the Adoption Act to reflect the Thirty-first Amendment of the Constitution regarding the best interests of the child. In determining what is in the best interests of the child, the authority or the court shall have regard to all of the factors or circumstances it considers relevant to the child who is the subject matter of an application or proceedings concerned.

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These include the child's age and maturity; the physical, psychological and emotional needs of the child; the likely effect of adoption on the child; the child's views on his or her proposed adoption; the child's social, intellectual and educational needs; the child's upbringing and care and relationship with their parents; and any other circumstance pertaining to the child. Regarding the voice of the child, the court or the authority will guarantee that informed views are expressed. We must ensure children are provided with clear explanations and information on adoption covering each individual stage of the adoption process.

The Adoption Information and Tracing Bill is intended to facilitate access to adoption information and provide a statutory basis for the provision of information on past and future adoptions.

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It will provide clarity ib the information that can be provided and the circumstances in which it can be provided. This provision is long overdue. We must learn from the pitfalls of a closed adoption process that has long operated in Ireland and has posed countless problems for adopted people when gathering information on their origins. Is the Minister considering implementing a resourcing plan for this legislation, given that the number of adoptions that go through the Adoption Authority could dramatically increase?

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The Bill has further resource implications for Tusla. As such, additional staff will be required to ensure all parties receive the best support possible. Are these extra resources available? This Bill provides that adoption now becomes a real option for some children in long-term care. As such, it is imperative that judges be trained.

I feel passionate about this because I have spent time in family law courts.


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As is always the way in a legal case, one is in the hands of the judge before which one appears. If we are going to have more cases like that before the courts, it is important that training be provided because the decision is lifelong.

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From a practice perspective, there is an additional requirement of adoption and post-adoption services for both sets of parents such as advice and counselling, as well as for the children and young people involved. I commend the Minister and her Department for their work on the Bill. The Minister's passion for the area is clear. I support the Bill and commend it to the House. I am very pleased to support this progressive Bill.

Throughout the State's history with regard to adoption, the moral diktat of the church-State relationship endeavoured to protect the nuclear family model. Non-traditional families were not appreciated or considered and were met by stigmatisation. This, as we know, was institutionalised in the Magdalen laundries and mother and baby homes and was State policy, even in the Adoption Act , which legally branded children born outside wedlock as "illegitimate". This clause was only removed in The disparity in application of equal family rights has been to the fore in recent years, not only with the children's rights referendum campaign but also with the civil marriage equality referendum, which highlighted a legal discrimination in terms of guardianship, kinship, succession and shared parental rights.

Not so long ago, same-sex couples were restricted from marrying but also from adopting children as a couple and having full and equal legal protection as a family. I welcome the amendments to the Children and Family Relationships Act which seek to remedy this.

I also welcome the provision that removes the barriers which require a birth parent to adopt alongside a step-parent who wants to adopt their spouse's child. Furthermore, the extension of the adoption age from the age of seven to 18 years and the removal of criteria that only allowed for adoption in exceptional circumstances have our full support. The extension in the powers of the High Court to further grant parental consent in situations where it is required and in the interests of the child strengthens children's rights and family rights.

The broadening of the criteria in respect of adoption opens up many avenues to loving families, in whatever shape or form they may take, to have the opportunity to display their ability to look after a child and raise them to become an adult with the love and care they deserve and with their best interests at heart. This Bill goes a long way towards dispelling the notion that a family in Ireland is a nuclear family. The family, in all its function and dysfunction, is diverse and takes many forms.

There is no single proposition for the family.

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Where the rights and care of the child are paramount, the State should endeavour to support that family, the children and the parents. The outdated and regressive view of the nuclear family has been destructive to Irish society and the biggest losers in that equation were children. Should the Bill pass, there will still be many unnecessary obstacles for prospective parents, including legal costs.

Those who can adopt are stifled in their care for that child as hefty legal fees must be repaid. I ask the Minister to propose this amendment as it is logical and fair and would greatly improve parental prospects for so many loving people. I also ask the Minister to make the tabling of the Adoption Information and Tracing Bill a top priority of her Department. I do not need to emphasise the importance of reuniting relatives, but I ask the Minister to consider the great impact it will have on many mothers and children who were separated that would benefit from such a Bill.

For the most part, they are elderly and wish to be able to be reunited as soon as possible.