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'Same-sex marriage referendum WON'T change adoption in Ireland'

No matter which way you vote, Special Rapporteur for Children, Geoffrey Shannon has said.

Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

THE ADOPTION PROCESS won’t change in Ireland, regardless of the outcome of the referendum on same-sex marriage.

That’s according to the Special Rapporteur for Children, Geoffrey Shannon, who gave an insightful interview on Claire Byrne Live this evening on RTÉ.

In an interview exclusively about adoption and the referendum, Shannon explained that he is “not advocating that people should vote one way or the other”.

Here are seven things we learned about adoption and the referendum from Shannon’s interview with Byrne:

  • No one has the right to a child

“I think it’s important to state at the outset that no one has a right to a child, a child has a right to a family,” said Shannon.

  • There were 112 domestic adoptions last year

The adoption authority is the authority responsible for granting all consensual adoption orders, the vast majority of adoptions.

In 2014:

  • There were 69 step-parent adoptions (where the biological mother marries somebody other than the birth father)
  • There were 23 adoptions of children from the care system
  • There were six cases of domestic infant adoption

Shannon said this shows “how Irish society has changed over the years”.

  • How many children were placed with same-sex couples last year

Shannon said:

  • 88% of children placed for adoption were placed with married couples
  • 12% were placed with sole applicants
  • Of that 12%, between zero and 2% were placed with same-sex couples.

“I don’t envisage that those figures are going to change significantly over the coming years,” said Shannon.

  • How adoption works

There are two stages to the consent process, said Shannon: “you consent to the placement and then you consent to the making of the final adoption order”.

Whether people vote yes or no, the adoption process is not going to change and the reason for that is that sole applicants have been in a position to apply to assess for adoption since 1991.

He said that for over 20 years sole applicants could apply to be assessed for adoption.

Shannon explained that includes a partner in a cohabiting relationship, whether of the same sex, or a heterosexual relationship – the partner could apply to be assessed for adoption.

As an example, he said:

…if you are a same-sex couple or a heterosexual couple in the cohabiting relationship, one person would apply to adopt. The assessment would include both people, but at the end of the day the adoption order would be granted to one of the partners in either the same-sex relationship or a heterosexual relationship where they have been cohabiting.
The Children and Family Relationships Act extends the right to assessment for adoption to civil partners and cohabiting couples who have been living together for a period of three years, and from a child’s perspective that means the child will have a legal relationship with the two partners in a cohabiting relationship.
  • Does the adoption process ever favour an opposite-sex couple over a same-sex couple?

Geoffrey Shannon:

“The best interests of the child is the key requirement in determining whether somebody gets the licence to adopt”.

He said that there are two parts to the adoption process. The first is the assessment process.

So if you’re a sole applicant, if you’re a married couple, if you’re a cohabiting couple, or a same-sex couple, what happens is you’re assessed and that assessment looks at your capacity to parent a child into adulthood. It is not concerned with gender or sexual orientation.

The second part of that is placement. “[T]here is a lot of misinformation out there on this issue,” said Shannon.

…I want to be absolutely clear on this, the birth mother is hugely important in that process. The birth mother’s consent must be full, free, and informed. The birth mother is involved from the earliest stages in the adoption process. So when the birth mother decides that she wants to place her child for adoption, she’s involved in the process.
What happens is the mother is then shown a selection of between three and seven anonymous profiles of prospective adopters from a national panel of about 70 perspective adopters. And the birth mother’s decision determines the outcome.
  • The birth mother can say “I don’t want a same-sex couple taking care of my child or adopting my child.”

Geoffrey Shannon:

Absolutely, that is the position, and I would take that one step further, the birth mother on occasion has elected to place her child with a sole applicant in a same-sex relationship, so the mother determines who the child is placed with.
  • If the referendum is passed, will it be impossible to choose an opposite-sex couple in the adoption process over a same-sex couple because it could be deemed discriminatory?

“I think it’s important to realise that the birth mother’s views are critically important in deciding who a child is placed with,” said Shannon.

If the birth mother decides that she does not want to place her child with a same-sex couple, that decision will invariably be respected.
The best interests of the child is the overarching consideration in determining whether an individual, or a couple get the license to adopt. And we need to look at the statistics over the last number of years, and if I give you last year’s statistics,
As I said whether you vote yes or no on the 22 May, the adoption process is not going to change.

Read: RTÉ did not know Aodhan Ó Ríordáin was wearing an equality pin>

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