Rumour has it that the Irish government is going to legalise commercial surrogacy for Irish couples who want to have a baby abroad. They will bar the same couple from doing that here in Ireland. That contradiction, the hypocrisy, should be very clear to anyone reading the Bill. But there is another level of hypocrisy. Adoption.
Adopting a child in Ireland is extremely difficult. It is extremely tedious. Extremely slow moving. Extremely intrusive and invasive. And there are very few adoptions. Adoption is heavily regulated. The processes are heavy. Most people agree that anyone being allowed to adopt should be vetted, and vetted thoroughly. Surrogacy is going to be easy. Will anyone be subject to vetting?
Something tells you that adults wanting to take a strange child into their homes need to be subject to tight controls. Nothing tells you that parents wanting a child through surrogacy ought to be subject to the same level of scrutiny?
Natural, biological parents, are not subject to the same checks. Some people think they should be. Some parents do bad things to their children. But in the main, instinct tells us that the natural, biological bond is something special, something that obviates the need for such checks. It isn’t just instinct. Data tells us that children born and raised by their natural, biological parents are safer than in any other situation. Statistics tell us that non-biologically related males cohabiting with the mother are relatively high risk to their non-biological children – 100 times more dangerous that the biological father.
In Ireland, if you want to adopt a child, you have two options – domestic or inter-country adoption. Statistics show that there are in total somewhere between 20 and 40 adoptions each year in Ireland.
It is very few. The majority of these are international adoptions in countries that have adopted the Hague Convention to ensure the proper safeguards are in place. Adoption is taken seriously globally, too. Surrogacy, it seems, is taken seriously globally as well. Just not in Ireland, and maybe Russia and Ukraine, where commercial surrogacy is allowed.
The process for adoption is lengthy in Ireland. You have to fill out a lot of forms – you need to do child protection checks, garda vetting, police checks, you provide bank statements, you do health checks, you sign affidavits, you get people who know you well to fill in forms about you. Then you send in all the forms to Tusla. Getting all the information together can be time-consuming.
Then Tusla has to review the information that is sent in the forms. They have to verify it. They contact your doctors, your friends, the Garda Vetting services. Any country that you lived overseas for more than 6 months, you have to provide child protection and police clearances. You mess up your forms and you start again. Or Tusla makes a mess and the process gets delayed. Interminably.
Then, if you pass all the forms after more than 12 months, you have to undergo a training course, to teach all about parenting and about the challenges of adopting: training you to be parents because you do not have the natural bond that comes from having your own. This is a lengthy course as well. Another 3 months at least down the drain, if you are lucky enough to get on one quickly. There are no courses planned for parents through surrogacy.
After you complete the course and you are deemed to have passed, you have to undergo household visits where a social worker assesses you – as an individual and also as a couple. They interview you. They ask you tough and probing questions. They look for possible red flags or risks. Are there any invasive probings planned for parents through surrogacy?
Then they also talk to your friends whom you have asked to vouch for you as a couple. They want to know what they think. They are triangulating and cross referencing. Will parents through surrogacy be triangulated?
Then a report is drawn up and a recommendation from social workers to relevant persons to say whether they deem you fit to adopt or not. It gets passed to the higher levels. If you are deemed fit, a recommendation is made to The Adoption Authority where you will eventually be given a certificate. Will parents through surrogacy be certified? Will they get a stamp saying ‘Good enough’?
From start to finish, you will be lucky to get to certification for adoption within two years. Two years of waiting. Being analysed. Asking yourself if you are good enough. Wondering if you will be deemed unfit. Two years of sending and re-sending forms. Two years at a minimum. Maybe three.
The cert is valid for a year. Renewable for three. If you have chosen to adopt domestically, you wait and see whether you fit the profile of parents that the mother of the child would like. If you are lucky, you make the shortlist of three options given to the mother. Finally, you have a 1 in 3 chance. You might get picked. You might not.
If the three years passes and you don’t get picked, you can try to have your certificate renewed. In the meantime you get older. And older.
If you choose intercountry adoption, you pick a country. Then run the gauntlet of trying to adopt a child in Vietnam, China, the United States. The basic cost is 8,000 euro. It will probably be more now due to the cost of living crisis. Before you even consider the costs in the country and with the adoption authorities of any of those countries. If you choose the United States – you may as well put away another 60k for the process. Maybe more now due to the cost of living crisis
Considering that many of the couples seeking to go down the adoption route are those who have not managed to have children of their own, having exhausted every possibility of conceiving and possibly bankrupt themselves in the process, by the time they start the process of adoption, the lottery, they are probably in their forties. Two years and they are closer to their mid-forties. 3 years in the lottery and they are getting to their late forties. Is that fair on them? Is that fair on the children?
And you still wait. And you still hope. Maybe you will get lucky. You don’t really know the odds. If there are ten adoptions in Ireland, how many couples are looking to adopt? Each local government region holds information sessions a few times a year. Maybe 20 attend. If there are 30 regions, then that is 600 initially interested in adopting. A one in sixty chance? Do you have the time to play those odds?
The system is cruel. But maybe that is the way it has to be to keep children safe. Sure it could be more efficient, it could be quicker, it could be more transparent. But children first, isn’t that right? ”The best interests of the child”is what they say.
But what of surrogacy? Where in the bill is the two year interrogation of potential parents who want to have a child by surrogacy overseas? What is the difference between a non-biological parent who pays to have a child through surrogacy – possibly with donor sperm, donor egg and surrogate baby-carrier and an adoptive parent? Why the scrutiny of one and not of the other?
Where does the best interest of the child come into it? Are parents through surrogacy of no risk while adopting parents are high risk? Where is the fairness? Where is the equal treatment? Where is the common sense to this bill?
If surrogacy is going to be made possible and accessible, will the adoption system be reformed? Will potential adoptive parents be given the same treatment as parents who choose surrogacy? Will all the checks be discarded?
They shouldn’t be of course. We will have the paradoxical situation in Ireland where prospective parents of living, existing children in need of a loving home, of loving parents, are forced out of the system to choose the easier path of surrogacy, of creating children who do not yet exist. Because it is easier to create a child through surrogacy than it is to adopt a living, existing child. And it costs a sight less too, by the sounds of it.
Why would anyone adopt?
Adoptee children are deprived of their parents through no fault of their own. Life has dealt them a tough hand. There are many parents out there who would love to offer them a home. To try to make up for the fact that they cannot, for whatever reason, have a life with their natural, biological parents. Circumstances have created this situation.
But now the Irish government is creating, through law, the situation, where future children, hundreds and thousands of them, maybe even hundreds of thousands of them will be created who will never know their natural parents. They will never know their ancestry.
We bemoan that so many children have been denied the rights to know their biological parents when they were adopted at birth. The law has been changed to ensure that adopted children can know their biological parents – even when the biological parents do not want this. Yet now the government proposes the complete opposite in legislating for surrogacy?
The absence of regulation up to now has created a situation of the government’s making whereby there are around 1000 families who have come together through surrogacy that need to have their situation regularised. This should be sorted out by the government through some form of amnesty or short-term law that addresses these difficult situations. The door was left open. And now instead of closing it, the government proposes burning the door down. Compounding its errors.
We may like to blame the Catholic Church for the mid-twentieth century issues around adoption but the Church and John Charles McQuaid were far ahead of the State in seeking to have adoption regulated. But even if it were not, nothing done in the 1950’s can compare to what the government is proposing now.
The hypocrisy, the irony, is unfathomable.