Article 17 is the most fundamental change affecting the processing of intercountry adoptions into Ireland, under the implementation of the Hague Convention here.
Article 17 introduces a pre-adoption approval stage into proceedings, which means that each and every intercountry adoption by an Irish resident must be approved in advance by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI).
In effect, the AAI will review each referral of a child for adoption by the applicant(s) to determine if the adoption can go ahead. Without an Article 17 approval, applicants will not be capable of completing an adoption under Hague, and therefore it will not be possible for the AAI to register the adoption on the Register of Intercountry Adoptions, which means that the child at the centre of the adoption may end up in legal limbo.
The benefits of this step however, are that applicants who are granted Article 17 approval should be able to complete the adoption with the support of the various authorities and actors in the process, and will therefore be highly unlikely to encounter any issues registering the adoption once they follow the Hague process.
It may be perceived that this is an additional level of bureaucracy, but in fact this stage means that the Central Authorities of both States must agree in advance that the (1) placement, and (2) the adoption can go ahead. There is also therefore a responsibility on the authorities to act – expeditiously – to bring about the adoption, as they have determined it is in the best interests of the child.
In reality the function of the Article 17 approval provides an additional opportunity to check that the needs of the child are matched with appropriate, suitable and capable adoptive parents. If there is a mismatch between the home-study of the applicants, and the child’s Article 16 report, it is important that this is identified, and considered before any approval is granted. If such a case arises, the Central Authorities need to consider if in fact the applicants will be able to meet the needs of the child. It is not in the best interests of the child to suffer through a potential adoption disruption.
The Article 17 process also allows the respective authorities to validate the case. In particular for the AAI, this means that the issues which have arisen in some cases in the past can be identified before an adoption takes place, significantly reducing the potential for future high court actions arising from legal difficulties effectively blocking the registration of the adoption.
The implications of this mandatory, pre-approval process is that the preceding steps or rules must have been followed, so that the case can be examined and deemed in compliance with the Hague Process. Therefore, for example, the Article 15 and 16 reports must be transmitted through the appropriate channels, and under no circumstances should applicants have submitted their applications direct to an agency or Central Authority in the Country of Origin.