International Conference on Intercountry Adoption

Posted on: 12 February 2008

An international conference on intercountry adoption organised by Trinity College’s Children’s Research Centre and the Adoption Board took place on February 12th in Dublin Castle. The conference entitled, ‘The Irish Study of Intercountry Adoption Outcomes (2007) in an international context’ featured a number of international experts in the field of intercountry adoption as well as the Minister for Children, Brendan Smith TD and Dr Geoffrey Shannon, Chairperson of the Adoption Board.

Since 1991 approximately 4,500 children have been adopted into Ireland from abroad. The one-day conference expanded on the research commissioned by the Adoption Board which was undertaken by TCD’s Children’s Research Centre and published as ‘A Study of Intercountry Adoption Outcomes in Ireland’¹ in June 2007. Implications for research, policy and practice were highlighted including legislative challenges.

Speaking at the conference Professor Sheila Greene, Director of TCD’s Children’s Research Centre said: “Intercountry adoption is a growing phenomenon in Ireland and internationally. It is important to place the research conducted by the Children’s Research Centre for the Adoption Board in its international context, to learn from the experience of others and to contribute to the global debate about best practice”.

Professor Richard Sullivan, Professor of Social Work and Family Studies, University of British Columbia, Vancouver said in his talk on ‘Themes of Rescue and Gratitude in Intercountry Adotpion: Implications for Identity, Family Relations and pre and post placement practices’:”Adoption has always been a cross class transaction wherein poor people and poor nations produce children who migrate into wealthier circumstances. Themes of rescue and gratitude are woven into the adoption stories at the foundation of resulting family relations. But notions of rescue can imply inferiority in origins that must be integrated into the adoptee’s sense of self, and gratitude can imply a burden of obligation. Data from the Irish Intercountry Adoption study reveal a predictable developmental trajectory in the way children and youth apprehend these themes and integrate them into their identity. This finding has implications for policy related to adoption preparation and practice in support of adoptive families and children”.

Professor Femmie Juffer, Chair of Adoption Studies, Centre for Child and Family Studies, Leiden University in her presentation, ‘Far From Their Birth Country: How Do They Fare? International Research on Intercountry Adoptees’compared the CRC Intercountry Adoption Study with the outcomes of a major international study in which she was involved: “In Adoption MAP (Meta-Analyses Project) we analysed more than 270 adoption studies including more than 230,000 adoptees and non-adopted comparisons. We studied the adjustment of adoptees in all age ranges – from infancy to adulthood – examining several developmental domains: physical growth (height, weight, and head circumference), attachment, cognitive development, school achievement and learning problems, behaviour problems and mental health referrals, and self-esteem. Although (mild) delays were documented for some areas of development, impressive catch-up was found for virtually every aspect of development”.

Other speakers at the conference included Dr Elizabeth Nixon and Ruth Kelly of the HSE, Policy, Research & Development consultant, Julia Feast of the British Association of Adoption & Fostering in the UK and Professor William Duncan, Deputy Secretary General of the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

TCD's children's research centre hosts international conference on