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Adoption Authority (2016)

Consultation with young people regarding Adoption Order hearings

In 2016, the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) requested our input to its deliberations on how the AAI might strengthen provision for children and young people to be heard and have their views taken into account in the context of Adoption Order hearings affecting them.

We agreed that it would be desirable to seek the views of young people who had been adopted and had previous experience of attending and participating in Adoption Order hearings with their families.

During 2016, we assisted the AAI with designing, planning and implementing a consultation with young people. The consultation was held at the AAI in November and supported young people to express their views and ideas on:

  • Space – What, if any, steps the AAI might take to make the rooms and areas used by young people and their families when they attend an Adoption Order hearing more child- and youth-friendly.
  • Information – What, if any, information the AAI should give to young people before they attend an Adoption Order hearing with their families and what formats this information should be presented in.
  • Being heard – What, if any, additional steps the AAI might take to further support young people to express their views on their prospective adoption, both in advance of the Adoption Order hearing and during the hearing itself.
  • Acknowledgement – What, if anything, the AAI might give to or do for children and young people to acknowledge and mark the occasion of their Adoption Order being granted.

OCO and AAI staff co-facilitated the consultation and used a range of activity-based methods to support participating young people to express their views and ideas.

The young people’s recommendations covered four broad areas:

  1. The physical space in the AAI should be made more welcoming.
  2. The AAI should send young people information about the Adoption Order hearing before they attend the hearing.
  3. The AAI should consult young people more before and during the Adoption Order hearing.
  4. The AAI should give young people an acknowledgement of their adoption at the hearing.

The actions that the AAI is taking in response to the young people’s recommendations include:

  1. Space
    • The reception area at the AAI has been redecorated to make it brighter and more toys have been added for younger children.
    • The family rooms at the AAI have been redecorated to be less formal and more welcoming.
    • A specific room at the AAI has been decorated for young people.
  2. Information
    • The AAI has developed a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document for young people. This document reflects participating young people’s suggestions about what information the AAI should give to young people before their Adoption Order hearing. The document will be sent to young people when they are invited to their Adoption Order hearing.
    • The Adoption Authority is working on an equivalent document for younger children.
  3. Being heard
    • The young people have a meeting prior to their hearing and are given an opportunity to ask any questions they may have.
    • The young people are offered an opportunity to speak separately to the AAI board members if they wish.
    • A proposal has been put to Tusla to suggest that the young people are offered an appointment with their Tusla social worker 2-3 weeks before their Adoption Order hearing.
  4. Acknowledgement
    • Young people are given a certificate to acknowledge that they attended their Adoption Order hearing.
    • Young people and their families are offered an opportunity to have an official photo taken by the staff in the Adoption Authority, which is then sent to the family.