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2014 Press Releases

Conference to redefine adoption

19 Aug 2014
University College Cork (image by Tomas Tyner, UCC)

A two-day international conference to be held in UCC this September entitled ‘Redefining adoption in a new era: Opportunities and challenges for law and practice’ features Philomena Lee among its speakers.

The conference is the result of a joint partnership between the School of Applied Social Studies and the Faculty of Law, UCC. 

Philomena Lee, whose moving story of the search for her son inspired the recent movie ‘Philomena’, will contribute to the conference on 4-5 September 2014, as will Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance and experts Dr Pien Bos of the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht, the Netherlands, Dr Peter Selman, Newcastle University, Nigel Cantwell of UNICEF and Her Honour Judge Rosemary Horgan, President of the District Court, amongst others.

The full programme can be accessed as a download here.

Adoption law and practice in Ireland has been undergoing a significant period of transition in recent times, particularly with the onset of the children’s rights movement. While it has always been a sensitive issue which has generated much political controversy, debate and discussion, the conference seeks to reframe adoption law and practice in light of changing cultural contexts and differing family structures with a specific focus on children’s rights.

This interdisciplinary and international conference will provide a forum for international debate and discussion on this critical issue as well a platform for sharing specialist knowledge and experiences.

Rapid cultural and legal changes coupled with differences in societal attitudes are amongst the major influences on adoption law and practice. Indeed, the latter is clear from the passing of last year’s referendum on children’s rights (currently subject to Supreme Court appeal) and the on-going debate on same-sex marriage. These unprecedented legal changes all have knock on effects.

UCC Law lecturer Dr Aisling Parkes, one of the conference convenors along with UCC’s Dr Simone McCaughren, School of Applied Social Studies, comments that the face of international adoption is also changing quickly.

“Although relatively recent, the Adoption Act 2010 (a consolidated version of its predecessor with some minor reforms) is outdated by international comparison. Moreover, it is inconsistent with Irish Adoption practice.”

“It is imperative that the necessary reform of adoption law is informed by best practice worldwide and the experiences of stakeholders and professionals working in the field. This conference will be comparative in nature, tapping into existing knowledge from other jurisdictions that have already addressed some of these challenging areas", said Dr Parkes.

Nick King will also be among those sharing their insight. Nick lives on the south coast of England with his husband. They have two adopted children, an eight-year-old son and four-year-old daughter. Nick sits as an Independent Member of Bournemouth’s Adoption Panel and with his partner provides mentoring and training for prospective adopters for a number of agencies. He blogs and tweets about his unconventional family’s adoption journey and their day-to-day life (@Nickking).

Dr Peter Selman is editor of Intercountry Adoption; Development, trends and perspectives (BAAF, 2000) and has written many articles and chapters on adoption policy. His main research focus in recent years has been on the demography of child adoption with a special emphasis on intercountry adoption. He has made regular presentations on this topic at international conferences and he has acted as research consultant to international organisations such as the UN Population Division, the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the Innocenti Research Centre in Florence.

Dr Pien Bos has has previously worked as co-ordinator for the Association Worldchildren, an NGO for child-welfare and inter-country adoption in The Hague. She also co-ordinated the Roots Information Centre in the Netherlands, a centre for adoptees who seek information about their background and/or biological family. She has completed post-doc research on the decision-making processes of mothers and relinquishment of a child in the Netherlands. She started a research project in late 2011 on mothers in Vietnam who relinquished a child for adoption.

Nigel Cantwell is an international consultant on Child Protection Policy.

Further bios and details on the specific topics to be presented by each speaker will shortly be available. The hashtag for the event is #adoptconfUCC14

To register for the conference and to view conference fees (free to full-time students), which takes place on 4th and 5th September in UCC’s Brookfield Health Sciences Complex, see

Registration queries should be addressed to Noreen Delea, Events Manager, Law Dept. UCC ( or 021-4903220).

CPD Certificates are available for this event, which is supported by the Irish Research Council.

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