Speech by Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Adoption of Children Bill (Bill No. 12/2022)
Sir, this Bill will update the regime for the adoption of children.
It’s a step towards helping children identified for adoption find good homes, breaking cycles of abuse and neglect and deterring undesirable behaviours in the adoption sector.
I thank MSF for having held a public consultation and engaged stakeholders in the social and legal sectors in preparation for this Bill. I’m glad that the amendments proposed in this Bill contain suggestions surfaced in those consultations.
I have three points of clarification to raise.
Pre-Adoption Application Requirements
My first point is on the pre-adoption application requirements.
Under section 11, an adoption application may only be made by an individual holding a valid and favourable Adoption Suitability Assessment (ASA).
Can Minister clarify the requirements that must be satisfied by applicants to obtain a favourable ASA? Can Minister further clarify what are the requirements for the simpler ASA for the adoption of a related child?
Under section 22(1), during the relevant period, applicants for an ASA must notify the authorised adoption agency of any material change as soon as practicable.
The relevant period starts on the day of an ASA application and ends the day after an adoption application has been made.
With the child’s welfare as the primary guiding principle in mind, can MSF share how it ensures the continued suitability of applicants after the adoption application has concluded?
In addition, will MSF be releasing guidelines on the administrative requirements, legal processes and the relevant costs involved in the pre-adoption application to provide applicants more guidance?
Dispensation of consent of relevant persons
My second point is on the dispensation of consent of relevant persons.
The Bill allows for the dispensation of consent of relevant persons on the grounds of having ill-treated or failing to provide any suitable care for the child.
I do understand there are diverse views on this issue. Can Minister share how MSF decided on the threshold for the dispensation of consent and also further details on when MSF will consider the dispensation of consent appropriate?
Deterring undesirable behaviours in the adoption sector
My third and last point is about deterring undesirable behaviours in the adoption sector.
Commercial adoption agencies are not directly regulated today. To safeguard the integrity of the adoption process, there should be sufficient mechanisms in place to sanction and deter undesirable behaviours that compromise a child’s welfare.
In this regard, transparency in the amounts paid to adoption agencies will go some way in deterring undesirable behaviours through public scrutiny.
Can Minister share what mechanisms will be in place to enforce the publication of amounts to be paid to or through adoption agencies? What are the penalties for adoption agencies that fail to publish such information?
I also understand there are currently less than 10 private adoption agencies offering different suites of services at varying costs.
Will Minister consider implementing a mandatory accreditation for all adoption agencies to standardise the practice and determine their suitability to operate?
A registry of accredited agencies could be published to recognise those that are committed towards the protection of children under their care. This may give prospective adopters a better peace of mind as they embark on a journey towards parenthood.
In conclusion, I seek Minister’s clarifications on the requirements of the ASA, grounds for dispensation of consent of relevant persons and deterrence of undesirable behaviour in the adoption sector.
Notwithstanding these clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.