Social workers miss intercountry adoption applications targets

Relates to:
Date: 2009-05-24
Source: sbpost.ie

Social workers involved in intercountry adoption are missing targets for processing adoption applications, leading to long delays for people seeking to adopt children.

Health Service Executive (HSE) figures seen by The Sunday Business Post show that the 40 social workers who concentrate on intercountry adoptions carried out 546 assessments of people seeking to be approved for adoption last year.

That is an average of 13 assessments each, or just over one per month - far below the official target of 18 to 24 assessments per social worker, as outlined in a HSE report that was produced in 2000.

The intercountry adoption process has been heavily criticised in recent weeks. Russian authorities have blacklisted Ireland due to delays in processing paperwork, and the government is being criticised for failing to renegotiate a bilateral agreement with Vietnam.

HSE figures also show huge regional variations in waiting times.

People in the east of the country are routinely waiting four years before they receive what is called an declaration of eligibility and suitability from the HSE.

Barry Andrews, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, has said many parents feel the system is riddled with ‘‘bureaucratic inertia’’.

Andrews said applications should be assessed within two years and has vowed to speed up the process.

The International Adoption Association (IAA), an Irish based non-profit organisation, has plans to set up an independent agency that would carry out assessments on people seeking to adopt children. Andrews said he was ‘‘very open’’ to the idea.

Shane Downer, chief executive of the IAA, said the HSE waiting times were unacceptable. ‘‘The question is whether they have sufficient resources and are those resources being managed properly,” he said.

Separately, Andrews has written to Vietnamese authorities formally requesting a transitional agreement for intercountry adoptions. The previous bilateral agreement with Vietnam expired on May 1 and no new agreement replaced it, causing concern for many people who had hoped to adopt from Vietnam.

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