By Elish O'Regan
July 27, 2009 / independent.ie
Steps are underway to reduce the often-gruelling waiting times faced by people hoping to adopt a child. People wanting to adopt are facing years of delays in some cases, before their applications and assessments are finalised.
Children's Minister Barry Andrews has revealed couples can wait 20 months before their application is activated, facing more delay once the process begins.
"The length of the assessment process can vary depending on the circumstances of each case, bearing in mind the best interests of the child", he said.
He added that the Health Service Executive is introducing a new system to be rolled out nationally, aimed at reducing the waiting lists by over 35pc in the next year.
"Under this new system, which was introduced in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow in September 2008, applicants are invited to provide all their documentation at the point of application.
"These are then screened by the administration and social work teams to highlight any areas of concern as quickly as possible.
"This allows suitable prospective applicants the opportunity to progress their application while others who are less suitable are fully informed before proceeding.
"The results collected in the last 10 months point to a reduction in waiting times from the current 20 months to 11 months by June 2010", he said in a recent parliamentary question reply.
Other measures underway include monthly information meetings, where people thinking of adoption are told of the eligibility criteria to ensure they meet basic requirements before applying, ensuring that those applicants who are eligible and suitable are being given a more speedy service.
"In 2007, 1,974 prospective applicants who made enquiries were invited to these information meetings and 275 new applications were made. In 2008, 1,083 prospective applicants were invited and 234 new applications were made", he added.
As part of the Adoption Bill some of the assessment of applicants will be outsourced to accredited agencies.
He said this would allow for the reduction of waiting times in those areas where the waiting times are longest.
Meanwhile, further talks are to take place next month to finalise a new adoption agreement between Ireland and Vietnam.
All new referrals from Ireland were stopped since May 1 leaving hundreds of couples in limbo.
The minister acknowledged that requests to adopt children abroad are continuously increasing and Ireland currently has one of the highest rates for inter-country adoption in Europe.