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HSE gave funds to
unaccredited adoption agency
By Conall Ó Fátharta
Irish Examiner, Monday, May 28, 2012
The HSE has continued to fund an adoption agency despite it not being
accredited to carry out any adoption services since Nov 2010.
The HSE confirmed the Helping Hands Mediation Agency, based in Cork, was
funded to the tune of €35,000 in 2012.
The HSE previously stated it had ceased funding the agency in Oct 2011.
However, in a statement the HSE said the money was for the finalisation
of works already committed to before Nov 2010 and which was carried out
"All this has now been completed so no further funding will be
issued to them unless they receive accreditation," the HSE said.
It has previously been reported that the HSE paid almost €420,000 for
work carried out in 2010. This was broken up into two payments of
€280,000 in 2010 and €136,780 in 2011. The agency has also received
funding from the National Lottery in the past.
Founded it 2005 by Sharon O’Driscoll, a former member of the Adoption
Board, Helping Hands was initially accredited to act as a mediation
agency for couples wishing to adopt from Vietnam.
However, its authorisation to work in the country was withdrawn by the
Vietnamese government following the lapsing of its bilateral agreement
with Ireland in May 2009.
Ireland chose not to resume the agreement following concerns about
adoption practices in the country raised in Unicef’s International
Social Services report published in November of the same year.
Helping Hands was specifically singled out for criticism in the report
for the fees it charged potential adoptive parents.
The agency is still in operation but has not yet been accredited by the
Adoption Authority (AAI) under the Adoption Act. Despite this, it has
continued to be funded by the HSE.
Arc Adoption is the only agency accredited by the AAI to work with
Vietnam. This has been forwarded by the AAI to the Vietnamese
authorities for approval. Arc Adoption has received no funding from the
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, the chief executive of Helping Hands,
Sharon O’Driscoll, said the funding was for the transmission,
translation, and notarisation of post-placement reports on adoptions for
Vietnam. She said the agency carried out 1,622 such reports in 2011.
"You need office facilities and have to pay people and cover
overheads to do that. The board of Helping Hands is fully committed to
an ethical and transparent adoption process."
"We are very genuine in our work. Every record is scanned into a
database so that there is a computer and paper record. In the future, if
any adopted person wants to access it, then a complete record is there
for them," Ms O’Driscoll said.
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is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are
and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there
is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting
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