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20 Irish couples still waiting to adopt Vietnamese children

By Conall O Fátharta

Irish Examiner, Wednesday, December 30, 2009

NO time scale has been set for the processing of 20 adoptions agreed between the Irish and Vietnamese authorities.

Following the collapse of the agreement between the two countries last May, the Office of the Children’s Minister persuaded Vietnamese authorities to allow 20 couples, whose applications had been fully processed by Hanoi, to travel to Vietnam and adopt. It is thought Vietnam agreed to the move as a "goodwill" gesture. 

However, this process was also delayed, reportedly due to a lack of expertise available to the Irish Adoption Board, following the revocation of the licence of Helping Hands agency. 

According to statement released on behalf of Minister for Children Barry Andrews the situation concerning these 20 couples remains unclear. 

"The minister has already indicated that he is reviewing the ISS Report and its implications. The particular situation of the 20 applications already in the Department of International Adoptions in Hanoi will be considered in that context, having regard to the advanced stage of the process of these applications," the statement read. 

Given concerns expressed by the minister about the contents of Unicef’s International Social Services report (ISS) in relation to adoption practices in Vietnam, it seems unusual that the Government pushed for the 20 applications to be processed in the first place. 

As well as adoption procedures in Vietnam, the ISS report also singles out Irish mediation agency Helping Hands. 

The report questioned the make-up of the agency’s fee of $11,100, (€7,286) of which $9,000 consists of "humanitarian aid". The ISS report took issue with the way an increase of $1,000 in the agency’s adoption fee was reported to the Adoption Board as a required "fee" by Vietnamese authorities when, in fact, it was not a fee but part of the humanitarian aid component of the total cost charged by the agency. 

Despite the concerns, it remains unclear as to whether the agency is now under investigation by the Adoption Board on foot of the ISS report. 

The Department of Health and Children said it had not been in contact with Helping Hands but said it understood that the Adoption Board was investigating the matters raised by the ISS report with the agency. 

"The department has not been in contact with Helping Hands regarding the report. 

"It is a matter for the Adoption Board who maintain the Register of Adoption Societies and on which Helping Hands is registered. 

"The Department understands that the Adoption Board is investigating the matters raised in relation to Helping Hands," a statement read. 

However, this view is at odds with that of chief executive of Helping Hands, Sharon O’Driscoll, who has denied that the agency was under investigation by the Adoption Board as a result of the ISS findings.

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