funded despite Vietnam suspension
Legal Affairs Editor
Irish Times, Mon, Oct 10, 2011
THE HEALTH Service
Executive paid more than €200,000 in 2010 to an adoption agency in Cork
which deals with adoptions from Vietnam, despite the fact adoptions from
that country were suspended in May 2009.
The money was paid
through the HSE in Cork to the Cork-based Helping Hands adoption agency, set
up in 2005 to assist couples adopting from Vietnam.
concerning Vietnamese adoptions the bilateral agreement between the two
states lapsed in May 2009. Adoptions from that country have been suspended
since but are likely to resume next year when Vietnam ratifies the Hague
Convention on Inter-country Adoption.
According to an
internal HSE memo dated April 12th, 2010, from finance manager PJ Ronayne to
principal social worker Pat O’Dwyer – obtained under the Freedom of
Information Act – 50 per cent of the first two tranches of €198,800 were
to be paid by May 2010, with the remainder of these tranches to be paid when
a review was complete.
Hands chief executive Sharon O’Driscoll told The Irish Times she
thought the agency got more money in January relating to 2010. She said it
had received money for 2011, but did not know how much. Speaking from her
home, she said: “I don’t have the figures in front of me.”
Asked what the money
was spent on, given adoptions from Vietnam were suspended in 2009, she said:
“We’re still operational. We are sending post-placement reports to
Vietnam.” Applicants were legally bound by Vietnam to do so, she said.
After the suspension,
Helping Hands still had clients going over to collect children in cases
where adoptions were already processed.
In a report prepared
for the HSE on March 31st, 2010, to support the funding request met in
April, Ms O’Driscoll listed the agency’s work between May and December
2009 as including pre-travel courses for 79 applicants, arranging travel to
Vietnam, working on their behalf to finalise adoptions and registering
children with applicants back in Ireland.
In his memo, Mr
Ronayne pointed out that, because of the difficulties with Vietnam, the
Helping Hands licence to operate had been suspended, and he expressed
concern at its work.
“I believe that the
change in status of Vietnamese licence materially impacts the provision of
services for which they are being funded by the HSE. It appears they are
using resources to investigate and research access adoptions in other
countries (Philippines, South Korea, Thailand) . . . However, the timescale
is likely to be well over 12 months you need to satisfy yourself regarding
the appropriate [sic] of using HSE funding in this way,” he said.
After the passing of
the Adoption Act in 2010, incorporating the Hague Convention into Irish law,
the Adoption Authority replaced the Adoption Board and took over a number of
new functions. These include the accreditation of agencies dealing with
Since it was set up in
November 2010 the authority has accredited 11 agencies dealing with
adoption, but not Helping Hands. “We hope to hear about our accreditation
in the next fortnight,” Ms O’Driscoll told The Irish Times.
The HSE memos also
record concerns over the lack of a service level agreement between it and
An e-mail from Albert
O’Donoghue in the Department of Health and Children in June 2009 to Mr
Ronayne asked: “Would you be able to let me know what governance
arrangements are in place with Helping Hands, is there a service level
agreement or contract in place and if so what obligation does it place on
them in terms of reporting to the HSE?”
Helping Hands has
received well over €2 million since 2006.
© 2011 The Irish
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