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CAROL COULTER, Legal Affairs Editor
Irish Times, Mon, Nov 14, 2011
THE HEALTH Service Executive in Cork has confirmed it paid almost
€420,000 to an adoption agency specialising in adoptions from Vietnam
for 2010, despite the fact that no adoptions from Vietnam had taken
place since 2009. This is double the amount previously reported.
Further State money came to the agency from the National Lottery,
according to the HSE, but it was unable to give any information as to
Adoptions from Vietnam into Ireland were suspended following the lapse
of a bilateral agreement. The Helping Hands Mediation Agency was set up
in 2005 to assist couples adopting from Vietnam, but its authorisation
to work with agencies in Vietnam was withdrawn by the Vietnamese
government following the lapsing of the agreement in May 2009.
Since then the Cork-based agency has continued in existence, and has
sought accreditation as a mediation agency from the Adoption Authority,
established under the 2010 Adoption Act which also ratified the Hague
Convention on Inter-country Adoption. According to the HSE, it continues
to receive queries from couples seeking to adopt. It says it has dealt
with the Vietnamese authorities in relation to outstanding adoptions and
forwarded post-placement reports.
Last month The Irish Times reported that Helping Hands had received
€200,000 for 2010, despite the suspension of adoptions from Vietnam.
This figure was based on internal HSE memos obtained under the Freedom
of Information Act. However, in response to a series of questions from
this newspaper, the HSE in Cork has confirmed that it paid the agency
€280,000 in 2010 and a further €136,780 in 2011, for work carried
out in 2010, amounting to €416,780 for that year.
In a statement to The Irish Times, the HSE said: “The Health Service
Executive has ceased funding the Helping Hands Adoption Mediation Agency
(HHAMA). A meeting took place in late 2010 between the HSE and HHAMA to
review the activities of the agency and to discuss HSE funding.
“The HSE decided to cease funding the agency as there was uncertainty
in regards to the accreditation status of HHAMA under the new Adoption
Authority. This HSE funding was provided to HHAMA for services in
relation to the inter-country adoption agreement between Ireland and
Vietnam in accordance with Irish Adoption Board regulations and
It said that while the agency was unable to carry out mediation/adoption
work, it had a substantial volume of post-placements on its books. The
Adoption Authority confirmed that the process of Helping Hands seeking
accreditation was ongoing.
The authority also stated that post-placement reports on adoptions for
the sending country are not a requirement of the Irish State. It added
that adoptive parents have already paid for the transmission,
translation and notarisation of reports. This raises the question of why
the HSE is providing funding for post-placement reports, if they are not
a requirement of the Irish State and if parents already pay for them.
Chief executive of Helping Hands Sharon O’Driscoll said yesterday she
was not available for comment outside office hours.
Asked to clarify the status of the Helping Hands, the authority stated:
“HHAMA is currently an applicant for accreditation. With regard to the
legitimacy of funding, the accreditation process will consider, inter
alia, the level of funding declared, the sources of that funding,
whether funding is well-managed, whether it relates to legitimate
expenses and expenditure and whether, in the view of funding provided by
State funders, the funds have been properly used and (where appropriate)
have met the terms of any Service Level Agreement that may be in
© 2011 The Irish Times
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