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Adoptions funded despite suspension

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 the amount.

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was set up in 2005 to assist couples adopting from Vietnam, but its authorisation to work with agencies in Vietnam was withdrawn by the Vietnamese government following the lapsing of the agreement in May 2009.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 requirements.”

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 place.”

2011 The Irish Times

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“In all of us there 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 loneliness." 

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