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Adopted people wait 2 years to see social workers

JAMIE SMYTH Social Affairs Correspondent

Irish Times, Sat, Apr 17, 2010

ADOPTED PEOPLE can face delays of up to 2 years before they can get an appointment with a social worker to begin tracing their natural parents due to staff shortages and a lack of funding.

Birth parents hoping to trace the 42,000 children put up for adoption in Ireland since 1952 can also face similar delays when they approach private adoption agencies or the HSE to start a trace.

The longest waiting list identified by The Irish Times is at the Cunamh adoption agency, formerly known as the Catholic Protection and Rescue Society of Ireland. People currently have to wait up to 2 years for an appointment to begin tracing their parent or adopted children.

The waiting list at St Catherine’s Adoption Society in Clare is 18 months, while delays of up to two years are expected for people applying to the HSE in Cork.

Some HSE local area health offices such as Wicklow do not even have a single social worker dedicated to information and tracing at the moment. Other HSE health offices, such as Mayo and Carlow, face significant demand for services, which has pushed waiting times out to a year and eight months respectively.

In the Republic adopted people have no legal entitlement to their birth certificate or information in their adoption file, which would help them to trace their natural parents. However, they can apply to their adoption agency to help them find parents and relatives.

The level of service offered by different adoption agencies varies considerably across the State.

“I am very concerned waiting times are increasing. We know of cases where people have died while still on waiting lists hoping to contact relatives,” said Bernie Harold, chairwoman of the Natural Parents Network of Ireland – a group that supports parents who have lost children to adoption.

Ms Harold said one of the biggest problems was that the Government has not put information and tracing on a statutory footing in the new Adoption Bill. “This means it is not given the same priority as other adoption services, including assessing parents who want to adopt children,” she said.

The HSE has the equivalent of 33 full-time posts dedicated to providing information and tracing services. But not all of the local HSE health offices have a social worker due to staff shortages and resources. For example the single social worker dedicated to tracing in Wicklow left her post in August 2009 and has not been replaced due to the public service recruitment embargo, according to e-mails from the Adoption Board seen by The Irish Times .

Aidan Waterstone, HSE director of childcare services, said adoption services fall within the unit dealing with welfare of children and it was a question of competing resources.

“Under statute we have to prioritise the welfare of children and we also have to prioritise the use of resources. The priority must be children immediately at risk,” he said.

Sheila Gallagher, chairwoman of the Council of Irish Adoption Agencies, said there was a need for new legislation to be enacted to provide adopted people with a statutory right to information and tracing services.

“This right exists in Northern Ireland and Britain. But it is not included in the Government’s new Adoption Bill,” she added.

Cunamh, the adoption agency formerly called the Catholic Protection and Rescue Society of Ireland, said yesterday it had a “big resources problem” relating to information and tracing services.

A Cunamh spokeswoman said it is the biggest Irish adoption agency handling 15,000 files.

2010 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." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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