This post is not about economics, though my old prof Gary Becker might disagree... It is about a monumental screw up that is our system of family support and the horror of the HSE monopoly in adoption process administration. And it makes me absolutely sick to think that there are thousands of couples in this country - either in the process of adoption or thinking about starting on that long road - who are being failed by the HSE, the Irish state and our politicians.
Here is the story.
Over the last 5 years almost 75% of all inter-country adoptions into Ireland came from three countries: Russia, Vietnam and China. Several of my friends have happily adopted kids from all three of these countries, giving both the adoptive parents and the children a real future as families. At present some 1,000 Irish families are seeking to adopt from Russia and Vietnam.
By my personal experience of seeing homeless kids in Russia, I know that there are tens of thousands of small children without parents in Russia who are facing years of hardship and very few opportunities to have a successful, fulfilling life. They need love, they need a family, and they need a chance to have a future.
Thus, in harsh econospeak - there is supply and demand. In human terms, the future of kids and adoptive parents is at stake here. You can - and should - get the feel for the issue of human hurt and suffering this HSE-screw up is causing here.
The interim bilateral agreement between Ireland and Vietnam expired on May 1 this year - another present of this Government, on top of higher tax levies, stolen mortgage relief and extorted child benefits, that came our way that day. No new agreement has been signed or, as far as we know, even prepared. The Irish authorities, also to the best of our knowledge, are the sticking point here, despite the fact that they knew of the expiry date well in advance. Irish authorities have managed to send a lowly case worker to Vietnam to sort out the issue of a new agreement - a bizarre twist of protocol and managerial logic. Instead of a decision maker, we sent a clerk.
Now, Russia - as the adoption country - has been also shut down because HSE cannot be bothered to adhere to the legal conditions imposed by the Russian authorities on adopting countries. The procedure is a simple one and a logical one. As a part of the adoption process, Russians would like to know that the kids are doing well in their families and in the new country. Thus, the adopting country is required to submit updates on the kids conditions, health, etc. In the case of Ireland-Russia adoption process, this procedure has been in place for 4 years. However, this year, the HSE - the organization with a state-run monopoly power in the adoption process - simply failed to deliver such reports.
In my conversations with the office of Barry Andrews, Minister for Children, I was unable to obtain a clear (let alone convincing) explanation as to what exactly has happened, but to the best of my understanding, HSE simply failed to collect post-adoption reports and send them to Moscow. My conversation with a contact in HSE revealed that they simply "couldn't be arsed to follow up on the process". Just like that - 'we didn't feel like doing it'... And when I suggested to Barry Andrews' office that there should be someone responsible for the mess, the story got even more confusing. I was told that HSE is not even sure it can compel the parents (at the first mention) or its own social case workers (at the second mention) to collect such reports. Not even sure? Four years after the condition was imposed and after three years of complying with the condition?
Here is what we should know and yet we do not know (courtesy of the HSE, Dept of Health, Adoption Board and so on):
- We have no idea how many post-placement reports are outstanding in the case of Russia;
- We have no idea if HSE is even doing anything to rectify the situation (Russian authorities have told me - and I have no reason to question their sincerity - that Russia is ready to restore full adoption process with Ireland as soon as the post placement reports are delivered. HSE cannot tell me anything!);
- Is there an actual copy of a legal agreement with Russia in existence and if yes, why is it not posted on the HSE and Adoption Board websites? Why are the prospective and adoptive parents not given a copy of such an agreement as it stipulates their fundamental rights and duties?
- Is Ireland ever going to conclude bilateral agreement on adoption with Russia? Will Ireland be in a position to renew the expired bilateral agreement with Vietnam?
- Why there has been no high level delegation to Vietnam to renew the bilateral agreement?
- Why doesn't the Adoption Board extend the validity of adoption applications while this mess continues, so that prospective parents whose declarations expire during the time it takes HSE to get its head out of its posterior are not required to go through a renewal process again?
Clearly, there is an argument to be made here, that what Ireland needs is a well-regulated, competitive system for assessment and processing of adoption cases. In other countries, such a system exists. Hence, for example, the same Russian document that blacklists HSE also blacklists some privately run organizations operating the adoption system in the US. Of course, American adoptive parents have a choice to continue with the adoption process via another agency. Irish adoptive parents have only one choice of waiting for the demi-Gods of HSE to, as I put it earlier, pull their head out of their postrerior.
At the rollercoster site: here, you can find an open letter on the issue (search for the post by blmf ID:- 27687 Date:- 02/05/2009 15:14). I would suggest we all send a copy to that list of our TDs.