Saturday, April 10, 2010

Economics 10/04/2010: HSE fails children and families

Updated below

On several occasions last year I wrote about HSE failures to carry out its job and provide requisite follow up support for adoption process in Ireland. This week, the chickens came home to roost for our healthcare bureaucrats. Except, as is usual in such cases, it is not the bureaucrats who are bearing the cost of such gross failure to do their job, but ordinary families and children.

A disclaimer is due - this is not an academic analysis post. It is an angry post.

Since at least May 2009, HSE was on the notice that it is failing to comply with the documentation support required by Russian authorities in the cases of cross-border adoptions of Russian children. The Ministers for Children and Health were fully aware of the situation.

The problem is a simple one. After a Russian child is adopted into Ireland (or any country for that matter), the agency supporting the adoption (in the case of Ireland - HSE monopoly behemoth, plus a small organization relating to the Church of Ireland - PACT) must supply a report on how the kids are adapting to their new family and environs. It is a brief standardized assessment document and HSE is required to collect and transmit it to the Russian authorities. HSE has staff on its usual lavish pay who are responsible for doing the work. It has managers, on an even more lavish pay, who are responsible for making sure the process is adhered to. There is no nuclear science involved. Just a routine follow up.

Unlike PACT (which appears to be fully compliant), HSE has simply decided not to do its job. Yes, this is exactly what they did. Since May 2009 the HSE has failed to provide the Russian authorities and the Irish adoptive parents with any information as to when and how the HSE will comply with the international obligation. Adopting couples - years into the process and even those already approved by the Russian authorities - were stonewalled by the HSE. In other words - the usual practices of 'do nothing, say nothing' that marks HSE work in virtually all areas of its responsibilities has been applied.

Between 50 and 70 reports were not submitted to the Russian authorities over a couple of years, prompting last May a blacklisting of Ireland by Russian adoption agencies. The blacklisting was not enforced by Moscow in order to give HSE enough time to comply. 9 months later, with no progress from HSE, and actually nearly total stonewalling by HSE not only of the Irish families, but also of the Russian authorities, Moscow's patience has run out. Thus, last week, HSE regional bodies responsible for providing adoption support were blacklisted by Russia again, preventing hundreds of families from proceeding with adopting children.

At the same time, tiny PACT seems to have been able to do their job and avoid blacklisting. Despite not having all the vast resources of HSE nor the Department of Health.

I have no personal interest in the adoption process. But, like any normal person in the country, I have a general human interest in seeing families being able to adopt kids who are in the need of having a proper family. I do have a number of friends who either have adopted kids from different parts of the world or who are currently in the process of adopting kids (so I can see the great potential these fantastic people bring to the lives of formerly orphaned children). And as a fellow human being, I cannot stomach an unaccountable bureaucracy, like HSE, standing between these families, these kids and their dreams.

More than anything else in these times of the crises, the callousness, the laziness and the arrogance of some of our official bodies responsible for adoption highlight the need for a deep reform in this country's public sector. Those in HSE, who failed to do their jobs must be fired, barred for life from ever taking another public sector job and left pension-less, for their victims are the most vulnerable people in this world - innocent children and fantastic families that go though years of hard work to adopt them.

Update: per readers tip-offs (hat tip to B & A), The Minister for Children, Barry Andews TD has presided over the de facto closing of the intercountry adoption in this country. On his watch, China, Vietnam, and Russia all have either seen their adoption treaties with Ireland expire or not complied with. Mr Andrews was fully aware of the problems in the cases of Russia and Vietnam treaties since Spring 2009 and despite having assured the adoptive parents that the issues will be resolved has, so far, failed to do much about it.

The Adoption Board itself has apparent difficulties communicating with the adoptive parents and the broader public. The latest Annual Report the organization has bothered to issue dates back to 2008. This document represents the latest public communication from the Board available on its site. Done truly in HSE's best traditions of public communications, then.


Anonymous said...

The Adoption Services have been underfunded for years hence the long waits for assesments. What you need to understand is that deep down, many of the people who work in that area,like the social workers, are essentially against adoption. They have a largely ideological belief that it is wrong to remove the children from their own "culture" (leaving aside that this often means living in a fairly ghastly orphanage) and a subsequent life of poverty, low education and poor health. Would-be adoptive parents are forced to go through an arduous, invasive assessment to determine their suitability - as decided by these self-appointed experts.

Anonymous said...

This is just typical of the level of service we see from the HSE.

The joke now is that Barry Andrew is trying to enact the new Adoption Bill to make sure Ireland is Hague compliant - yet we cannot even comply with a simple request to provide Post Placement Report.

Barry Andrew's by his in action has also reduced the number of countries that applicants can adopt from and now Russia. Going forward he will only let applicants adopt from Hague compliant countries - I say get your own house in order before you start preaching to other countries .....

laughingbear said...


My jaw hit the desk when I read about it. This is yet another indictor of the "New Ireland" the forces at play are carving here. If I were to express my true feelings about these matters, I am afraid my words would just slip into a dockers realm of foul language, so I decided to bring another typical HSE example here instead from real life.

I cannot stomach an unaccountable bureaucracy, like HSE...

My Partner works since a long time as a personal care assistant for the elderly people. Last year, she got a phone call from her boss at HSE, advising her not to use as many pampers anymore on her incontinence clients!

I admit, at first I thought my partner would take the Mickey on me, she did not!

Anonymous said...

What about ensuring that the children are happy and safe? The HSE are far from perfect but you must consider why these adoptive parents aren't supplying the relevant information. You need "invasive assessments" so that situations like what happened in America this week don't happen.

And foreign adoptions do fail in Ireland - these are the forgotten children who end up in the care system - you don't see it on the front page of the Irish Times. Suddenly these children aren't so important after all when they give a bit of trouble, as is likely to happen with any traumatised child.

The right thing to do is support the natural parents in Russia, Vietnam etc through child sponsorship, rather than removing a child unneccessarily from his/her country and culture.

We have a lot to learn about the true nature of children's rights in this country.

TrueEconomics said...

Anonymous, yes, we must be concerned for adopted children.

This is the point of the follow up assessment. So, as you can see, the problem with HSE failing to carry out its job is magnified.

Failures of some (how many?) foreign adoptions in Ireland is a risk. It should be addressed. But presence of a risk does not imply that there is a need for abandoning the process of adoption.

Some of this risk, I would suspect, can be effectively mitigated through the proper follow up process as well. Instead of letting problems build up, a regular and properly carried out assessments can help adoptive parents and children to identify any potential difficulties earlier on. These can then be dealt with, via preventative resolution, before they escalate. So again, your own logic suggests that HSE failure to do its job only magnifies the problems for kids (awaiting adoption and already adopted, and parents).

As per idea of supporting natural parents in Russia. As a charitable action this is wonderful and I would applaud people who choose to help. But as a state-sponsored act - via traditional Irish charities reliance on public funding - it is dubious in efficiency and moral reasoning. For example, it would compel at least some families in this country in the need of help themselves to subsidise foreign families.

In addition, you seem to forget that there is another party to adoption process - the adoptive parents. How is your suggestion to aid natural parents matching their dreams of having a family?

Lastly, what would you prescribe for Russian kids who have lost their parents? Or for kids whose parents are abandoning them not because of financial constraints, but due to erroneous moral choices?

Absent adoption, with your suggested natural parenting supports, would you be consigning such children to loveless and family-less existence?

At any rate, we are not dealing here with adoptions from private families - we are dealing here with adoptions from orphanages. Get out of that 'if only... then...' corner and face the music. Russian orphanages are full of children with no parents. And there are tens of thousands of kids living rough - not in orphanages and not in families. You can see them on the outskirts of many Russian cities. Helping natural parents won't do anything for them.

As per your last comment... sure, you are right in this statement. Except it is largely irrelevant to this issue. We are talking about families that have been vetted through a very rigorous, years-long process. They have proven that they are in stable, life-long committed relationships, with good potential (moral, ethical, financial, emotional - you name it) to raise kids.

It is extremely unlikely that these families should be amongst those who will have 'to learn the true nature of children's rights'.

More likely, these families will provide a good loving home for children who desperately need one. Allowing them to do so - and actually helping them to do so - is the right thing to do! It may be not the only right thing to do, as your comment suggests, but that is an issue for another discussion.

Anonymous said...

"The right thing to do is support the natural parents in Russia, Vietnam etc through child sponsorship, rather than removing a child unneccessarily from his/her country and culture.
Indeed....but if this doesnt work, what then? And tell me, what "culture" does a toddler ahve?

The HSE REFUSE to do the PPR's. Parents have to practically BEG them to do these postplacement reports. FFS.....

TrueEconomics said...

Anonymous: it is an interesting point.

A toddler hardly has any national identity whatsoever. Once the child is growing up, her or his cultural make up is a function of their own choices, parental inputs, cultures to which they are exposed, etc. The core issue cannot and should not be an issue of culture. It should be an issue of freedom to pursue ones own happiness and ones own choices in life (within constraints of morally permissible, of course).

A child deserves a future, a loving family and a shot at having her or his dreams realised.

Anything else - culture, society, state, citizenship and so on is purely secondary to these. It is deeply disturbing to think of a child as being somehow tied to a country (or a state). I thought we dealt away with this idea back with the abolition of slavery... at least as far as non-totalitarian states go.

Last week, there was a reminder of the horrific aftermath that ideological adherence to state boundaries when it comes to children future can bring.

Cuban authorities have decided to show their 'property' to the world - Elian Gonzalez. The 160year old kid, brainwashed by Fidel's great propaganda machine (oops, should we call that 'culture'?) was photographed by state media wearing an olive-green military school uniform and attending a Young Communist Union congress.

Just over 10 years ago, when he was 5, Elian was found floating off the coast of Florida in an inner tube after his mother drowned trying to reach the US fleeing Cuba. Elian's father, who was separated from his mother, had remained in Cuba and waged a custody battle - backed by the Cuban regime.

His relatives refused to give him up, so US Federal agents raided the home of his uncle with guns drawn 10 years ago this month. Deemed to be subject of his native 'culture and country' the kid was expatriated to the care of the 'natural' parent. Who promptly surrendered him to the Cuban military boarding school.

At no point in time did any official in the US (forget Cuba) gave a damn about the kid's future. They simply handed him over to the regime which is responsible for silencing free thought, has no respect for freedom of speech, has no real protection for basic human rights of its subjects...

Russia is not a totalitarian state, of course. But that does not change the fact that child's happiness and future must be overriding considerations for any policy. Not some absurd ideas about 'his/her country and culture'!

cormac said...

Thank you Constantin for providing such a clear advocacy of intercountry adoption, and of the bureaucratic hurdles faced by Irish people seeking to adopt. As adoptive parents we have spent over 8 years at getting six monthly Garda clearances (which are usually typed incorrectly and have to be re-requested), health reports, financial reports and various nonsense affidavits about whatever part of us the authorities here or in sending countries require. We have been tested for HIV and various other diseases. Having adopted a child from China, and wasted years waiting for a child for Vitenam before Minister Andrews closed that option, we are seeking to adopt from South Africa. South Africa requires four post placement reports and the HSE are refusing to confirm that they will provide such reports - a precondition to our application. We have therefore sourced a private social worker to commit to providing such reports. This is a great example of why as much of the public sector as possible should be privatised. But dont expect the public sector 'regulators' like the adoption board to up their game, like their cousins in financial services regulation, health insurance regulation and every other half baked regulator in this country. For all the nonsense adopting a child has been the greatest thing I have ever done in my life and I thrill at the opportunity to do so again. With alot of the reality of racial and other intolerances being all too evident maybe being a muticultural family will help people we know at least consider how they feel about 'foreigners'. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The Elian Gonzalez case is not relevant to the adoption issue - he was not an orphan and his father was willing to look after him. And as far as I recall, it was his relatives in the US who involved politicians in the case.

Similar cases happen:-

A Mum said...

I wanted to add my thanks to Dr. Gurdgiev for his passionate response to the HSE/Russian adoption debacle. I am an incredible proud adoptive mother, my beautiful daughter was born in Russia and since she came into my life she has filled it joy and love. She too is full of love and five years on from when I first held her as a 18mth old she still asks to be held tightly in my arms as you would hold a baby, when I asked her recently why she likes it she told me " it's because that's when I first knew you loved me". It goes without saying that in a just world every child deserves that, but sadly we're not there yet. But we can at least work to prevent more children growing up in a loveless environment. In response to the comments about adoption taking children away from their culture etc., the people who make these comments can have no knowledge of the importance of bonding and attachment on the human brain - a child who fails to form a secure attachment with a loving carer may never learn to love themselves or another human being never mind their country or culture! I agree with Dr. Gurdgiev all that comes later. The adoption process here is rigorous and long - unlike some of the cases we have recently heard about from the USA, where six months after first thinking about adoption you can be on your way to meet a child. Most families adopting these children in Ireland have spent years considering all the implications beforehand and will spend many more afterwards helping to heal some of the wounds that abandonment can inflict and forging links for our children with their culture and birth country. It makes me so angry and so sad to think that once again bureaucratic failure will result in a slow down or total halt of intercountry adoption. Adoption may not be the only solution to help abandoned children everywhere but it is one solution and while while countries are dragging their feet implementing 'schemes' to provide Post Placement Reports or 'support the natural families', there are tens of thousands of children in Russia and elsewhere missing milestones, failing to thrive and rocking themselves to sleep tonight!