Dáil Éireann - Volume 414 - 10 December, 1991
Adjournment Debate. - Adoption of Romanian Babies.
Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny) Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny)
Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny): Tá mé an bhuíoch go bhfuil an deis seo agam an cheist a phlé leis an Aire because many of us were aware even in a minor way,  the trauma experienced by parents who wished to adopt Romanian babies last summer. The problem arises in relation to any foreign babies who may be adopted later. Those of us who know what went on will recall that it was a trying time for those parents, many of whom had set about the long and arduous task of putting things in order. For some, it was an occasion of great joy when they found that they could go to Romania — during the summer, in particular — and come back with a baby of their own. I suppose we could say also that it was an occasion of joy for the baby in that it would be looked after in a loving and caring home. For others, however, it was not a very enjoyable time; they were near but yet so far. They started preparing the documents early last year and almost adopted a baby.
The reasons for this are that changes were made in Romania and in the Adoption Act passed in the House in May of this year. Up until then prospective adoptive parents could ask a social worker to carry out a family assessment which was acceptable in relation to foreign adoptions. However, under the Adoption Act the health boards have been entrusted with this task. This is fine if the system works but, from my discussions with parents who are anxious to adopt babies, we have a serious problem in Carlow-Kilkenny because it appears no progress is being made. While those two made an application once the Adoption Act was passed received an acknowledgement and were told what would happen, unfortunately no visits or assessments have been carried out. While I accept that it can take between six to 12 months to complete an assessment, given that nothing has happened in the six months since the enactment of the Adoption Act, those parents who, as I said, were sure last summer that they would be in a position to adopt foreign babies must feel very frustrated.
Perhaps the South Eastern Health Board are unique — I am not so sure about this — but it should be pointed out that until the summer social workers did not carry out assessments. These were  carried out by the Church body. The health board social workers were then asked to take over but it seems — I can only go on the information which has been given to me — we have reached an impasse in view of the fact that the social workers are not doing this work because no extra resources have been provided and they are already up to their tonsils with other work.
The matter has to be brought to a head. I hope when the Minister of State replies he will not point out what functions the Adoption Act impose on the health boards and what the health boards must do. I hope also that he will outline what the factual position is in the South-Eastern Health Board, with particular reference to Carlow-Kilkenny and assure me and, more importantly, the parents who have been waiting for a long time that the assessments will be carried out very shortly. If they are not carried out shortly, even if the position in relation to the Romanian basis is clarified in January, it could be well into the summer before they are carried out. Even if they wished to adopt a baby in some other country apart from Romania, it would still be well into the summer before an assessment could be carried out. We are being grossly unfair to the parents concerned as well as I suppose to the babies in foreign countries who are not being well looked after and who could be cared for in nice homes in Ireland. I appeal to the Minister of State to offer some consolation to the parents.
Mr. Flood Mr. Flood
Mr. Flood: The Adoption Act, 1991, requires the health boards to carry out assessments of the suitability of people living within their functional areas who propose to adopt abroad. I am satisfied that the health boards are well aware of their statutory duties under the 1991 Act and that they have been taking appropriate steps to fulfil those duties.
The Adoption Board, who have a central role in the administration of the legislation, have issued detailed guidelines to the health boards and the registered  adoption societies in relation to the procedures to be followed in the assessment of persons for a foreign adoption. These guidelines emphasise that part of the assessment process must involve counselling and advising the proposed adopters on the complexities and potential hazards of inter-country adoption in order to ensure that their decision to adopt is a fully informed decision.
I understand from the South-Eastern Health Board that up to 30 September last they had received 70 requests for assessment from individuals and couples living in their area. The health board are endeavouring to have all the outstanding assessments commenced and completed as expeditiously as possible in accordance with the terms of the guidelines issued by the Adoption Board.
I understand from the South-Eastern Health Board that particular difficulties have arisen in certain areas of their region. These difficulties are partly due to the fact that the health board have not traditionally operated an adoption service in the areas concerned. I have been assured by the health board that they are urgently working to resolve the difficulties. The Adoption Act, 1991, empowers a health board to make arrangements with a registered adoption society to undertake foreign adoption assessments on their behalf and the South-Eastern Health Board are currently exploring this possibility.
My Department are in regular contact with the South-Eastern Health Board with a view to effecting an improvement and are closely monitoring the situation. I intend to involve myself personally in seeking a resolution of this difficulty at the earliest possible date.
Dáil Éireann 414 Adjournment Debate. Adoption of Romanian Babies.