Dáil Éireann - Volume 537 - 31 May, 2001

Written Answers. - Foreign Adoptions.

106. Mrs. Owen asked the Minister for Health and Children if any discussions have taken place with social workers with a view to having assessments for foreign adoptions carried out in the Eastern Regional Health Authority area by social workers from other areas where waiting lists are not so long. [16400/01]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): I am advised by the Eastern Regional Board Health Authority, ERHA, that the issue of carrying out assessments in the region by social workers from the three adjacent health boards ie South-Eastern Health Board, Midland Health Board and the North-Eastern Health Board was looked into late last year and that none of the boards were in a position to carry out assessments due to their own waiting lists. Voluntary agencies were also contacted and all indicated that they could not help, with the exception of PACT, who agreed with the health board to carry out a limited number of assessments for couples who have an affinity with the Church of Ireland and associated churches.

[986] I am very conscious of the need to reduce time spent by couples on waiting lists for assessment for intercountry adoptions. The number of applications for assessment has been increasing steadily over the last five years. One of the main findings of the report “Towards a Standardised Framework for Intercountry Adoption Assessment Procedures” published in July 1999 was the variations in time to complete assessment of couples for intercountry adoption in different health board areas. Over the past three years I have allocated additional funding aimed at reducing time spent on waiting lists by couples awaiting intercountry adoption assessment in all health board areas.

I understand from the ERHA that the additional funding it received has enabled a number of initiatives to take place that have resulted in a noticeable decline in both the projected waiting time for assessment and a decrease in the numbers waiting to commence assessment.

These initiatives have included increasing the number of whole time equivalent social workers staff increased from eight at end of March 2000 to 12 at end of December 2000; efforts are being made to employ more social workers for which sanction has been received from my Department; the introduction in January this year of a one-stop-shop facility in Dartmouth House to increase capacity for holding office based interviews and reduce the time that social workers spend travelling to and from client visits; assigning five new administrative personnel in 2000 to provide support for social workers with regard to administrative tasks. This has freed social workers to concentrate on assessments, post placement reports and other appropriate work.

Last year I launched a standardised framework for assessment that is now being used in all health boards. The purpose is to streamline assessment processes so that resources are used effectively and to provide a transparent system that can be understood by all of the parties.