Question to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs (Ms Frances Fitzgerald, TD)
To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs in respect of inter country adoptions, if she will provide an update on the accreditation of adoption agencies; the measures she is taking facilitate these agencies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer T.D.
For WRITTEN answer on Thursday, 18th July, 2013.
The Adoption Authority of Ireland is the central authority in Ireland for intercountry adoption. Agencies are accredited by the Adoption Authority to provide mediation services in relation to intercountry adoption to assist prospective adoptive parents with the adoption process in respect of particular countries. The operation of such bodies is seen as an additional safeguard for countries in the conduct of the adoption process and is considered good practice by the Hague authorities. Monitoring and oversight of these agencies is solely a matter for the Adoption Authority.
There are currently three agencies accredited by the Adoption Authority for intercountry adoption purposes. All three were established on a non-profit basis and, although accredited by the Adoption Authority, they are not public bodies. The financial model underpinning the operation of these agencies was based upon the recoupment of costs from prospective adoptive parents at the different stages of the process. However, due to trends in adoption world wide, the numbers of adoptions upon which the plans and financial projections of these agencies were developed have not materialised. International developments have also seen an increase in the time taken to complete an adoption. These trends and developments have raised questions for the sustainability of these agencies in their current format.
I have met with these agencies and discussed the situation. My interest, which is shared by the agencies, is to achieve a solution which responds to the current situation but also assists in introducing the changes required to resolve the underlying issues of sustainability. My Department has now undertaken an examination of the policy considerations relating to agencies accredited for mediation purposes and the operational and financial situation of the three agencies. Government has considered the conclusions of this examination. An important conclusion reached is that there is a strong public policy rationale for public funding contributing towards core organisation costs of mediation services as part of a mixed system of funding. This mixed funding would also entail the recoupment of specific costs from prospective adoptive parents reflecting the level of service provision related to individual cases. A commitment in principle to public funding is an important development since up to now the provision of funding has been once-off and temporary in nature. Such a commitment recognises the additional safeguards which such accredited agencies provide in the conduct of the adoption process. It also recognises that increasingly countries of origin require that adoptions are mediated through accredited bodies.
However, public funding also demands that organisational arrangements provide value for money and avoid unnecessary duplication. Therefore, Government has also agreed that significant cost efficiencies on the current three agency model are required. The decline in the numbers of children eligible for adoption and the responsibility to ensure effective use of public funding for core organisational costs mean significant revision to current arrangements will need to be introduced in the coming months to reduce duplication or unnecessary expenditure.
In the context of the need for reforms to be introduced in this area I have sought and received Government approval to provide transitional funding to the end of 2013 to the three existing agencies, in advance of the development and implementation of revised arrangements next year which will provide a more sustainable model for the future. Provision of this funding is based upon the positive participation of the agencies in developing the revised arrangements.
I am very happy to advise that the agencies have willingly given commitments to actively engage in developing revised arrangements and my Department, the Adoption Authority and the HSE are working closely with the agencies on a revised model with the objective of introducing new arrangements from 2014. Enhanced cooperation between the three agencies is also to be welcomed.
Further detailed work and significant change will be required. An important consideration will be continuity of service provision especially in relation to access to particular countries of choice for prospective adoptive parents. I am pleased with the progress made to date in successfully addressing the immediate financial challenges faced by the agencies and look forward to the continued co-operation of the Adoption Authority and the AAI and accredited agencies with the efforts of my Department in this regard.