New adoption agency to bid for clients in coming weeks

Source:

http://www.irishtimes.com

CAROL COULTER Legal Affairs Editor 
Date:2010-06-14

A NEW adoption mediation agency will seek to engage with the governments of Vietnam, Bulgaria, India and Mexico concerning adoption when the Adoption Bill is passed in the coming weeks. 

The Bill ratifies the Hague Convention on inter-country adoption 

The executive director of Arc Adoption, Shane Downer, former chief executive of the International Adoption Association (IAA), told The Irish Times he hoped the agency would be operational by September. 

It has already been approved in principle by the Adoption Board. The new agency will be committed to transparency, he said, and will expect to be subject to tight regulation. 

Arc Adoption is a not-for-profit organisation, and will be a company limited by guarantee. 

The agency’s board will contain both adoptive parents and people with no connection to adoption, he said.

He added it was seeking €900,000 in government funding over the next three years, which would represent 26 per cent of its projected costs.

The rest of the money needed would be raised from fund-raising and fees from applicants, which would have to be approved by the Adoption Board. 

Asked about the “humanitarian aid” fee charged by the Vietnamese authorities at the moment, he said: “Ideally there would not be any humanitarian aid.” 

He said each applicant would have their own account, with expenditure on items like translation, passports, Vietnamese fees and transport, set out separately, including a component to cover the agency’s costs. 

“So at the end we will be able to say here’s what we spent and if there is anything left over here it is back,” he said. 

The Helping Hands Adoption Mediation Agency, which dealt with adoptions from Vietnam until the lapsing of the bilateral agreement with that country last June, will also be seeking to mediate adoptions from Vietnam and other countries when the adoption legislation ratifying the Hague Convention is passed.

It is currently under inquiry by the Adoption Board, which last December appointed a firm of accountants, Browne, Murphy and Hughes to examine the disbursement of the $2,100 charged to applicants for facilitating the adoption.

A further $9,000 charged in “humanitarian aid” is sent directly by Helping Hands to the Vietnamese authorities.

Last week Helping Hands held a press conference to announce that an examination of its accounts by a firm of accountants it had appointed, Grant Thornton, had found no evidence of impropriety with regard to its provision of services.

The board of Helping Hands had decided to appoint Grant Thornton in February, following the appointment by the Adoption Board of Browne, Murphy and Hughes.

Helping Hands chief executive, Sharon O’Driscoll, told The Irish Times she felt unable to meet the Adoptions Board’s accountants when they sought to meet her in Cork last March because of confidentiality concerns. 

These concerns also meant she could not hand over to them bank statements, as they contained the names of applicants, she said. 

Instead she gave all the documentation to Grant Thornton and asked them to deal with Murphy and Browne, she said. 

She acknowledged that she did not meet the Adoption Board accountants until earlier this month, when she said the “confidentiality concerns” had been sorted out. 

Asked about the money now held by Helping Hands, she said there was “very little” in an account in Ireland that normally held the “humanitarian aid”.

There was something between $10,000 and $20,000 in an account in Vietnam, which was the balance of the $2,100 paid by 20 applicants whose applications were in process when the bilateral agreement lapsed, and who had already incurred costs.

Helping Hands has also received €1.9 million from the HSE and the National Lottery since it was set up in 2006.