Press Release

Hanafin launches guidance for social workers on intercountry adoption assessment

The Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Children, Mary Hanafin TD today (Thursday, 7th September 2000) launched the new Guide for Practitioners which is being issued to health board social work adoption teams. The Guide and a complementary Workbook for Applicants has been produced by the Department of Health and Children in conjunction with a new series of information booklets on intercountry adoption for prospective adoptive parents.

Production of guidance for social work practitioners and information booklets for applicants were among the recommendations contained in the Report “Towards a Standardised Framework for Intercountry Adoption Assessment Procedures” published last year. The original report was commissioned in response to concerns regarding both the delay in obtaining assessments and the assessment itself. “An open, transparent and efficient framework for assessment, which is respectful to all the parties in the process, but at the same time is centred on the child’s interests, is what we have been seeking to achieve” the Minister said.

This material has been prepared by the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering on behalf of the Department of Health and Children. It establishes comprehensive guidance for practitioners working in the intercountry adoption field. As well as setting out an approach to the assessment based on the Standardised Framework, the guide also includes a model representation and complaints procedure for adaptation by the boards; a supervisory and quality assurance section; a legislative context section and a comprehensive reading list. “Clarity of purpose, roles and responsibilities is at the core of the new guidance material. I am confident that this will be an aid to both social workers and parents in moving forward together to an intercountry adoption service, which ultimately, will include a lot more than the assessment of suitability of prospective adoptive parents.”

The Minister said that booklets 1 and 2 in the information series [“Information Booklet on the Intercountry Adoption Process for Prospective Adoptive Parents” and “Understanding the Assessment Process”] will be available from health boards and will be issued to current applicants in due course. Booklets 3, 4, 5 and 6 refer to issues which arise after the declaration of eligibility and suitability has been received and will be available from the health boards and Adoption Board on request. The Workbook for Applicants will be provided to all applicants before they begin the preparation/education stage assessment process.

In launching the new guidance and information booklets, the Minister also referred to the progress made on the implementation of the Standardised Framework – subject of a recent report by the group established to oversee its implementation. She said “The implementation group’s report shows that there has been significant progress in all boards towards full implementation of the standardised framework procedures”. Although demand for assessment for intercountry adoption continues to grow (with the waiting list at the 30th of June 2000 at 1,056 for the whole country) numbers of social workers and numbers of assessments being completed has increased significantly. Duration of assessment is within the limits prescribed in the Report on the Standardised Framework. Second assessments have been prioritised as recommended in the Report and a framework for second assessments is included in the new Guide.

In addition to improvements to the intercountry adoption process, funding of £1million over the two years 1999-2000 was allocated for the recruitment of staff in all the Boards. An additional £200,000 has been allocated in recent weeks.

The Minister acknowledged that waiting times are still long in a number of boards with the projected waiting time for first assessment longest in the Eastern Regional Health Authority area. She referred to the unexpected rapid increase in demand in the E.R.H.A. as well as recruitment difficulties being experienced in the region. However, Minister Hanafin said “I am confident that the developments to date will be consolidated and improved on by the new material being made available to both social workers and applicants”.

Finally, the Minister referred to the need to maintain the momentum in improvements in the service. “A continuing programme of training in the new framework, increased networking and partnerships with voluntary groups has contributed to the improvements. These initiatives will be underpinned by the implementation group’s recommendations regarding the establishment of a steering group, the development of shared services and the promotion of support networks between social workers, managers, health boards, adoption societies and parents groups.”