The plot thickens.
We received a call from the HSE within days of sending our complaint regarding the delays and miscommunication we had experienced so far during the step parent adoption process. They suggested a meeting to explain things from their side and to explore “other options”. We were intrigued, to say the least. Both my husband and I attended. We were unsure as to what to expect.
The meeting with two HSE officers lasted over an hour. They were understanding towards our situation and listened carefully to what we had to say. They said that some of the changes we suggested would be implemented immediately, like the availability of information about stepparent adoption without having to attend an open information evening. They also said that the vital information regarding police checks from foreign countries would be included in the application park from now on.
The explanation for the delays we experienced was a little vague, however. Apparently some of it was down to timing. All applicants of inter-country adoption had a document from the government that only lasted three years and they were all due to expire around the time that our application had been received. Because it was urgent that all intercountry applicants had a fresh copy of this document, stepparent adoption applications were put to the side for a number of months in order to deal with this.
The HSE officer explained that intercountry and domestic adoption used to be separate departments until a few years ago when they were all brought under the one umbrella of the HSE. The staff were handed huge caseloads and promised extra resources to handle the new workload. This never became a reality. Their existing resources are overstretched and step parent adoption is still a relatively new and uncharted territory for the teams who acquired them without much preparation or guidance. Our government clearly values the children involved!
Although I understand that this delay was out of their hands, it would have been appropriate to inform waiting families of the issue. There were also delays that could not be explained, like the four months it took to inform us that we needed to change our son’s birth certificate.
Towards the end of the meeting, we were told that our waiting time for the home visits had changed again. We could be seen as soon as September 2014. While this was an improvement on Christmas 2014, it was of no use to us because we are planning to move after the Summer to a new catchment area. When we explained this, the HSE suggest another option. We could have our case transferred to an independent agency who usually deal with intercountry adoption but who were also willing to take on stepparent adoption. They currently have no website so we had to call to obtain some more information. We were told that the waiting time would be considerably less if we went down this route.
Confusion set in.
We thought that the only organisation allowed to process our adoption was the HSE Regional Adoption Team. That is what has been stated on every official government site regarding adoption. Turns out you have to apply initially via this route,but then you can ask to be referred to an independent agency. Because they are accredited by the Adoption Authority it is the same process. When we rang this independent agency and asked what our wait time would be, they said that they could assign a social worker to our case within two weeks.
Why were we not told this before?
Why did we have to complain in order to obtain this information?
Why are we only being referred now, a year and a half after we started this process?
What is wrong with the HSE?
Why was my child not considered worthy of a speedy process to ensure that his best interests were met?
How many other families are waiting in vain, simple because they haven’t been told that there are other options?
We met our new social worker today. She is a lovely woman who wants to work with us in order to get through this as quickly as possible.
Bizarre, we agreed over our first cup of tea. Utterly bizarre.