Tusla is struggling to cope with a record level of inquiries from adopted people and natural parents looking for each other and their personal records.
Figures contained in Tusla’s quarterly service and performance report for the first three months of 2019 reveal that adopted people and natural parents sometimes languish for more than three years on waiting lists as information and tracing requests surge to record levels.
Tusla’s information and tracing service received 699 new inquiries between January and March which is up 173% on the previous three-month period.
A total of 291 new applications to start a trace of a searched person were received in the first three months of the year which is up 84% on the final three months of 2018 and the second-highest number since 2017.
At the end of March, there were 803 people awaiting an information service — 24% up on the same period in 2018. Tusla is also struggling to process requests for personal information within its own stated target times.
At the end of March, the length of time from application to the provision of personal information in line with GDPR legislation ranged from six weeks to six months against a target of eight weeks. The data also reveals significant delays in those trying a trace a relative being allocated a social worker.
The length of time from application to allocation of a social worker for priority 1 applications (those who have been matched on the National Adoption Contact Preference Register/where birth parent is older than 70) ranged from weeks to 14 months against a target of three months or less.
For priority 2 applications (applicant with a non-life limiting medical condition/previously in state care), the length of time for allocation of a social worker ranged from six weeks to two years. Tusla has a target of six months or less for these. For priority 3 applications (general) it takes anywhere from three months to 40 months to be allocated a social worker for a 12-month target.
In a recent parliamentary question, Tusla said the reason for these delays was that some records date back “to the early 1900s thus names and address recorded at the time the child was separated from a birth parent is no longer accurate”.
The agency also said the lack of a legislative basis for tracing and information services is also “a key factor” in waiting times.
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone’s plans to transfer information and tracing responsibility solely to Tusla in the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 have met with stiff resistance from adopted people and natural mothers.
The unpublished report of the Collaborative Forum on Mother and Baby Homes, set up by Ms Zappone, labelled the plans “astonishing, regressive, and a measure of unbelievable crassness and insensitivity”.
“Without exception, all representative groups, sampled by our sub-committee, have called for the immediate removal of Tusla from their involvement in providing information services,” says the report. “The levels of anger, frustration, and discontent with Tusla, amongst service users, have escalated to record numbers.”