Tusla Must be Held to Account

Statement from Teresa Heeney CEO of Early Childhood Ireland –

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency agency charged with inspection of preschools, must be held to account for too few inspectors, too few inspections and too little progress in delivering a robust, consistent and regular inspection process.

This is according to Teresa Heeney CEO of Early Childhood Ireland who was reacting to front page headlines in the media today regarding the inconsistent preschool inspection process in Ireland.

She said that:

“Despite the evidence that the preschool inspection process is clearly fractured, a new inspection regime by the Department of Education is about to be introduced to this sector. It just doesn’t make sense in the face of the history of underinvestment in this sector.

“A key concern, which is only accentuated by media coverage today, is whether Tusla, which is first and foremost a child protection agency, is the agency that should be charged with preschool inspection.  In fact, Tusla CEO Gordon Jeyes is on the record saying just that.

“In particular, the lack of progress in terms of the childcare registration system, the revised preschool regulations, and the publication of quality standards is unacceptable and we need clear action and deadlines to make this happen. Registration, revised regulations and quality standards were all promised by then Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald as part of the 8 point Quality Agenda following RTE Primetime’s ‘Breach of Trust’ programme. We are still waiting for movement on these developments.

“Some progress has been made on the introduction of mentoring and the provision of a fund to support the upskilling of staff in the sector, and we welcome the announcement of the development of an ICT (information communications technology) system for the preschool inspection process, which we look forward to discussing with Tusla.

“However, the investment is too low and the negative headlines again regarding inspections are alarming for parents and de-motivating for those working in the sector.

“This sector can be characterized by underinvestment and over inspection, with Tusla, the Department of Education and Pobal all  involved. Proper inspection is essential, is in everyone’s interest, and something we have for a long time been calling for, on behalf of our 3,500 members running preschools and crèches supporting over 100,000 children nationwide.

“Unfortunately, our inconsistent inspection process is failing children, parents and the sector today.  A consistent, equitable, national system of inspection of early childhood education is what is required, and it should be a sure thing, not a lottery system depending on location. We must address this area with the priority and investment needed. An effective inspection process provides peace of mind for parents, a stamp of approval for the early childhood educators delivering a quality experience for children and a wakeup call for those who aren’t, with a view to raising standards and quality across the board.”

Minister Reilly publishes Adoption Information and Tracing legislation

27th July 2015
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr. James Reilly has today published the General Scheme and Heads of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill. The bill was considered at Cabinet last Wednesday and the government has agreed to refer the bill to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for pre-legislative scrutiny.
The new legislation, which will provide a statutory basis for the provision of information related to adoption, will be both prospective and retrospective. Efforts have been on-going for many years related to the provision of a statutory entitlement to identity information and this new legislation represents a key step forward.
Speaking at the launch Minister Reilly said “Today marks a major breakthrough in dealing with the complex challenge of providing a statutory entitlement to identity information for adopted persons. The Bill will give an adopted person aged 18 years or over, who was adopted prior to commencement of the Bill, a statutory entitlement to the information required to apply for his or her birth certificate, following a request to the Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
The Minister stated “In drafting the legislation we faced a particular challenge in the attempt to reconcile an adopted person’s request for information about his or her identity with the right to privacy of his or her birth parent.  We recognised that adopted persons are a unique part of this process and the information that they are seeking is about their own identity. A birth certificate is an important piece of identifying information that is shared by an adopted person and his/her birth parents. We are distinguishing it from other identifying information which can be more readily characterised as belonging to one or the other.”
The new proposal includes a contact preference mechanism that will operate alongside a undertaking by adopted persons not to contact his/her birth parents. In addition there will be an offer of guidance and support from Tusla social workers to both adopted persons and birth parents.
There will be an initial period of one year after commencement of the Bill for an awareness campaign, to publicise the provisions of the Bill and to allow birth parents to indicate on the Register if they want “No contact at present” or otherwise, before the adopted person will have a statutory entitlement to their birth certificate under these provisions.

The Minister emphasised
“While this Bill is about providing a right to information it is critical that birth parents’ constitutional right to privacy is protected. I believe that by allowing birth parents an opportunity to specify the extent of contact, if any, in addition to the other safeguards to be put in place will ensure that this important right is protected.”
The Bill also provides for a copy of a birth certificate, an adoption order and other information to be provided to an adopted person whose adoption was effected after the commencement of this Bill, following application by that person.  It provides for the sharing of information about a child who was adopted, between birth parents and adoptive parents, where both parties agree. In addition, it provides for information to be given to an adopted person whose adoption is registered in the Register of Intercountry Adoptions.
The Bill provides that persons who were the subject of “informal adoptions” and “wrongful registrations”, and birth parents of these persons, may avail themselves of information and tracing services and be provided with information, where such information is available.

The Bill provides for the establishment of the Adoption Information Register and for the safeguarding of all adoption records to be operated by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

The Minister said “I have been working in cooperation with the Attorney General to develop this scheme. The draft Heads now prepared involve a scheme that will greatly improve access to information, including provision of an adopted person’s birth certificate, with appropriate protections and an appeal mechanism to protect the rights of all parties.  The proposals are the result of an intensive effort to identify a means of dealing with the significant legal and practical challenges that arise.”