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Priority Questions - Adoption Services

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 765 No. 3

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 90.  Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly  asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  further to his response to questions on access to and safeguarding of records of de facto illegal adoptions (details supplied), the number of such records held by the Health Service Executive; the number of cases that were identified in the audit, relating to the pre-1952 period and the number that relate to the post 1952 Act period; the number of cases believed to contravene [229]the Adoption Acts that have been notified and to which appropriate authorities; when these cases were notified to these authorities and the reports she has received regarding actions taken on foot of the notification of the contravention of the Adoption Acts. [24234/12]

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The Deputy has asked for information on records about persons who were told or believed they had been adopted and in respect of whom there are no adoption records. It must be understood the Adoption Authority of Ireland like its predecessor, the Adoption Board, has no statutory responsibility in the matter raised but has endeavoured to assist persons affected to the extent open to it. The guidelines on information and tracing services, first issued by the Adoption Board in 2004, included acknowledgement of a practice of illegal birth registrations and offered the board’s assistance in efforts to obtain any records that might still be available. I am aware from the Adoption Authority of Ireland that, in mid-2010, the Irish Adoption Board conducted a review of information it retained of contact received from persons who had been told or believed themselves to be adopted, but where no adoption records existed, which is an extremely traumatic situation for anyone to be in. This exercise indicated 99 people who had identified themselves to the board as adopted did not have a corresponding adoption file. Around 45 of these cases related to people born after 1953 and the balance related to persons born before 1953.

I am advised that, at the specific request of the persons making a complaint, the Irish Adoption Board reported a number of such cases to the Garda, the Registrar General and the Director of Public Prosecutions by reference to possible offences under the birth registration Acts. It is my understanding that further action did not ensue having regard to available proof and the lapse of time since the events in question.

I have also made enquiries concerning the Deputy’s question about the number of such records held by the Health Service Executive. I have been informed that the HSE has not carried out a review similar to that done by the Irish Adoption Board in 2010. Obviously, the records would be more scattered if the HSE did have them. I have, however, asked the HSE to establish any relevant information in its possession and examine the matter. I am happy to correspond directly with the Deputy on this.

As I indicated in a recent reply to the Deputy, I am looking into what steps may be possible in relation to such cases in the context of ongoing work by my Department with the Attorney General’s office on the drafting of legislation with regard to information and tracing. Work is under way on the preparation of the adoption (information and tracing) Bill, in consultation with the Adoption Authority of Ireland, to provide for a structured and regulated way of providing access to information and contact for those affected by adoption, including where the adoption was not effected.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

It is intended that the Bill will provide for the Adoption Authority of Ireland to have access to records currently held by a wide range of information sources, give the authority an oversight role with regard to the maintenance of adoption records, and place the national contact preference register on a statutory basis. The Bill is also to provide for proactive tracing and reunion services by appropriate bodies for adopted adults, birth mothers and birth families, with the Adoption Authority of Ireland having the overarching responsibility for the service.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I realise how difficult and complicated this issue is but I am not fully sure we are advancing it as we continue to discuss it. My query is not about cases where no records exist. It is about cases where records exist but may not be in the hands of the Adoption Authority of Ireland or under the remit of the HSE. We are trying to grapple with a scenario where it has been acknowledged that adoptions have been falsely registered and that the infor[230]mation exists somewhere. It is a question of getting access to those records and safeguarding them. We are a long way from that. We should remind ourselves that we are talking about people’s personal identities, which is very important.

I do not accept the figure of 99 people which the Minister again quoted in her response. I believe that figure emerged from a newspaper story, that the Adoption Authority of Ireland examined only its own records and that the majority of false births that were registered, which the Minister has acknowledged, were done to arrange illegal adoptions and are, therefore, held by adoption agencies. The Adoption Authority of Ireland has refused to inspect those documents or to copy them. There needs to be an intervention from the Minister to ensure all existing records are brought together under some comprehensive remit. If the HSE rather than the Adoption Authority of Ireland is given that remit, it needs to be resourced to carry it out. It has not been to date.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald I take the Deputy’s point. I assure her it is intended that the Bill will provide for the Adoption Authority of Ireland to have access to records currently held by a wide range of information sources, give the authority an oversight role with regard to the maintenance of adoption records, and place the national contact preference register on a statutory basis. The Bill will also provide for proactive tracing and reunion services by appropriate bodies for adopted adults, birth mothers and birth families, with the Adoption Authority of Ireland having the overarching responsibility for the service.

The HSE is concerned about the issue of records and is taking what action it can in the meantime. We do not, at present, have a statutory situation for safeguarding the records in the way I have outlined to the Deputy. That is the intention of the legislation I will bring forward. We will have a much more organised and comprehensive approach to records. It has been too ad hoc. As the Deputy said, it clearly affects this group in particular. In effect, she is raising the number of illegal adoptions that took place.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I have two supplementary questions. One relates to the timescale of the legislation. Is the Minister saying that the problem is the Adoption Authority of Ireland has been legally restricted in pursuing the matter? My understanding is that it has failed to intervene and use the powers it has to gain access to the records and inspect them.

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald The adoption (tracing and information) Bill is part of the legislative programme for this year. Much work has been done on it and I hope and intend to bring it forward this year.

There are no provisions regarding the retention and preservation of such records in current legislation. The Adoption Authority of Ireland has no remit in respect of such matters. We need the new legislation to deal comprehensively with the records.


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