Tag Archives: Adoption

Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

Yesterday evening.

Children’s minister Roderic O’Gorman sent out an appeal for ‘all persons affected by adoption or issues relating to knowing their origins or their early life information’ to contact him.

This morning, he brings to cabinet a bill that aims to provide information for people who were subject to illegal birth registrations, people who were boarded out, and to adoptees.

Minister O’Gorman wrote:

I wish to confirm that I will be bringing a Memorandum to Cabinet [this morning] to seek approval for publishing the heads of a bill to provide for access to birth certs and birth, early life and care information.

I will host an online presentation for those directly affected by this legislation to outline some key aspects and the next steps.

Access to this online presentation will be available on Thursday, May 20 at 4.30 p.m..

I am giving you an opportunity to put forward questions, by email, on the proposed legislation, which I can then address during the presentation. These questions can be sent to: questions@equality.gov.ie (active from 9am tomorrow, Wednesday)…

Referring to previous leaks to the press, Mr O’Gorman added:

Please note it is my intention that persons directly affected by adoption or issues relating to knowing their origins or their early life information are the first to hear about the legislation.

Previously: Rights Of Access To Personal Information Key To New Law (RTÉ, March 10)

RollingNews

Thanks Breeda

Sinn Féin TD Paul Donnelly and his wife Angela at the Election count centre Citywest, near Dublin, Ireland, February 9, 2020

This morning.

In the Dáil at the Convention Centre, Dublin.

Sinn Féin TD Paul Donnelly spoke during a debate on the Civil Registration (Right of Adoptees to Information) (Amendment) Bill 2021, sponsored by his party to allow adopted persons the right to access their birth records.

He said:

“When I was thinking about writing this speech I went to the person I know is an expert in this, my wife Angela, who was adopted in Dublin in 1968.

“These are her words:

‘I always knew I was adopted. I was told before I really knew what it meant. I couldn’t have asked for better parents. I loved them and my sisters dearly and was loved unconditionally by them.

Despite this, I always felt there was something missing! Something I couldn’t see, smell or touch but something very tangible all the same. I didn’t feel my parent’s ancestors were mine. Their family tree didn’t feel like my history.

I first approached the adoption board when I was 22 following my father’s death. I had felt that requesting my original birth cert would be disloyal to my parents, but following my dad’s passing I realised that we all only have one life to live.

I had a meeting with a social worker who gave me three pieces of non identifying information about my birth mother. There was no information on my file about my birth father.

What followed that meeting was years of intermittent contact with the adoption board. I’d try to put my adoption to the back of my mind and all the unanswered questions associated with it. But it kept creeping back into my consciousness.

When pregnant with our first child I was unable to answer background questions asked by the hospital.

When our first child was born, it was like I had been granted the greatest wish imaginable. I was acutely aware that Seán was my first biological link with the world.

After several years and several requests, the adoption board agreed to give me my original birth cert.

I have no idea how these decisions are made. Why I was granted my birth cert whilst many adoptees are not.

Seeing my birth mother’s name meant so much to me. Knowing I was a member of the O’Donnell family allowed me some knowledge of my ancestors and a sense of belonging.

I have since made contact with my birth mother and three new sisters, it has been a very positive experience for me. I would not have been able to achieve this without my birth cert.

For me it didn’t matter how much I was loved and cherished. I always knew I was adopted and so always felt deep down that someone hadn’t wanted me, always felt something was missing. Not knowing your biological history doesn’t seem like a big issue to those who have it but those who don’t feel its loss.

Being told that you don’t have a right to your own information is very difficult to accept.

Children placed for adoption signed no contracts, relinquished no rights, agreed to nothing.

Information on who you are is a very basic need and the absence of it is not without consequences for those affected by it.’

Oireachtas.ie

Timid Staffie ‘Skye’

‘sup?

Looking for a pet?

DSPCA write:

This little stray of sunshine is Skye. She came to the DSPCA from another veterinary clinic after she was found as a stray. She some cuts and bruises and her skin was in very poor condition. Thankfully she has recovered well and is feeling so much better now. She is ready to find a loving home (see below)…

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Skye (DSPCA)

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, above from left: Professor Mary E. Daly, Judge Yvonne Murphy, Dr William Duncan, will deliver its report today

Today.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission, led by Judge Yvonne Murphy, is scheduled to hand over its report into mother and baby homes to the Government.

It will be reviewed by the Attorney General and Department of Children and Youth Affairs before it is published in what could be a number of months.

Ahead of this, last night The Irish Times reported that a Cabinet meeting yesterday heard that the report will “increase pressure on the Government to issue a State apology and move forward with a financial compensation scheme for victims”.

It also reported that:

“Ministers were also told that a referendum or new legislation will be needed to deal with confidentiality and privacy issues where birth parents do not want their data released.”

However…

…Last night law lecturer and Director of the Child Law Clinic at University College Cork tweeted that no referendum is needed on tracing legislation – a point, he said, which has been repeatedly made by his academic colleagues Dr Maeve O’Rourke, David Kenny and Fergus Ryan.

In 2015, Dr Conor O’Mahony (above) appeared before the then Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children to speak about on the then pre-legislative scrutiny on the then Heads of the General Scheme of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill, a bill which subsequently lapsed with the most recent dissolution of the Dáil and Seanad.

Dr O’Mahony told the committee:

“I am grateful for the opportunity to address this issue today. I will focus briefly on some of the competing rights issues that have already been discussed this morning in the context of the Constitution. I will also say a little about international human rights law.

“As members are aware from earlier contributions, much of the discussion in this area is informed by the 1998 decision of the Supreme Court in the I O’T v B case, [where the court found that the natural mother’s constitutional right to privacy outweighed the child’s constitutional right to identity] which addressed the competing rights of adoptees and natural parents.

The court recognised that the adoptee has a constitutional right to identity and that the natural parent has a constitutional right to privacy. The court stressed that neither of those rights are absolute, as each of them may be qualified to an extent by the other.

Much of the discussion that takes place when constitutional concerns about laws of this type are raised is based on this case and on what I would see as a greatly exaggerated concern about possible constitutional issues. Much of the discussion is based on focusing on the outcome in the I O’T v B case rather than on the principles established in that case. The outcome of that case was a ruling in favour of protecting the mother’s privacy. The court made that ruling in the context of something of a legislative vacuum. This law is seeking to fill that vacuum.

“With regard to the laws enacted by the Oireachtas on issues like adoption identity and tracing, the court said that it is for the Oireachtas and not for the courts to establish how to balance competing rights and how to deal with sensitive matters of social policy. In the vast majority of cases, the courts will defer to the balance struck by the Oireachtas unless there are extreme consequences of doing so. That is the key message set down in the decision in the I O’T v. B case. We have seen that message repeatedly emphasised in subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court.

“Some recent examples include a challenge against the law on the age of consent, a challenge against the law criminalising assisted suicide and a case involving the allocation of parentage in surrogacy arrangements. In all of those cases, the Supreme Court stressed that complex social matters should be addressed by the Oireachtas and not by the courts.

“For that reason, I think the key message to take from the I O’T v. B case is that it is up to the Oireachtas to legislate in this area and to reconcile competing rights.

“Any future court would be exceptionally slow to second guess that and to strike down any law that is enacted in this area. It is important to stress that.

“Aside from the fact that the constitutional impediments are greatly overstated, there is also a legal imperative to enact laws of this nature. That legal imperative derives from Ireland’s international human rights law obligations, in particular, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and, to a lesser extent, the European Convention on Human Rights, both of which recognise the right to identity as a key right recognised by international human rights law.

“There are various degrees and levels to that right but the minimum core is to know one’s origins, parentage and conditions of birth; in other words, to have access to a birth certificate as a minimum core. Ireland’s international human rights law obligations require the enactment of this legislation.

“As long as the legislation remains unenacted Ireland is vulnerable to findings by international human rights committees, such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, that we are in breach of our international human rights obligations. Far from there being a rights-based reason to not enact the law, there are rights-based reasons to go ahead and enact this law forthwith.

Equally, there is an issue of consistency internally within Irish law. Identity is strongly protected by the Children and Family Relationships Act in the context of donor-assisted human reproduction. If it is important in that context it is equally important in the context of adoption and far more people are affected. If we are to be internally consistent in our laws, this law is necessary to bring the area of adoption in line with the area of assisted human reproduction.

“If the law is to be enacted, it is important that it is done properly. I mentioned the idea of the minimum core of the right to identity being at the very least a bare minimum of access to a birth certificate.

The notion that the law would potentially qualify that bare minimum create exceptions to that is unfortunate. If there is legal advice that suggests that it is constitutionally necessary to qualify that I am not sure I would agree with that advice and I would like to see it in more detail.

“Ultimately, if one has a right which sets birth certificate as a bare minimum, not files, medical history or contact information, that is a bare minium. Any suggestion that be denied on the basis of a potential threat to safety, especially in a context where there is extensive civil law and criminal law, in particular, the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act which provides other protections in those circumstances, is not necessary.

I do not believe there is any constitutional reason or any justification for qualifying that bare minimum right of simple access to the birth certificate, balancing it, of course, in the context of contact information, that makes more sense. When it comes to the bare minimum or the birth certificate I do not believe that is necessary. Rather than defining the idea of compelling reasons, I submit that the preferable course of action for just that level of access to information would be simply to remove the qualification altogether and remove the idea to define that idea of compelling reasons.

“Finally, an issue mentioned at the earlier discussion and which I mentioned in my written submission is the issue of step-parent adoption. I will not explain all of that in detail again because we are well aware, by now, of what it involves, except to note that a commitment was given during the debate on the Children and Family Relationships Act that the issue would be dealt with in this Bill. The Bill, as drafted, does not propose to do that. There is a very simple solution available, based on the English legislation.

“A simple short miscellaneous provision, modelled on the English legislation, included in this Bill could resolve that issue. Last year, of the 112 domestic adoption orders, 74 were step-parent adoptions, so I think this is an issue which needs to be addressed. It can be addressed very easily and this Bill presents an opportunity to do that.”

Meanwhile…

A 13-page legal opinion from November 2019 on the application of the Irish Constitution and GDPR on the now lapsed adoption bill by Dr O’Mahony, solicitor Fred Logue, Dr Maeve O’Rourke, law lecturer James Gallen, law lecturer Eoin Daly, legal academic Mairead Enright, Dr Sinead Ring, solicitor Rossa McMahon and law lecturer Laura Cahillane can be read here.

On the first page, it notes how “the GDPR is supreme over all Irish law including the Constitution”.

Meanwhile…

Transcript via Kildarestreet.com

Alternatively…

Um.

Last night: If You Come Here You’ll Find No Mass Conspiracy

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr Katherine Zappone

This morning.

In the Irish Examiner.

Conall Ó Fátharta reports:

During questioning from forum [Mother and Baby Home Collaborative Forum] members, the delegation was shown an almost entirely redacted death cert the agency sent to a 69-year-old woman.

The woman was among the 126 cases of illegal birth registrations Tusla discovered in the records of the St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency. Its records transferred to Tusla in 2016.

The certificate was for the woman’s mother, but all information apart from a doctor’s signature and cause of death was redacted by Tusla, including details of the registrar general.

As the recipient of the record had never been legally adopted, the delegation was asked what legislative basis Tusla had “to start interfering with public records”.

“I think the reason to redact all of that is to ensure that it can’t be found in the GRO [General Registration Office] because it is third-party information as per GDPR,” the Tusla representative said.

Mr Ó Fátharta also reports:

The Irish Examiner has obtained an audio recording of that meeting [between the forum and representatives of Tusla] in which a member of the delegation said the agency carries out a “risk assessment” as to the “likelihood of someone being harmed or not harmed” before it decides whether or not to release personal information to adopted people about their early lives.

….The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) has said there are around 150,000 adoption records in existence and approximately 100,000 of these are currently in the custody of Tusla or the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI). Tusla has held many of the records since 2014.

Tusla censored death cert so it ‘can’t be found’ (Conall Ó Fátharta, The Irish Examiner)

Tusla relying on ‘flimsy grounds’ to justify redacting records and birth certs (Conall Ó Fátharta, The Irish Examiner)

Previously: “Who Are They Trying To Protect Here?”

Conflating And Confusing Privacy And Secrecy

Rollingnews

UPDATE:

From Tusla’s Quarterly Service Performance and Activity Report for the first three months of 2019

A quarterly report from Tusla – for the first three months of 2019 – states there were 699 new inquiries made to the agency’s Adoption Information and Tracing Service during that period of time.

These are inquiries made by adopted people, birth parents, adoptive parents, siblings
of adopted people and other birth relatives and people raised in long-term foster care.

The 699 figure represents a 173 per cent increase when compared to the first quarter of 2018.

The same report states there was also a rise in tracing applications made with 291 new tracing applications received by Tusla in the first quarter of this year.

In regards to the length of time people who have made an application have to wait for personal information and/or the allocation of a social worker, it varies.

Those seeking personal information under GDPR legislation have had to wait anything from six weeks to six months, when Tusla’s own target is eight weeks.

Those waiting to be allocated a social worker, as part of a priority 1 application – where a birth parent is older than 70 – have had to wait anything up to 14 months, as opposed to Tusla’s target of three months or less.

Those waiting to be allocated a social worker, as part of a priority 2 application – where the applicant has a non-life limiting medical condition and/or were previously in state care – have had to wait anything from six weeks to six months, as opposed to Tusla’s target of six months or less.

Those waiting to be allocated a social worker for all other types of applications have had to wait anything between three months and more than three years, compared to Tusla’s target of 12 months or less.

The report can be read in full here

Tusla struggles to cope with adoption record demands (Conall Ó Fátharta, Irish Examiner)

Previously: Who Do You Think You Are?

Conflating And Confusing Privacy And Secrecy

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms Zappone said she had listened to the concerns of adopted people and the changes, in her view, balance the right to privacy with the right to identity.

The new law, which will move to the committee stage in the Seanad today, has been delayed because of concerns about the privacy of natural or birth parents in cases where an adopted person is looking for information.

It is now proposed that the child and family agency Tusla would contact birth parents in relation to any request for information and, if they object to its release, the Adoption Authority of Ireland would make a decision.

Zappone – Adoption law giving access to records ‘a step forward’ (RTÉ)

Mairead Enright writes:

It is not at all clear how adopted people’s rights will be safeguarded by the above process, especially given Tusla’s poor history

This proposal is completely out of step with European norms. It is also a disproportionate measure which assumes adopted people are a “threat” to their natural parents’ wellbeing.

Once the new legislation is passed, the Attorney General is proposing that people adopted in future should have automatic access to their full file once they reach adulthood.

So these are discriminatory provisions affecting people adopted in the era of the laundries and the Mother and Baby Homes.

Together with proposals under the Retention of Records Bill 2019, which will seal testimonies of records of child abuse for 75 years, this legislation shows that the state is not willing to face up to the past.

If anything, this imposition of state control reinscribes the shaming and silencing mechanisms used against natural mothers under Ireland’s regime of forced (and often illegal) adoption.

People must have access, at a minimum, to their unredacted early life records *and* to their birth certs (which are already public records).

Natural mothers should also be able to access their state records.

Amendments to the Bill could also be used to establish meaningful information, matching and tracing services and an independent archive of relevant records.

There is a lot more wrong with the Bill, but the basic assumption that this category of adopted people should be quarantined in this way is highly objectionable and should be resisted.

Oh and before the AG says “but the Constitution”, there is no absolute constitutional right to anonymity. The right to privacy of natural mothers must be balanced against the right to identity.

And anyway framing this as “mothers vs adopted people” isn’t the point. Adults are capable of navigating this information regime, and the state should assist them to do so, not continue to frustrate them.

Meanwhile…

Claire McGettrick tweetz:

A tiny sample of the pages which Tusla redacted in my adoption file before sending to me. I’m happily reunited with my mother for over 25 years, so who are they trying to ‘protect’ here? Adopted people are being left behind in so-called modern Ireland #EndSecrecyNow #Stand4Truth

Anyone?

The Four Courts in Dublin

This morning.

At the High Court before Judge Richard Humphries.

A single mother, who was the foster carer for a baby born prematurely with severe health difficulties for more than a year, will challenge the actions of Tusla in the hope that what she claims happened to her won’t happen to anyone else.

In March of last year, the mum-of-two, who has fostered more than a dozen children in the past, responded to a call-out from Tusla for a volunteer to sit with the baby in a hospital, and cuddle it, as, Tusla said, the then three-month-old baby hadn’t had any significant human contact since it was born.

As time went on, the mother began fostering the baby and underwent specialised training to learn how to feed and care for it.

She sought to adopt the baby but she was told it was the birth mother’s wish that the child be adopted by a married couple. However, Tusla organised for her to have a legal consultation on the matter.

In April of this year, while the child with severe special needs was recovering in hospital following surgery, the mother claims it was abruptly removed from the hospital and given to a couple in the process of adopting the child.

The adoption process in regards to the child is not yet complete but it’s expected to be finalised in several months.

However, by seeking a judicial review of how Tusla handled the case, the mother wants to stop the adoption process which Tusla has started with the couple and she’s also seeking an order compelling Tusla to consider her application to adopt the child.

She claims Tusla didn’t follow procedure, didn’t provide for a proper transitioning period and didn’t give her adequate notice of what was going to happen.

She also claims the best interests of the child were not served in how Tusla handled the case.

An internal Tulsa investigation into the matter is also already under way.

Related: Single mum takes Tusla to court after agency takes away foster baby (Mark Tighe, The Sunday Times)

Foster mother loses custody of child because birth mother wants kid to go to “a couple” (Irish Mirror, April 28, 2018)

UPDATE: 

The mother has been granted a judicial review and will come back before the High Court on October 16.