Irish Adoptees Wait for Answers to Their Identities

Scot Tanner

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Children in their cots awaiting adoption from an Irish Mother Baby Home run by Catholic nuns. [Photo Credit: IrishMotherBabyHomes/Flickr]
Children in their cots awaiting adoption from an Irish Mother Baby Home run by Catholic nuns. [Photo Credit: IrishMotherBabyHomes/Flickr]
Since 1922, there is estimated to have been over 90,000 adoptions in Ireland, however under current Irish laws the adopted children have no rights or access to their true identity.  This could change if the Adoption (Identity and Information) Bill 2014 becomes law.

“This Bill is intended to facilitate access to adoption information and operates on the basis of a presumption in favour of disclosing information in so far as is legally and constitutionally possible,” said Anne Marie KilKenny with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

The Bill was renamed the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2015 in July last year after approval by the Government according to Kilkenny.

This Bill will, for the first time, give a ‘statutory basis’ for information on both past and future adoptions in Ireland says Kilkenny.

“This Bill would allow for the adopted people to get birth certs for the first time ever upon application,” Susan Lohan, 51, from Dublin and co-founder of the Adoption Rights Alliance, said.

There are over 50,000 adopted men and women in Ireland according to Susan Lohan, co-founder of Adoption Rights Alliance. [Photo Credit: Sinn Fein/Flickr]
There are over 50,000 adopted men and women in Ireland according to Susan Lohan, co-founder of Adoption Rights Alliance. [Photo Credit: Sinn Fein/Flickr]
“As an adoptive person myself, from early memories I can remember that hunger to know who I was,” she said.

This has nothing to do with her loving adopted parents, rather to help her fill the void in her psyche.

Lohan goes on to quote Roots author Alex Haley, “In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness. ”

Unlike other countries, Irish adoptees do not have automatic right to their birth certificates listing their original names and their parents’ details.  As a result, they are denied basic information about themselves and their family history that other people take for granted.

“We campaign and advocate for the equal rights of adoptive children in Ireland,” she said.  Lohan founded the ARA in 2009.

One of those adoptive children is Conor Cronin, 24, from Cork, says he is hopeful for a change in the adoption laws, yet he does not have the hunger Lohan described about meeting his birth parents.

“I really don’t know, “ he said.  “I’ve never given it really much thought and meeting her or talking to her or what I’d even say to her.”

He has requested a copy of his adoptive file over eight months ago and followed up twice with the adoption agency that handled his adoption.

“It’s a very slow process,” he said.  “I’m kind of passed out that I will receive my file.”

The legislation was introduced last year by Senator Averil Power, who herself was also adopted. [Photo Credit: Ciara Leena/Flickr]
The legislation was introduced last year by Senator Averil Power, who herself was also adopted. [Photo Credit: Ciara Leena/Flickr]
The legislation created by Senator Averil Power, who was also adopted, and co-sponsored by Jillian van Turnhout and Fidelma Healy Eames, would give Conor and other adoptees, the right to their birth certs and other personal records once they reach the age of eighteen, and only have to wait six months to have access to their records.

Currently, that process could take up to 18 months or longer.

“I’m trying to get a hold of my adoption file for medical only for the moment,” he said.  “My adoptive parents, my mother, has a history of cancer in her family.  It’s just something I’m kind of concerned about myself, just in case I might have something like that in my own genes.”

In the Bill, Conor and other adoptees, would have access to their facilitated family medical history from the natural parents through the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

However, Conor said that if he did receive his medical records and then decided to look for his birth parents under the current laws he would be back on the list.

“I would have to start the process all over again,” he said.

There is a provision in the bill Conor does not agree with where a social worker would hold individual meetings with both the adoptee and natural parents and then the exchange of contact details where they both with to do so.

“I think being forced into having a sit down with a social worker like that isn’t necessary.  It is a lovely option to have, but I can’t see them being able to force it either, “ he said.

In the legislation Conor says there is one provision that could be problematic for adoptive children, it is where the natural parents can request information about their adopted sons or daughters, limited to the child’s adoption certificate, listing of their adoptive name and the names of their adoption parents.

“For me I don’t really care.  For those who might not know they are adopted or about this proposed legislation, it could have a massive effect on them,” he said.

Currently Irish adopted children have limited and restricted access to any past information about where they come from or who their birth parents are, the legislation aims to change that. [Photo Credit: IrishMotherBabyHomes/Flickr]
Currently Irish adopted children have limited and restricted access to any past information about where they come from or who their birth parents are, the legislation aims to change that. [Photo Credit: IrishMotherBabyHomes/Flickr]
The Bill would also create a centralised record keeping location of all Irish adoptions for all adoptees and natural mothers at the Adoption Authority.

“The Minister referred the General Scheme and Heads of the Bill to the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Health and Children for pre legislative scrutiny and the Community published its report in November last,” said Kilkenny.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs Minister James Reilly  after the report did approve a revised version of the Bill, amending the previous measures that were put in place to balance the right to identity of the adopted person with the right of the birth parent to privacy.

The Government has approved of the Bill, and once a new Government is formed final drafting of the legislation will get underway, then it should become law sometime in 2016.

Minister Reilly recalled his meeting last year with the ARA, saying the organisation made him aware of the “ongoing discrimination against all Irish adopted people and their siblings in particular, who are denied the knowledge of each other’s existence.”

 

 

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Scot Tanner

I have worked in news since earning my FCC commercial broadcasting license whilst in secondary school (high school). I have been a radio presenter (on-air talent) whilst in college, during both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I have worked as a reporter for newspaper, radio, TV and online mediums. I firmly believe that everyone has a story to tell. The question is when are you ready to tell me your story?