More than 50,000 adoptees to get right to birth certificates

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone secures approval for Adoption Bill

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone: Eager to publish the Bill and have it passed by the Oireachtas without delay. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone: Eager to publish the Bill and have it passed by the Oireachtas without delay. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

More than 50,000 adopted people are to be given the right to their birth certificates for the first time under new legislation to be published by the Government.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone secured Cabinet approval on Tuesday to publish the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill.

Many adoptees are currently unable to access birth certificates listing their birth parents’ names due to legal obstacles, including a constitutional right to privacy on the part of the parents.

A new adoption information register is to be established on a statutory basis and operated by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency. Adoptees and birth parents will be asked to register, but parents will be able to avoid registration or declare a “no contact” preference. If this happens, the adoptees will be asked to sign a statutory declaration obliging them to respect the wishes of their birth parents.

This is intended as a way of striking a balance between the right to privacy of birth parents and the identity rights of adopted persons.

Balancing rights

Government sources said the desire of adoptees to establish contact was “entirely reasonable” but the rights of those affected by adoption “cannot be discounted”.

When the Bill is enacted, it is envisaged a six-month awareness campaign will be launched before the legislation comes into force. There will also be support and guidance for adopted people and birth parents.

The move to enhance the rights of adopted people has been promised by the Government for a number of years, but has faced a series of legal obstacles.

The draft heads of the Bill were first published in 2015 when the then Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power pressed for legislative change.

Ms Zappone is understood to be eager to publish the Bill and have it passed by the Oireachtas without delay. It is expected the Bill will be published very shortly.

Under it, the Adoption Authority of Ireland will be given overall responsibility for the safeguarding of adoption records. This will include information relating to informal adoptions and persons whose birth was incorrectly registered.

All records will be transferred to the custody of the authority and a searchable electronic database of the records will be created.

Tusla will provide for access to information and tracing services for those affected by adoption. When both parties consent, the agency will facilitate contact between them.