An anticipated 150,000 people, who were adopted, boarded out, or whose birth was illegally registered, or are related to them, can access full their information from Monday.
From 8am the service, established under the Birth Information and Tracing Act goes live, at birthinfo.ie. People can apply online or by post.
Describing the day as “momentous” and “long-awaited”, Siobhán Mugan, manager of the adoption, and information and tracing service in Tusla said it would “finally” rebalance the relationship between agencies holding information about people’s childhoods and families, and those looking for it.
Adoption records will no longer be sealed, and can be accessed though the Adoption Authority of Ireland, while files about people’s early lives in institutions or boarded out, held by Tusla will be shared in full.
Previously, when someone who had been adopted, boarded out or subject to an illegal birth registration, or someone related to them, sought information about their past, the right of other individuals to privacy trumped their right to information about their identity. That hierarchy of rights is now reversed.
Applicants now have a right to full, unredacted information and access to birth certificates, adoption records, birth and early life information. The legislation allows for access to information by a child of a relevant person where their parent has died, and for access by the next of kin of a child who died in an institution
As well as information they have the right to apply to have family traced. A contact preference register, established under the Act, allows for birth mothers, fathers and other affected people to register a preference to be contacted or not.
Once a person applies for information they would receive it within between 30 and 90 days, said Ms Mugan, and would be kept informed as the search and retrieval progressed.
“People can also apply for a trace and we have to allocate that to the tracing team within six months,” continued Ms Mugan.
Where a birth mother does not want to be contacted the applicant is invited to a meeting a social worker and counselling will be offered.
An additional 30 whole-time-equivalent staff have been recruited by Tusla across its information and the tracing services. Staff have been upskilled in genealogy training and DNA testing can be done. “So even if there isn’t a record we have other ways of pulling the picture of the family together. We have traced families even with minimal records,” said Ms Mugan.
“This service is long awaited and it will in many cases meet people’s needs. But we do have to manage expectations. There can be a view that we have a record on everyone, and in some cases we don’t. In many cases there is very little information. The information in many cases is limited so people may be disappointed. And in some the information may be inaccurate. Sometimes birth mothers gave inaccurate information too to conceal what happened.
“These are very sad, but often very beautiful, records, that hold very important information. We are delighted to be able to now to give that to the people who have a right to it, to empower people with it.”