Adopted people having to wait 11 months for personal information is “totally unacceptable”, but the State body has since cleared the backlog in applications, the chief executive of the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) has said.
The Birth Information and Tracing Act, which was enacted in July 2022, gives a legal entitlement to full and unrestricted access to birth certificates, birth, early life, care and medical information for any person who was adopted, boarded out, had their birth illegally registered or who otherwise has questions in relation to their origins.
In the first year, the AAI received more than 3,800 applications for birth certificates, birth information, early life, care and medical information.
The body initially experienced a significant backlog in meeting statutory deadlines for the provision of application. However, the AAI said a total of 36 applications remained to be completed, representing about 1 per cent of applications submitted.
Colm O’Leary, interim chief executive of the AAI, said the body was “inundated, to put it mildly”.
“It took a while for us to be really confident in finding the structure of the records, everything kind of sped up. Staff were also given but again it took time to wrap them up and get them up to speed,” he said.
“We are dealing now within the statutory deadlines. We regret the delays and we know it’s not acceptable for someone who has waited for years to be told no you can’t have your birth cert and then when the legislation is kicked off and they finally believe they’re going to get it shortly and then they’ve to wait 11 months for it. I accept that it’s totally unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, 3,417 people registered their details on the Contact Preference Register (CPR) since July 2022.
The register is a way for people to state their contact preferences in relation to contact with family, including a request for privacy. Under the law even if a biological parent says they do not want their child to get their birth cert or related information, the adopted person will still get access.
Some 255 matches were completed within the opening of the register, with 85 per cent of those added to the register in the past year being adopted persons.
Mr O’Leary said the CPR was something the authority would “continue to push” as it was “quite significant”.
“We believe there is about 100,000 people who would be adopted through the systems in Ireland since the 1900s and having a contact preference register… will allow people to make a statement whether they do or do not want to be contacted,” he said.
The AAI also received almost 400 tracing requests in the past year, of which 66 per cent have been allocated to a social worker and over 10 per cent moved into contact with a relative.
Orlaith Traynor, chairwoman of the board, said she was “pleased” the authority had now processed the backlog of applications and “the authority can now respond to new applications within the timeframes specified in the Act”.
“The new legislation confirms the right of adopted people to information as to their identity and origins and I am mindful of how important the timely receipt of this information is to adoptees, those boarded-out or nursed-out and those who were the subject of incorrect birth registrations,” she added.