Adoption law changes approved by Cabinet

Adopted people will no longer have to sign an undertaking that they won’t contact their natural parents

The Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the provisions in the Bill in relation to release of birth information are “very serious and complex”. Photograph:  Nick Bradshaw

The Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the provisions in the Bill in relation to release of birth information are “very serious and complex”. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Adopted men and women will no longer be forced to sign an “undertaking” saying they won’t contact their natural parents in order to get access to their birth cert information under proposals approved by Cabinet on Tuesday.

TDs and lobby groups expressed concerns with the provision contained in the Adoption and Information Tracing Bill which is currently making its way through the Oireachtas.

The proposed law would give adopted children access to information on their birth as well as providing access to birth certificate information for adopted people who found out that they had been wrongly registered as the biological children of their adoptive parents.

Ms Zappone received the backing of the Cabinet on Tuesday to draft amendments on the controversial aspects of the law.

Under the previous plan, adopted people who wanted to get access to their birth information would have to sign an undertaking, in certain circumstances, that they would not contact the birth parent.

Birth parents were also allowed to invoke compelling reasons as to why their information should not be released, where such release would be likely to endanger their lives. Under the new plan, contact will be made with all birth parents to find out whether they have any objection to the birth information being released. Where the parent does not consent to the release of the information, both parties will be given the opportunity to make their case before the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

The Department of Children said the Adoption Authority will make a determination in the case “against a range of criteria by reference to Supreme Court jurisprudence.” Either side would be able to appeal the decision to the Circuit Court.

The department says that this means both “the applicant and the birth parent have an equal chance to make their case about why the information should be released.”

The Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said the provisions in the Bill in relation to release of birth information are “very serious and complex”.

“We must balance the competing rights to identity with the right to privacy, in certain circumstances. I believe that people have the right to know of their true origins but we are also required to protect vulnerable birth parents. I believe the scheme for which I got approval today is a reasonable compromise in all the circumstances, and I hope all stakeholders will support the proposal, so this legislation can be enacted as quickly as possible,” she said.

“My Department will engage with the Office of the Attorney General in relation to drafting the necessary detailed amendments, to be brought forward at Committee Stage in Seanad Éireann.”