A fifth of adoptees who applied to see birth certs in 2019 denied access

‘No other parent has the ability to deny their child access to their own birth cert’

Susan Lohan, Adoption Rights Alliance. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Susan Lohan, Adoption Rights Alliance. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Almost a fifth of all adopted persons who applied for their birth certificate last year were denied access to the information.

The latest annual report of the Adoption Authority of Ireland shows nine out of 46 adoptees were refused their request for the release of their birth certificate.

While birth certificates are generally released if the birth mother agrees to it, or where she is deceased, the authority can refuse applications where the birth mother does not consent to its release or where it is considered her privacy or safety might be put at risk.

The Adoption Rights Alliance, which represents adoptees, said it was appalled that the authority had found a reason to refuse the release of birth certificates in 20 per cent of cases processed last year compared with 12 per cent in 2018.

The group’s co-founder, Susan Lohan, said it represented complete discrimination against a group of people whose identities had often been hidden from them and who regularly had been lied to about their family background.

“The authority has given natural mothers some power of veto for that to occur. No other parent in the land has the ability to deny their child access to their own birth certificate,” Ms Lohan said.

The Adoption Authority of Ireland said discussions in relation to the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 had been continuing before the legislation lapsed with the dissolution of the Dáil earlier this year.

However, it acknowledged that it had not proved possible to reach consensus on the issue of releasing birth information.

“At this time, it is intended to proceed with the option of safeguarding of records, with all adoptions and related records to be transferred to the Adoption Authority,” it added.

‘Unfettered access’

Ms Lohan expressed hope that the new Minister for Children would tear up the existing Bill and start afresh at bringing in legislation that would give adopted people “unfettered access” to all their personal records including birth certificates.

The authority said it had received a total of 71 new requests from adoptees for the release of their birth certificates during 2019.

The latest figures also showed that 79 adoption orders were granted last year while 48 declarations of eligibility and suitability were granted to applicants for foreign adoptions.

The number of adoption orders has remained relatively stable in recent years but is considerably lower than in previous decades, especially the 1960s and 1970s. The numbers peaked in 1967, when almost 1,500 adoptions were approved.

The majority of last year’s orders were granted to applicants who were step-parents. A total of 21 cases related to the adoption of children who had been in long-term foster care while the remainder related to children placed for adoption and where the child was in the care of extended family members.

The Adoption Authority said the high number of cases relating to step-parents, at 50, was a result of the first full-year effect of the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017, which brought in a number of key changes in relation to domestic adoptions, including allowing a step-parent to adopt their partner’s child without requiring both of them to apply to adopt the child.

“The new provisions essentially meant that the birth parent in these 50 applications did not have to adopt their birth child with their partner and was simply able to retain parental rights in tandem with the adopter,” it added.

No consultation

The Adoption Authority of Ireland confirmed that it applied for and was granted an order by the High Court in eight cases last year where it sought permission to proceed with an adoption application without consultation with the birth father.

In one case the High Court agreed that the circumstances were such that it was deemed inappropriate to notify and consult with the father. In the other applications, the identity of the birth father was unknown.

Separately, the authority also sought and secured High Court permission for five applications to proceed with an adoption where the consent of the birth mother had not been obtained.

It revealed that it received 560 new applications to the National Adoption Contact Preference Register, which facilitates birth parents, their relatives and adoptees in tracing family members. The authority said 115 potential matches were identified among the new parties placed on the register in 2019.

Since its establishment in 2005, about 14,600 people have been included on the register with more than 1,200 matches recorded.

Adoptees account for almost 70 per cent of all names on the register.