My Speech on the Adoption and Tracing Bill,

First and foremost this Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill will give adopted persons, birth parents and relatives a legal right to an information and tracing service.

In my view, this proposed legislation is long overdue and provides for structured and regulated access to information and tracing services for those affected by adoption.

This Bill offers access to information for adopted people, birth parents and others, and operates on the basis of a presumption in favour of disclosing information in so far as is legally and constitutionally possible.

The proposed legislation will establish The Register of Adoption Contact Enquiries and provides for the safeguarding of all adoption records.

 Tusla – the Child and Family Agency will undertake an awareness campaign during the first six months after the legislation comes into operation to inform people about the provisions of this Bill. The campaign will publicise the provisions of the new legislation, outlining what information can be provided and the circumstances in which it can be provided.

In particular, the campaign will outline that an adopted person, aged 18 years and over, will be entitled to apply for their birth certificate information and that a birth parent will be given an opportunity to indicate their preference regarding contact on the Register of Adoption Contact Enquiries. Anyone entering their details on the Register of Adoption Contact Enquiries can change their contact preference at any time.

It is expected the information campaign will encourage adopted people and birth parents to enter their details on the Register of Adoption Contact Enquiries and to engage with the Tusla’s Information and Tracing Services, if they are considering sharing information and/or having contact with a person whom they were separated from as a result of an adoption.

At this point I would like to touch on the subject of Informal adoption and incorrect registrations and how this Bill will affect those who may fall into this category.

People who were affected by informal adoptions – that is in a long term care arrangement where no adoption took place,  or where births have been incorrectly registered – will be entitled to an information and tracing service in the  same manner as an adopted person or a birth parent of an adopted person.

The proposed legislation also provide that Tusla will offer support and guidance to adopted people, birth parents, and relatives at all stages of the information and tracing process.

A new Register is to be established and operated by Tusla. The Register is the gateway into the information and tracing service and will facilitate information sharing and contact between adopted people, birth parents and relatives.

n adopted person, a birth parent or relative seeking to share information or wishing to have contact with a person with whom they were separated as a result of an adoption, may apply to have their details entered on the Register. People can also enter their details on the Register to indicate that they are “not willing to be contacted” by a specified person.

I would now like to address the subject of Adoption records. Adoption records are currently held by the Adoption Authority of Ireland, Tusla and agencies accredited under the Adoption Act 2010. These records are of historical significance and are of great importance for adopted people, birth parents, and relatives.

Under the proposed legislation- the Authority will have overall responsibility for the safeguarding of all adoption records, including information relating to informal adoptions and persons whose birth was incorrectly registered. All adoption records, which are currently held in a number of locations, are to be transferred to the custody of the Authority. The Bill provides that the records are to be indexed and a searchable electronic database of the records is to be created. The Authority is to ensure that all adoption records are to be kept in a suitable and secure location with access to be provided to a person to view his or her own records.

The majority of adoption records are currently held by the Authority or Tusla. The Authority holds an individual record of each domestic adoption that has taken place in Ireland since the Adoption Act 1952. Many of the older records provide information on an adoption by way of a series of entries into ledger type registers or notebooks, which were maintained by the various institutions involved in the care of the mother and baby and the adoption process. The proposed legislation will ensure that all these records are collected, restored, preserved, stored and safeguarded.

At this point I would like to touch on the subject of adoptions effected before the proposed legislation comes into operation.

An adopted person aged 18 years or over who was adopted before the proposed legislation comes into operation, will be provided with his/her birth certificate information, as held on record, following a request to Tusla, subject to certain conditions.

Where an adoption order was made before the proposed legislation comes into operation, birth certificate information will be provided to an adopted person, after he/she has given an undertaking agreeing not to contact or attempt to contact his/her birth parent or not to ask anyone else to make or attempt to make contact on his/her behalf.

Where a birth mother has registered her details on the Register, Tusla will notify her, in writing, of the adopted person’s application for his/her birth certificate information. She will be offered support and guidance by Tusla and advised that the adopted person has also been also been offered support and guidance. The birth mother will be advised that the information will be provided to the adopted person unless she advises Tusla within 12 weeks, that she considers that there are compelling reasons not to release this information.

Where a birth father was consulted in relation to an adoption and he has not registered his details on the Register and the adopted person has given an undertaking not to contact his/her birth parent, he/she can be provided with details of his/her father’s forename and surname, as held on record.

Where a birth father has registered his details on the Register, Tusla will notify him, in writing, of the adopted person’s application for details of his forename and surname. He will be offered support and guidance by Tusla and advised that the adopted person has also been also been offered support and guidance. The birth father will be advised that the information will be provided to the adopted person unless he advises Tusla within 12 weeks, that he considers that there are compelling reasons not to release this information.

For all adoptions that take place after the legislation comes into operation, an adopted person on reaching 18 years of age will be entitled to a copy of their birth certificate and other information relating to themselves and their birth family. The birth parent will be notified 12 weeks in advance of the proposed release of this information. In this scenario the birth parent and adoptive parents will be advised of these arrangements by Tusla prior to the adoption order being made.

Although I broadly support this Bill I would like to highlight the objections to this Bill by Cunamh – an accredited body licensed and regulated by the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

They are concerned that due to governance and legislative issues, when this Bill is enacted – accredited bodies such as Cunamh will no longer be able to provide Adoption Information as these will be provided solely by Tusla.

 

Cunamh argue that according to official statistics – Tulsa is losing c150 social workers a year yet this legislation in its current form is going to give the responsibility for Information and Tracing solely to Tulsa resulting in the closure of agencies such as Cunamh which has a long history and expertise in this area.

As such Cunamh have asked that we consider the following amendments to the Bill:

Part 4 Section 21 (1) The current wording of Part 4 states the agency may authorise and accredited body to perform the functions of the agency under this part. Cunamh have suggested this be amended to state: Accredited bodies may perform the functions of the Agency under this part.

Part 5: Provision of Information: The current wording omits a role for accredited bodies , Cunamh wish this to be amended to state: Accredited bodies may perform functions under part 5.

Whilst I broadly welcome this Bill, I believe the Chamber should review and consider the concerns of bodies such as Cunamh. Ends

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