What the Tracey Fay
case teaches us about adoption
McGettrick, 7th March 2010
Hunt wrote in the Sunday Independent of 7th March that the
“only way Tracey stood a chance was if she had been adopted”, in
relation to the sad case of Tracey Fay and, this is probably true.
Fay’s case is an example of what adoption is supposed to be about –
i.e. giving a home to a child who genuinely needs one.
I cannot comment on Tracey’s mother’s ability to parent her,
because I wasn’t there to see it, but it’s probably safe to assume
that all was not well since Tracey was in care in the first place.
So, assuming there was nobody within Tracey’s immediate family
who was willing or able to care for her, then yes, absolutely, adoption
was the best thing for her.
the horrific Roscommon case is an example where adoption would have been
very appropriate, an option that would have drastically improved the
lives of the children involved.
adoption would probably have been the best option for Tracey Fay and the
Roscommon children, the question should be asked, at what stage these
children should have been adopted and by that I mean what was the best
stage for them as children? The answer is probably a lot earlier than 14 years of age
when Tracey Fay went into care. Sadly
the Roscommon children never even stood a chance.
This comes down to the parental rights vs. the right of a child
to a caring and nurturing family. This
wasn’t about Tracey’s mother’s rights, but her mother’s rights
ultimately won out. It
certainly wasn’t about the rights of the abusive parents in the
Roscommon case, but they seemed to get their way too.
conscious of using the personal and very hurtful stories of these two
families in order to illustrate my point, but I feel it is a point worth
making. The reason the
point is worth making is because more people need to think about opening
their homes to children like Tracey Fay and the children in the
Roscommon case, instead of hopping on a plane to Vietnam to adopt a
child who probably doesn’t need a home (certainly not in Ireland
anyway) in the first place.
the one hand there have been some news reports about the lack of foster
carers in Ireland and how there is a significant waiting list where
children are living in overcrowded situations because of this shortage.
Then on the other hand there have been many many more news
reports of prospective adoptive parents waiting and waiting for
assessments and approvals and whatnot in order to adopt children from
overseas. Though I have
joined the dots for people many times in letters to newspapers, urging
those on waiting lists to explore the idea of long-term fostering rather
than rushing to adopt abroad, I seem to be one of very few people who
are joining those dots (at least publicly) and regrettably nothing seems
if foreign adoption didn’t exist, (and let’s be clear, for this to
be true there would have to be a multitude of Irish babies
available for adoption), the likes of Tracey Fay and the Roscommon
children would still have trouble finding homes.
Why? Because the
majority of the prospective adopters who travel to adopt are looking for
babies, not traumatised toddlers, not needy children and certainly not
troubled teens. This is because it is often assumed that babies are more
of a “clean slate”, that these children will seem more like their
reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
Whether you’re adopting a baby, a toddler or a teenager;
you’re adopting a traumatised child who, whether he/she has been
willingly relinquished or not, will be experiencing rejection and a
feeling of abandonment. What
many people fail to realise is, adoption is not like regular parenting. You can never assume that an adopted child is 100% yours no
more than you can assume that an adopted child will not have issues.
Sadly for the internationally adopted children in Ireland today,
this fact has been proven by the reports we have heard of foreign
adopted children ending up in care. This situation is unacceptable – an already traumatised
child has now experienced rejection for a second time and faces an
uncertain future – and for what?
So a childless couple can have a child “to call their own”.
should not be about finding that child “to call your own” and in
principle it is not; rather it is about finding a home for a child that
genuinely needs one. In
practice however, things are very different.
Adoptive parents, once they bring home a baby from abroad would
like for the most part to be left alone, to enjoy private family life in
peace without interference from the HSE.
The fact is that the HSE, for all its failings, interferes for
good reason – i.e. to ensure that the child is safe, happy and coping
with the adjustment. The
reality is though, that not all adoptions are happy ones and it should
be said that not all unhappy adoptions are obvious as some troubled
adopted children and teens will keep their worries very much to
so-called “advantage” with a baby is that you can change his/her
name to your own, something you cannot do with a toddler or teenager and
this is another crucial part of that sense of ownership.
The likes of Tracey Fay, at 14 would not have stood for being
called a different name, but baby Xiao Ming from China has no choice in
having his name changed to Sean Murphy.
A child who is genuinely available for adoption is not
looking to have his/her identity changed; rather he/she is looking for
security and stability.
return to the original point, it is this need for a sense of ownership,
to have “a child of our own” that will prohibit many prospective
adopters from considering the likes of Tracey Fay for adoption.
there are some wonderful and completely selfless adoptive parents who
have adopted slightly older disabled children (e.g. children who have
survived Chernobyl), even then there can be issues of ownership, which I
saw clearly displayed recently in a TV3 interview with a couple having
difficulty adopting a girl from Belarus.
They had begun the process of adoption when they said the natural
parents “came back on the scene”.
This was treated like it was bad news, an inconvenience and a
glitch in the plan. Granted,
the girl was receiving medical treatment here in Ireland and there
appeared to be some hold ups with her receiving the treatment after she
was in the custody of her natural parents, but to be quite honest, if I
had to deal with this couple as a natural mother I would find it
difficult at best as the level of contempt with which the natural
parents were treated was appalling.
This couple appeared to be unable to see beyond the fact that
their master plan was interrupted by the return of the natural parents.
adoption you can never assume that you’re going to get the fairytale
happy ever after – you are always going to share this child with the
natural parents, you are always going to be dealing with a troubled
child. It isn’t about
you, it is about the child – it’s always about the child.
When you lose sight of that – and people often do – then
adoption becomes a selfish act.
feel for people who cannot have children of their own, but, speaking as
an adopted person, let me assure you that adoption is not a solution to
this problem. It is very wrong to expect a traumatised child to fulfil the
needs of a childless couple and whether or not adoptive parents are
aware that they are doing it, it often happens.
you have been living in ignorant bliss up until reading this piece,
before you assume it’s a load of nonsense, buy yourself a copy of the
Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier, an adoptive mother who dared to explore
the mind of the adopted child. And,
the next time you hear about a child being adopted from abroad, think
about whether it is in the best interests of that child and ask yourself
if that child was truly available for adoption or if that available home
might have been better filled by a needy Irish child languishing in the
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