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Adoption data at
unaccredited agencies not legally protected
By Conall Ó Fátharta
Irish Examiner, Friday, August 05, 2011
TENS of thousands of adoption files, some exposing illegal adoptions and
birth registrations, cannot be inspected by the Adoption Authority as a
number of agencies have not applied to be accredited under new
Under the Adoption Act 2010, the Adoption Authority has the right to
inspect and copy all files held by agencies which it has accredited.
However, it has emerged that two religious adoption agencies, the Sacred
Heart Adoption Society (SHAS) in Cork and St Brigid’s Adoption Society
in Dublin, have not applied for accreditation, and are not compelled to
do so under the legislation.
The Adoption Authority has admitted that as these adoption files
"were private property in private ownership", it had "no
statutory role or function in the matter", meaning it has no right
to inspect and copy the records.
By declining to apply for accreditation, these agencies must cease all
operations relating to adoption. However, as they are not accredited, it
also means their adoption files are closed to the very body charged with
regulating adoption in Ireland.
It is believed that negotiations are taking place with SHAS about
transferring its some 15,000 adoption files to the HSE for the purposes
of preservation and in the use of adoption tracing and information.
This was supposed to have taken place by August 1 but has stalled. As
the HSE is not an accredited body per se, the inspection of these
documents can only be secured by the minister for children and the
It is unclear as to what will happen the files of St Brigid’s Adoption
Society. However, the Irish Examiner understands the agency is
continuing to offer adoption-related services, despite not being
accredited to do so by law.
Chairwoman of Adoption Loss — The Natural Parents Network of Ireland,
Bernie Harold, said it had warned 12 years ago that all adoption records
should be made the property of the state to prevent such a scenario.
"The adoption agencies which hold these records, and are now
allowed to refuse access to Adoption Authority staff, have received
considerable sums of funding from the taxpayer over many years,"
she said. "The previous adoption board had the opportunity, while
those agencies were still registered with them, to make unannounced
inspections of all their files and to copy all of their records. We
called for this to be done."
Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said it "beggars
belief" that such a scenario was not seen when preparing the
"It beggars belief that the so-called policy-making experts of the
Department of Health and Children and the then-adoptionboard both failed
to notice the gaping loophole of moribund agencies not seeking
accreditation under the new act and the impact that would have on the
safeguarding of files," she said.
"These files are in many cases the only source of adopted
people’s identities, particularly for those illegally adopted or
trafficked to the US, and they also hold vital information on adopted
people’s natural families, in particular details of siblings who may
also have been adopted."
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is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are
and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there
is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting
Alex Haley, Author of Roots