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Adoption agency to withdraw tracing service

Irish Examiner, July 08, 2013 

by Conall Ó Fátharta

A religious-run adoption agency, which facilitated illegal adoptions and exported more than 500 “illegitimate” children, is withdrawing its tracing and information service.

Despite being funded by the HSE annually, including over €126,000 last year, St Patrick’s Guild informed the Adoption Authority last week that it no longer has the resources to staff the organisation. 

The agency, run by the Religious Sisters of Charity, had been accredited by the Adoption Authority to assist adopted people and natural parents through tracing, counselling and mediating. 

St Patrick’s Guild has admitted that it facilitated the illegal adoption and false birth registration of the son of Tressa Reeves — a case exposed by the Irish Examiner in 2010. 

In correspondence with Ms Reeves, St Patrick’s Guild admitted that it had placed at least one other child in the same way. 

Between 1947 and 1967, St Patrick’s Guild also arranged for the export of 572 “illegitimate” children from Ireland to the US for adoption. 

St Patrick’s Guild dealt with more than 10,000 adoptions in Ireland and holds more than 13,000 files on children who were fostered or adopted. 

Negotiations have begun between St Patrick’s Guild and the HSE with regard to the possible handover of files in the next 12 to 18 months. 

Despite the agency’s admitted involvement in facilitating illegal adoptions, the Adoption Authority again reiterated its stance that it will not inspect the files to ascertain the extent of the agency’s involvement in such activity. 

Susan Lohan, director of the Adoption Rights Alliance, welcomed the fact that St Patrick’s Guild had withdrawn its tracing and information service, saying that it was one of “the worst performing, most discouraging and unhelpful of adoption agencies”. 

“Their unexpected withdrawal gives rise to questions as to why the Adoption Authority saw fit to accredit the guild in the first instance, given the number of complaints about them and their very obvious staffing and resource shortfall and poor attitude towards both adopted people and natural parents seeking information about one another,” she said. 

Ms Lohan again called on the Adoption Authority to conduct an urgent audit on all of its files and to make contact with every person who the agency had either refused to help or had deliberately misled. 

“In some cases, mothers and children who were both desiring contact were put off or delayed by St Patrick’s Guild in making contact, with the result often being that the mother passed on before any contact could be made,” said Ms Lohan. 

“The Irish public should note that this has occurred under the watch of successive children’s ministers, including [incumbent] Frances Fitzgerald, all of whom have failed to take on either the agencies or the moribund Adoption Authority, supposedly tasked with monitoring and supervising these agencies.”

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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“In all of us there 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 loneliness." 

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