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Cautious welcome to work on adoption law

By Conall O Fátharta

Irish Examiner, Monday, November 15, 2010

THE Government’s confirmation that work has started on tracing and information legislation for adopted people and natural parents has a received a cautious welcome from adoption support groups.

Speaking at the introduction of the new Adoption Act which took effect at the beginning of the month, Minister for Children Barry Andrews confirmed work had begun on preparing legislation in conjunction with the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI).

Chairman of the AAI Geoffrey Shannon also stressed the need for a separate piece of legislation to deal with the issue of tracing and information and acknowledged "the huge importance in the preservation of one’s identity and access to birth records".

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said despite the commitment to new legislation, there had yet to be any engagement with stakeholders on the issue.

"We were part of the group that advised setting up the National Adoption Contact Preference Register (NACPR) and the and National Information and Tracing Service. As we expected, the NACPR has had limited success since. It has had just 420 matches out of 150,000 adopted people and natural parents. It was intended to be a stop gap measure but here we are living with it for the past five years."

"How can the Adoption Authority engage with the minister on tracing and information when it has not engaged with stakeholders yet? There is a complete lack of engagement on this issue," she said.

Chairwoman of Adoption Loss – The Natural Parents Network of Ireland Bernie Harold also greeted the minister’s announcement with some cynicism.

"We participated in an adoption ‘consultation process’ in the early 2000s under the previous minister for children Brian Lenihan in which we were given 10 places for natural mothers at a conference of 200 participants.

"We then participated on an advisory group at the Adoption Board for three years which devised the NACPR and guidelines for adoption agency social workers in information and tracing. The social workers have since refused to implement those guidelines. The department has failed to explain why three years of our voluntary input has been jettisoned in this way," she said.

Adoption groups have been lobbying for legislation on information and tracing for more than a decade.

A national public consultation process in 2003, under Mr Andrews’ predecessor Brian Lenihan, recommended tracing and reunion services on a legislative footing.

This consultation led to a controversial Adoption Bill which sunk without trace after the government had suggested criminalising adopted people for tracing their natural mother without consent.

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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." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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