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Adoption - promises not kept

Irish Times Letters, Mon, Dec 06, 2010

Madam, – It was very welcome that Kate Holmquist highlighted the difficulties which ensue because of delayed action in reforming adoption legislation (Weekend Review and Life Culture, November 6th and 8th).

However, we were rather disappointed that the Council of Irish Adoption Agencies failed to mention some very important matters when setting out their stall.

We have run a helpline for over 12 years – staffed voluntarily by natural parents who were themselves parted from their children by adoption in the past. Having listened to many thousands of very distressed women and men, we can vouch for the fact that the greatest problem they report is difficulties with the adoption agencies through which their children were adopted. For decades, they were refused any information whatsoever about their children. The introduction in recent years of promised meetings or photographs was only made in order to persuade more women to give their babies up for adoption.

But the adoption agencies often neglect to properly inform mothers that once the final consent form is signed, the adopting couple has no legal obligation to abide by promises they made either to the adoption agency or natural mother or father, and many have reneged on their promises.

The fact that the same adoption agency currently acts for both the adopting couple and the natural parent/s does not appear to be of any benefit; in fact, most would consider that adoption agencies’ primary relationship and loyalty is with the adopting couple. The fact is, if an adopting couple refuse to allow the child to meet his or her mother or father, or fail to provide any photographs at all, there is nothing that can be done. Many women have been so hurt and embittered by this, saying that they were tricked or seduced into the adoption, and that once they signed the consent form, they were tossed aside and forgotten. And when, years later, they attempt to achieve reunion with their adult children, until very recently they were obliged to return to those very adoption agencies which they associate with the traumatic loss of their children.

Most of the adoption agencies, even when an adopted person is in their 30s or 40s, will write to their adoptive parents to inform them that the natural mother or father wishes to make contact with their child.

The reason they do this is because there are an unknown number of cases where people have not been told of their adoptive status. In these cases, neither the adoption agencies nor the Adoption Board (now Adoption Authority) will take the responsibility to inform those people about their real parentage, citing their “right to privacy”. We find this practice to be a monstrous violation of the human rights of both mother and child, and hope that forthcoming reforming legislation will correct this wrong.

Perhaps it’s a feeble hope. Our submission on the legislative reform necessary to implement the Hague Convention was made to the Department of Health and Children in 1999. The resulting legislation was finally introduced in 2010 – a full 11 years later.

On the invitation of the previous Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan, we were invited to participate in a consultation process on adoption reform, as part of which we sat on an Advisory Committee to the Adoption Board for three years. This led to the establishment of the National Adoption Contact Preference Register, and to the publication of Guidelines for Adoption Agencies on Information and Tracing. And although the Council of Irish Adoption Agencies was also represented on this Advisory Committee, it still refuses to implement the guidelines – a full three years later.

We are sure, therefore, that no one will be surprised that we fully support the moves to establish separate representation for natural parents by adoption agencies (to include independent legal advice before signing any consent form) under enforceable regulation by the Adoption Authority – contrary to the views of the Council of Irish Adoption Agencies. – Yours, etc,

Adoption Loss/Natural Parents
Network of Ireland,
PO Box 6714,
Dublin 4.

2010 The Irish Times


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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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