Adoption - promises not
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
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,
© 2010 The Irish Times
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