...regaining identities, histories and rights for adopted people...  

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Lack of complaints mechanism
In Ireland there is no statutory mechanism under which to complain about the AAI.  The Authority is not covered under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 to 2003 or the Ombudsman’s Act 1980.  The Adoption Act 2010 worryingly placed a gagging order on the AAI Chief Executive which flies in the face of the international move towards whistleblower legislation, as well as the current Programme for Government.  The AAI should develop a Whistleblower’s Charter to apply to AAI staff, accredited bodies and any third parties with relevant information.

It should also be noted that despite repeated attempts by Adoption Rights Alliance and its predecessors to coordinate a complaints arrangement with the Adoption Board/Authority, the Board has never sufficiently risen to the occasion, though in recent meetings with the Chairperson and CEO, they appeared to accept that Adoption Rights Alliance could warn them of non-compliant agencies or other worrying trends, though the issue of complaints against the board itself was not raised.  We have made numerous complaints on behalf of our services users over the years, none of which have been addressed.  In many instances, the adopted person or natural parent has felt afraid to approach the Adoption Board/Authority or adoption agency/HSE themselves, for fear of jeopardising their case, and in other cases, our service users have simply felt daunted about complaining, hence, there is a real need for a mechanism to report instances of wrongdoing. 

If you have a complaint against an adoption agency or the Adoption Authority, or if you are concerned or unsure about how you are being treated, or, if you even have some feedback to give your agency, please feel free to contact us in complete confidence at complaints@adoptionrightsalliance.com 

Remember: All agencies were asked to conduct themselves in accordance with the Framework for the Provision of a National Information & Tracing Service, compiled by the Advisory Group to the Adoption Authority (then Adoption Board).  You can access the document here. - Note this document is not available on the Adoption Authority website and we have yet to receive a satisfactory explanation for this.

If your agency is not operating according to these principles or if you are experiencing any kind of discrimination or prejudice, contact us.

Remember, you are the client and you have the right to be treated with respect and dignity.

Sample Complaints/Issues
Below are some of the complaints we have gathered over the years:

  • Agencies refusing to carry out traces in cases of illegal adoptions i.e. where a child is registered as the child of the adoptive parents and the birth is falsely registered.

  • Over the years the Adoption Authority has repeatedly refused to deal with the issue of illegal adoptions.

  • Agencies withholding non-identifying information such as first names, place of birth.

  • Agencies imposing waiting lists of several years.

  • Agencies discouraging adopted people from tracing, with statements like:  "It can be a very slow process, people have moved and gotten married" or "We are looking for a lady whose circumstances we know nothing about - she could be dead - three of the mothers I found last year were dead"’. “Think of the lives you would be destroying”  (These are actual quotes).

  • A general lack of respect of the adopted person’s desire to trace e.g. reminding the adopted person that they might hurt their adoptive parents’ feelings or disrupt their natural mother’s life.

  • Agencies contacting adoptive parents as opposed to the adult adopted person when a query arrives from the natural mother.

  • Agencies refusing to supply medical information, even in life threatening situations.

  • Agencies drip feeding information as opposed to handing over all available information.

  • Inefficiencies such as not responding to letters at all or delayed responses to letters.

  • Inefficiencies such as social workers, untrained in genealogy, travelling to the General Registrar’s Office and carrying out their own research on a case by case basis.

  • Agencies insisting on face to face meetings with social workers prior to the release of any information, regardless of whether the person lives in Ireland or not.

  • Breaches of confidentiality – e.g. we are aware of cases where agencies in the course of a search have told other natural family members that their sister or mother or daughter had placed a child for adoption.

  • Agencies providing false or inaccurate information.

  • Agencies failing to put adopted people and natural parents in contact with each other even in cases where both parties have contacted the agency seeking a reunion.

  • Adoption Board insisting on the signing of affidavits prior to the release of birth certificates (a practice now discontinued).

  • Mandatory counselling being insisted upon or strongly encouraged, leaving the adopted person feeling they have no choice in the matter, that the trace will go slower if they don’t.

  • Adopted people being forced to answer intimate questions from nuns with no social work qualifications in church run agencies in order to obtain information.

  • A nun in a church run agency claiming to an adopted person who was exported to the US for adoption that she cycled from Cork to Kerry, visited with the person’s natural mother who allegedly told the nun she was not interested in contact.  Our organisation subsequently provided the adopted person with the appropriate information and advice and within a few weeks he was happily reunited with his natural mother.

  • A nun in a church run agency secretly joining adopted people’s online support groups, copying messages and summoning adopted people who have complained about her to intimidating meetings.

  • A nun in a church run agency sending threatening legal letters to group members of adoption organisations warning of litigation.

  • Deliberate withholding of or providing misleading information in illegal adoptions where the adopted person seeks reunion.

  • Agencies telling adopted people and natural parents that it is illegal to trace.

  • Agencies telling adopted people that they cannot trace or receive information using excuses like “the Irish Law” or the “Secrecy Act”.

  • Social workers engaging in “counselling sessions” while failing to inform the adopted person that they are in fact being assessed as to their “suitability” to receive information or be reunited.

  • In the case of one of our colleagues who was sent to the US for adoption, a nun from a church run agency, despite already knowing the natural mother’s date of birth, managed to contact the wrong woman with a completely different date of birth.  She also claimed that they had no idea where the natural mother had gone when she left the mother and baby home, yet the natural mother received photos of the adopted person post-adoption from the adoption agency who sent it to the UK.

  • In the same case, the same nun wrote to the adopted person after she had found her natural mother, harassing her and sharing sensitive private correspondence from her adoptive mother that the adoptive person felt she should never have seen, resulting in diminishing an already degrading relationship between the adopted person and her adoptive mother.

  • Agencies using adopted people to vent their anger at the new Adoption Authority’s attempts to regulate the system.

  • A church run agency telling an adopted person “you never know, you could have been born in the UK” – the agency has this information and could easily give it to the adopted person instead of leaving them guessing.

Have a complaint to add to this list?  Contact us  

I don't have a case, I have half a life
I don't have an issue, I have a life that is incomplete due to the actions of your predecessors and compounded by current agency, state and church  personnel.
I don't have a query, I have a right
I don't have a file, I have a history, an identity and a heritage which I cannot access

- Angela Murphy, 2001 (an adopted person) 


“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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