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Thursday 19 October 2017

People seeking details of 'lost childhood' face huge obstacles

Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Adults searching for information on their adoption, or details about relatives who may have ended up in mother and baby homes, can face a tortuous journey.

In some parts of the country the wait for a social worker to handle a case could be as long as five years, said Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors.

"They are not a priority of social workers," he said.

The long-awaited Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill, published in November, has still not been passed.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Children said it is scheduled for its second stage in the Seanad on March 22.

The proposed legislation allows for Tusla to operate an information and tracing service.

Where both parties consent, the agency should be free to facilitate contact.

It would allow access to birth certificates and copies of an adoption order, although this will be subject to conditions and may not be allowed.

Some of the biggest obstacles are faced by people who were in mother and baby homes.

The search for mothers, siblings, or even their own birth details, can be particularly fruitless. For many who are trying to put the pieces together on a "lost childhood", the doors are still firmly shut.

Catherine Corless, the local Tuam historian credited with exposing the buried remains of infants at the mother and baby home there, has helped several people in their 60s and 70s to secure precious information about their background.

"I always try to find something for them," she said.

She recalled one elderly man who was a resident of the home until he was fostered after primary school.

Read More: 'We have a terrible history of ignoring those who suffered'

"He always suspected he had done well in his primary cert," she said.

But the family he was fostered to, where he laboured on a farm, would never let him find out.

However, after searching the school records, she secured the cert and proved he got top marks.

"I do a lot of rooting, checking and cross-checking. I always make sure I have the right people," said Ms Corless.

She said she found that some social workers who were involved in other work could be too dismissive of people from the home who were looking for some details of their past.

Children who were illegally adopted have found that there can be an absence of documentation and can have little paper trail to call on.

Most illegal adoptions were carried out by individuals and institutions, including GPs, midwives, nurses, solicitors and priests.

Irish Independent

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