Monday 10 December 2018

Adoption controversy - Zappone reveals at least 126 babies incorrectly registered

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone Picture: Steve Humphreys
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone Picture: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

DOZENS of people aged between 49 and 72 years old may have no idea that they were adopted.

The State has been plunged into a fresh controversy dating from the 1950s and ‘60s after it was revealed that an unknown number of adopted children were registered incorrectly.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone revealed that efforts are under to contact 126 people – but the true numbers are unknown.

The cases identified are linked to the former adoption society St Patrick’s Guild in Dublin.

Incorrect or ‘false’ registrations occur where a child is placed with a couple or individual who was not the parent, but the birth is then registered as if the child had been born to that couple or individual.

As a result they may believe that their adoptive parents are actually their biological parents.

Ms Zappone confirmed: “We have known about the practice of incorrect registrations for many years, but it has been extremely difficult to identify and prove in individual cases because of the deliberate failure of those involved to keep records.  However, Tusla has found clear evidence in the case of some records previously held by St Patrick’s Guild.”

The Minister said that following an initial examination of around 13,500 records from St Patrick’s Guild, Tusla were able to identify the incorrect registrations because, unusually, there was a marker specifying ‘adopted from birth’ on the record.

Having cross-checked the records with those of the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the General Register Office (GRO), Tusla identified 126 incorrect registrations as follows:

  • 79 people who have had no contact with St Patrick’s Guild and may be entirely unaware of the true circumstances of their birth;

  • 14 people where a relative had contact with St Patrick’s Guild, but where it is not clear whether the person affected are now aware of the incorrect registration;

  • 31 people who have had previous contact with St Patrick’s Guild and who may or may not be aware of the incorrect registration in their case

  • 2 people who though later adopted legally, were the subject of an illegal registration initially.

  • The minister told a press conference in Dublin: “This is a very serious and sensitive issue. People have the right to know of their true origins and, where we have clear evidence, I believe we have an obligation to tell the people affected. Some may know already, but for others it will be entirely new and very difficult information indeed.”

    Tusla has developed a plan for making contact with people and for providing the right supports for them as they absorb this information.

    In a statement this evening, the body said:

    "While the 126 cases have been identified, significant work remains to identify, locate and inform those affected. Tusla has been tasked by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone, with identifying, locating and contacting those affected, as a matter of urgency. Tusla has created a dedicated team of experienced practitioners to carry out this work.

    "At this point in time, we cannot say with certainty how long this process will take. Tracing people is often slow, labour-intensive work, but we have created an experienced social work team dedicated to tracing these people in the hope that the work will be completed as quickly as possible.

    "We would like to clarify that based on information currently available the only people who may be affected by this annoucement are those born between 1946 and 1969, who were placed through St Patrick's Guild and who do not have an adoption order.

    "It is likely that this work will impact on our general information and tracing services and on the waiting time for people who have applied for a tracing service. We apologise for this inconvenience and to minimise this impact we have begun recruitment to fill the posts made vacant by the creation of the dedicated team.

    "This is an extremely sensitive issue and one which we acknowledge may cause upset and anxiety for those affected, as well as adopted people, adoptive parents and birth parents across the country. Tusla will ensure that those affected will be treated with dignity, respect, sensitivity and a true sense of compassion. Tusla will also make sure that the people who are subject to the incorrect registrations are given the autonomy and self-determination to make the decision they wish to about their life.  A helpline has been set up for anyone who has concerns about their adoption. The freecall helpline number is 1800 805 665 and is open from 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday."

    An Garadí Siochána were alerted to the illegal practice last February and are investigating.

    This process will be overseen and quality-assured by an Independent Reviewer, Ms Marion Reynolds, who is a former Deputy Director of Social Services in Northern Ireland.

    Ms Zappone said: “We want to know if a major trawl of the many thousands of adoption records is likely to identify hard evidence of incorrect registrations. This might be possible, for example, if other adoption societies used a label or marker such as that used by St Patrick’s Guild.”

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