Thursday 20 January 2022

Irish adoptees given right of access to birth certificates and more

After far too many years of campaigning by adopted people for the right to know their full birth and early childhood details, Ireland has introduced new laws giving adoptees automatic access to their birth records for the first time. The Birth Information and Tracing Bill was launched last week by Children's Minister Roderic O'Gorman and came exactly one year after the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes report was published.

The new legislation provides for the release of the person's birth certificate, information about their birth, early life and care, and medical background. These details, which will be unredacted, will be provided even if the mother or genetic relatives object.

Early life information will include the release of baptismal certificates and copies of entries in the parish baptism register.

The latter, as all Irish genealogists know, often provide names and other details of family and friends.

A comprehensive statutory tracing service will now be set up for anyone who wishes to make contact, or share or seek information about their birth and early life. This will establish a Contact Preference Register to allow people to “register their preference for contact with family, as well as a mechanism to lodge communications and contemporary medical information which can be shared with family members.”

This register will supersede the existing national Adoption Contact Preference Register; all current entries will be transferred to the new version.

Funding of €4million has been allocated to the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, and the Adoption Authority of Ireland, which together will need to recruit upwards of 30 additional staff to provide the new services.

When the legislation has passed all the formalities, a three-month-long public awareness campaign will advertise the new rights in Ireland, Britain, the USA and Australia. Adopted people and their mothers will be encouraged to register their preferences on whether or not they want contact. At the end of that campaign, the new service should be ready to launch. It is hoped it will be up and running this year.

For more information, see the Government's detailed Press Release and accompanying pdfs.