Adoption system 'out of step with reality' in age of social media, review finds

Adoption system 'out of step with reality' in age of social media, review finds

Social media has changed the landscape in terms of adopted people tracing their birth relatives to such an extent that service providers here "are out of step with the reality".

That was one of the findings highlighted by participants in a Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) review and consultation on the potential introduction of open or semi-open adoption in Ireland.

Adoption in Ireland has been closed historically - meaning that there is no further contact or information sharing between the natural and adoptive families once the child has been legally adopted.

Those involved in the review included social work practitioners, academic experts, members of the community and voluntary sector and representatives from Government Departments, Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland.

The review found that "many participants found it challenging to identify any benefits of a closed system" with others expressing the view that "the disadvantages outweighed the benefits".

It was commonly observed that, in reality, adoption in Ireland is no longer closed, owing to the impact of new avenues for contacting birth family members, such as via social media.

"This has led, it was expressed by some, to a situation in which service providers are out of step with the reality," said the report.

The report said that some of the disadvantages of a closed adoption system are that it has a negative impact on the identity formation of adopted person and associates adoption "with stigma and shame, which impacts on the mental health of all involved".

It also prevents the adopted person from accessing their own medical history.

However, the report pointed to some advantages of the closed adoption system including that it protects the adopted child in cases where there are child protection concerns; where the child may otherwise discover distressing information; or where a mother experiencing a concealed pregnancy might otherwise abandon the child.

It also said that it provides a "normal" family life with no State involvement and provides a sense of safety and stability.

Maree Ryan-O’Brien of Aitheantas Adoptee Identity Rights, which was involved in the review, called on Children's Minister Katherine Zappone to take heed of the damaging nature of closed adoption with regard to the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill.

"The report accurately reflects the significant input given by a broad range of professionals and advocates in this debate, the Minister might also bear this in mind when considering the current impasse with her ‘paused’ Bill as, while some stakeholders have been afforded the opportunity to meet the Minister, we are still awaiting the same opportunity to express our views, which we believe would be very beneficial to all concerned, as they were in this policy debate," she said.

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