A spokesperson for the HSE confirmed that a number of social workers in the former Eastern Regional Health Authority have been appointed to conduct the inquiry into the Aadam’s Women’s Centre.
The centre, based in Cork and Dublin, oversaw the taking of at least two babies into unlawful custody, although it is understood the inquiry will investigate claims that up to 50 babies might have been passed through for private adoption.
Controversy regarding the Aadam’s Centre erupted in 1999 when it was revealed that a four-day-old baby girl, or ‘Baby A’, the child of a 21-year-old student, had been handed over to the couple running the centre.
Another baby, ‘Baby B’, born to a 17-year-old girl, was also taken into adoptive care by the couple.
‘Private’ adoptions to non-relatives are illegal, while focus was also placed on the pro-life aspects of the Aadam’s Centre. Both children were taken from the care of the couple.
The new inquiry was given the green light during the summer and will investigate claims that approximately 50 girls with crisis pregnancies, including the mothers of Baby A and
Baby B, were referred by the agency to a GP for counselling within the space of about 18 months.
In a High Court Ruling in 1999, it was stated that there was a strong suggestion that the mother in the Baby A case had been “ring-fenced”. The agency, which was first established in 1995, was also seen to have been involved in a “conflict of interest”.
However, it is understood that the new inquiry might take a considerable period of time as documents pertaining to the cases might have to be obtained through the courts.
News of the inquiry came as the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) called on the Government to introduce regulation of crisis pregnancy counselling services.
The CPA is to publish a manual of best practice counselling this winter and will facilitate training for staff within the 13 State-funded counselling services.
“This is pointing the way to needing some sort of regulation of crisis pregnancy counselling,” she said. “The best practice manual will be a benchmark for what crisis pregnancy counsellors should be doing and we will roll out training based on that.”
She said that the CPA had sought legal advice and spoken to gardaí in relation to so-called ‘rogue counselling services’ that would not be non-judgemental in their advice to young women in a crisis pregnancy.