Charities in Britain have warned about the dangers of some birth parents — particularly those who may have been abusive in the past — seeking to track down their birth children online and re-establishing contact.
In some cases it has been reported that the adopted children displayed troubled behaviour after their parents had re-established contact.
Here, both the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and one of the agencies which help with tracing, Cunamh, have said there is “anecdotal” evidence that Facebook contact between birth relatives and adopted children here has taken place.
However, in the limited cases where it has occurred, the outcome so far does not appear to have been negative, and key differences in adoption procedures and access to information in this country mean social media contact is less likely.
The AAI said there had been cases where someone who had been adopted had begun tracing their birth relative on Facebook and had made contact within 20 minutes.
However, under the procedures attached to “clean break” adoption, birth relatives are less likely to know the adopted name of the child, while a parent who adopts may know little about the identity of the birth parents or relatives.
In addition, children in abusive households can be taken into care, including foster care, but cannot be adopted, although proposals have been brought forward by Geoffrey Shannon, chairman of the Adoption Authority, outlining how this might be facilitated.
In addition, there is no automatic access to birth files for those who have been adopted in this country, so in many instances anyone seeking a relative on Facebook may only have a first name with which to start their online tracing.
Julie Kerins of Cunamh said she had heard of people tracing relatives through Facebook, often “impulsively”.
“This could happen and it obviously is happening in England so we would advocate coming through the proper channels. The reality is we are reuniting people all the time.”
She urged birth relatives to come forward, adding: “The majority of birth parents are responsible people who do not want to cause distress to others.”