Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone under fire over adoption records

Adoption campaigners have hit out at Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone for refusing to reveal how many adoption records are being examined as part of the “scoping exercise” investigating the scale of illegal adoptions.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone under fire over adoption records

Adoption campaigners have hit out at Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone for refusing to reveal how many adoption records are being examined as part of the “scoping exercise” investigating the scale of illegal adoptions.

The audit was announced at the end of May following the discovery by Tusla of 126 cases in which births were illegally registered between 1946 and 1969 in the records of St Patrick’s Guild. The records transferred to the agency in 2016.

It is being led by independent reviewer, Marion Reynolds, and will involve the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and Tusla. There had been widespread calls for the audit to be based on a large sample of records.

The Irish Examiner put questions to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), asking for sample size and methodology, and whether the audit will involve examining records for other forms of illegal adoption outside of those clearly marked as illegal birth registrations. When more details were sought, it said it had “nothing further to add to the response”.

This refusal to reveal the sample size or methodology has raised concerns that the audit will only examine a tiny percentage of the estimated 150,000 adoption records.

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes Survivors (CMABS) said there is a duty on the minister and her department to ensure all illegally adopted people are told the truth about their identity prevent them giving false and, potentially lethal, family medical histories to doctors:

The only ethical way forward is to audit all of the adoption agencies as a matter of urgency. The evidence of fraudulent and fake paperwork is overwhelming in the survivor community.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said a sample of a small number of records is a wasted exercise given the internal knowledge within multiple State agencies of the scale of illegal adoptions: “We raised the spectre of detailed existing knowledge of illegal adoptions within the DCYA, the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) and Tusla, which they have always denied. I can recount many times that individual social workers and senior officers at the AAI had reacted with near hysteria over the notion that they would ever acknowledge such illegal practices, preferring the sanitised terms of ‘de-facto adoptions’ or ‘illegal registrations’.”

In fact despite many attempts to engage with the AAI on what might actually constitute an illegal adoption, its executive officers had failed to respond to ARA queries on the matter,” she said.

As far back as 2015, the Irish Examiner revealed that the AAI had told the department in 2013 that St Patrick’s Guild was aware of “several hundred” illegal registrations. The DCYA has also consistently said an audit of adoption records would be of “very little benefit” and would “little useful information”.

This newspaper revealed in June that Tusla had raised concerns about a further 748 cases from St Patrick’s Guild. These cases contain evidence of names being changed, payments being made to the agency, placements of children with no corresponding adoption order, and other “irregularities”. Many of these children are believed to have been sent to the USA.

Indeed, the Irish Examiner revealed in July that DCYA officials had acknowledged privately in April that evidence of illegal birth registrations exists in the records of multiple adoption agencies but a full probe into the scale of illegal adoptions would be “onerous” and require “massive resources”.

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