Campaigners voice concern over new adoption bill

Adoptees could be forced to sign an agreement not to contact their birth parents when applying for a birth cert

Campaigners voice concern over new adoption bill

File Photo. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, 03-03-2017. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Adoption rights campaigners have voiced concern over the new Adoption bill – which was debated in the Seanad this afternoon.

One of the main bones of contention with the new bill is a provision that could see adoptees forced to sign an agreement not to contact their birth parents when applying for a copy of their original birth cert.

Adoptees would have to sign the agreement where their biological parents had not indicated any willingness to be contacted.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has indicated a willingness to tweak the legislation if required - admitting the no contact provision is of “deep concern” to many adopted people.

Discriminatory

Claire McGettrick of the Adoption Rights Alliance told Newstalk that there are four main difficulties with the bill in its current form.

“Various proposals have been put forward through the years – all of which unfortunately have been hugely discriminatory and this one, unfortunately, is no exception,” she said.

In addition to the non-contact provision, the bill could also see adoptees denied access to their original records in certain circumstances – with Tusla asked to provide ‘statements’ containing the information instead.

The bill would also allow Tusla to withhold an adoptee’s birth cert where there are “compelling reasons” to do so – including where it is deemed that providing the cert could “endanger the life of a person.”

Finally, the bill would see the abolition of the national adoption contact preference register – which was set up in 2005 for people affected by adoption to make their wishes about being contacted known.

Something to be feared

Ms McGettrick said the idea that providing a birth cert could endanger anyone’s life is a “ridiculous assertion.”

“Essentially this bill treats adopted people as if they are something to be feared – as if they are incapable of obeying existing laws on harassment,” said Ms McGettrick.

“It also assumes that adopted people - in seeking information - automatically want a right to contact.

“We are not seeking that right. We are seeking a right to information about ourselves just like any other citizen would.”

She said the bill “does not have to be complicated” pointing out that a system for receiving birth certificates was introduced in the UK in 1975.

“We are simply talking here about basic information that other citizens would take for granted. Like your birth certificate, like background information in terms of your family and the transaction that took place in terms of your adoption,” she said.

“Adopted people would be able to go to a general registrar’s office and simply receive their birth certificates. The sun does not fall out of the skies when this happens.”

Seanad debate

During the debate in the Seanad this afternoon, Senator Ivana Bacik said the final legislation must show trust in adopted people.

"Unfortunately, some of the provisions in the Bill appear to be based on a distrust of adopted persons and appear to refer back to an old culture of concealment and secrecy," she said.

“I think we need to be careful about our drafting but I do want to welcome this bill in principle.”

Ms McGettrick said anyone looking to apply for a birth cert under the current legislation can set the process in motion through the Adoption Rights Alliance website.