Agencies tasked with supporting adopted adults ‘not fit for purpose’

Agencies Tasked With Supporting Adopted Adults ‘Not Fit For Purpose’ Agencies Tasked With Supporting Adopted Adults ‘Not Fit For Purpose’
Aitheantas, a group representing adoptees, presented the findings of its recent Adoptee Voices report to the Oireachtas Children committee on Tuesday. Photo: PA Images
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James Ward, PA

Agencies tasked with supporting adults who were adopted as children are “not fit for purpose”, a Dáil committee has heard.

Aitheantas, a group campaigning for the identity rights of adoptees, presented the findings of its recent Adoptee Voices report to the Oireachtas Children’s committee on Tuesday.

The report contained the views of more than 500 adopted people, their families, family history researchers and genealogists.

Aitheantas founder Maree Ryan-O’Brian said “very few” respondents had reported a positive experience in dealing with the agencies who are supposed to be supporting them.


She said: “Worryingly, but unsurprisingly, very few respondents to our survey detailed a positive experience interacting with any agency currently tasked with supporting adult adoptees.

“The experience, as detailed by respondents, of being spoken to by social workers over files is particularly concerning.”

Ms Ryan-O’Brien said she was “strongly of the view” that existing agencies “are no longer fit for purpose and should be replaced by a new agency with overall responsibility for these matters”.

Aitheantas – which means “recognition” in Irish – appeared before the committee to make submissions on the forthcoming adoption tracing legislation, the Birth Information and Tracing Bill.

The legislation seeks to guarantee adopted people the right to their identity and all information about their birth.

But previous committees have heard this must be “balanced” with the rights to privacy of biological parents.


Ms Ryan-O’Brien said there are concerns over the ability of adopted people to identify siblings who may have also been given up for adoption.

“Adoptees’ ability to identify biological family members from the general population was found to be a recurring concern among respondents,” she said.

“Adoptees may be unaware that they have a full or half sibling who was also placed for adoption.


“This information is rarely directly disclosed but rather discovered through file cross-referencing or commercial DNA testing.

“As we outlined previously there is no current data on the number of birth mothers who had more than one child placed for adoption.

“It needs to be specifically detailed in this Bill that adoptees who had a sibling placed for adoption have an automatic right to this information.

“DNA tests should also be provided, should they be requested, to establish or confirm whether it is a half sibling or full sibling relationship.”


Ms Ryan-O’Brien called for “courage” from political leaders to address “a deeply flawed construct”.

“The theme of our report is having courage to face up to the past and the social harm that adoption has caused and to change it,” she said.

“This courage needs to be coupled with the political will to transform, significantly, a deeply flawed construct that continues to impact negatively on the lives of adoptees and their children.”

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