No probe into illegal adoption files

I have been asking about an audit of adoption files for six years now. Despite revelation after revelation, the HSE, AAI, DCYA and Tusla deem these records not worth auditing. I wonder why. Here in 2010, the HSE took three months to respond – even then not answering the specific questions I posed. This is four years before Tuam.

 

THE Adoption Board has said it has no intention of inspecting all adoption files held by the HSE and private adoption agencies, despite the HSE admitting some files contain evidence of illegal birth registrations.

The revelation comes after the Irish Examiner queried the HSE concerning an entry on its website.

“After the introduction of legal adoption in Ireland in 1952, some children’s births were registered directly into the name of the ‘adoptive’ parents. This practice had the effect of removing all reference to the natural parents from the official record and also meant the Adoption Board had no record of the case, as there had been no legal adoption. Some adoption agencies have records in relation to these,” states the entry.

It is a crime to falsely register a birth. The result of such practices meant some children were raised believing they were the natural child of their ‘parents’ when, in fact, they were falsely registered and illegally adopted.

In some cases, this was facilitated by adoption agencies, some of which remain accredited by the Adoption Board to this day.

The Irish Examiner asked the HSE if any of the files showing illegal birth registrations were now in the possession of the HSE and, if so, had it informed the Adoption Board about such files.

 

A response was issued by the HSE after three months, in which it failed to answer any of the questions put to it.

“The HSE did receive files from a number of agencies when they ceased to operate. These files have been stored and are available to be reopened, as required. If the HSE receives a request to access the file from an individual who was adopted, this can be facilitated. Similarly, if information comes to light to suggest that an adoption was illegally registered this can be investigated further. However, it is important to note that if an adoption was illegally registered, this fact is not normally noted in the adoption file,” a statement read.

Despite its knowledge that some adoption files contain evidence of illegal registrations, the Adoption Board said it had never contacted or inspected any files held by the HSE.

The Adoption Board also said it has “no plans” to inspect the files of all adoption agencies and the HSE “within its current work schedule”.

Susan Lohan of the Adoption Rights Alliance said the Adoption Board’s response to the issue was grounds for every member of the authority to resign.

“The fact that the HSE knows the details of adoption agencies which participated in illegal adoptions and that the Adoption Board has no intention to inspect these files to even quantify the extent of the problem is surely grounds for every single member of the board to resign,” said Ms Lohan.

Chairwoman of Adoption Loss – The Natural Parents Network of Ireland, Bernie Harold, called for a full audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the State to discover the extent of such practices.

“The only body which has the right to inspect every single file in any registered adoption agency is the Adoption Board. We hereby call on the Minister for Children Barry Andrews to issue an instruction to the board to carry out a complete audit of all the files in each of the private and HSE adoption departments in the state,” she said.

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Mother and baby homes: Plenty of information about adoption records to be found if State wishes to look

The Government says an audit of adoption records held by the State is of very limited benefit, but recent revelations prove otherwise, writes Conall Ó Fátharta

 

Records reveal that children — some as young as 12 and pregnant as a result of rape — were in Bessborough into the 1980s.

 

THIS Government has consistently repeated the mantra that an audit of adoption records held by the State was “of very limited benefit” — despite revelation after revelation from this newspaper.

An examination of just a fraction of these records revealed that a religious order reported significantly higher levels of infant deaths to the State than it recorded privately, and that child victims of rape were present in mother and baby homes right into the 1980s.

There are tens of thousands of files in the hands of the State in relation to how unmarried women and their children were treated in state-licensed and funded mother and baby homes and adoption agencies. It seems nobody wants to take a look at them.

 It’s not like they haven’t been asked. Adoption campaigners have called for an audit of all records for years. The Government and the Adoption Authority have ignored all requests.

 

It’s not as if they don’t know what these files contain. In April, this newspaper revealed the adoption authority informed the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2013, there “may be thousands” of cases of illegal adoptions.

It named a well-known former private nursing home — St Rita’s in Dublin — where women went to give birth to their children before having to place them for adoption, as a “huge source of illegal [birth] registrations”.

The authority also named religious-run former adoption agency St Patrick’s Guild as being “aware of several hundred illegal registrations”.

A record of a meeting between two nuns from the guild and representatives from Tusla in 2014 states the agency’s records contained “some illegal registrations” and, crucially, that “full details are available on the majority of cases”.

The Government’s reaction to this? St Patrick’s Guild was excluded from the remit of the of the Commission of Investigation to Inquire into Mother and Baby Homes.

Five months later, the then children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil she “had no plans to initiate an audit of all files”.

 

She also claimed that all adoptions “which the Irish State has been involved in since 1952 have been in line with this [Adoption Act 1952] and subsequent adoption legislation”. This claim was repeated on two separate occasions by her successor, Charlie Flanagan.

More bizarrely still, the department’s response to queries relating to any audit of all State adoption records is that such an exercise would “of very limited benefit”.

“It is important to note that the only way information generally becomes available is when someone with knowledge about the event comes forward… There is little, if any, supporting information in relation to these arrangements… Accordingly, an audit of all adoption records would be of very limited benefit in establishing the number of illegal registrations that took place,” said the department.

However, an investigation of those records has shown such a statement to be patently untrue.

In June, this newspaper revealed that an internal HSE report prepared after an examination of Bessborough Mother and Baby Home records expressed concerns that death records were falsified at the institution so children could “be brokered in clandestine adoption arrangements” at home and abroad.

 

An examination of the order’s own death register revealed a higher infant death rate than Tuam, two years before the Tuam babies scandal broke.

The HSE also expressed concerns in 2012 that up to 1,000 children may have been “trafficked” to the US from the Tuam Mother and Baby home in “a scandal that dwarfs other, more recent issues with the Church and State”.

The warning is contained in an internal note of a teleconference in October 2012 with then assistant director of Children and Family Service Phil Garland, and then head of the Medical Intelligence Unit, Davida De La Harpe.

It ends with a recommendation that that “this goes all the way up to the minister” so that “a fully fledged, fully resourced forensic investigation and State inquiry” could be launched.

All of these concerns were raised by a social worker looking at the records the Government deem not worth auditing.

An investigation by this newspaper revealed last month that the order which ran the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home reported significantly higher levels of infant deaths to State inspectors than it recorded in its own Death Register. The order declined to offer an explanation for the discrepancy.

Yet again, this information was uncovered following an examination of records all of which are in the hands of the State.

Similarly, the records reveal that children — some as young as 12 and pregnant as a result of rape — were in Bessborough into the 1980s. The order declined to answer whether or not they reported any of these crimes to the gardaí.

All of this evidence is contained in records held by the State and which an audit could have put into the public domain before now.

Let’s hope the commission doesn’t view State’s own records as being “of limited benefit”. The women and children on those files deserve better.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/mother-and-baby-homes-plenty-of-information-about-adoption-records-to-be-found-if-state-wishes-to-look-369318.html

No appetite to uncover scale of illegal adoption scandal

Calls for an audit of all the files held by accredited adoption agencies and by the State, so that the full scale of illegal adoptions and birth registrations can be uncovered, have always fallen on deaf ears, writes Conall Ó Fátharta

You really have to wonder how big a scandal needs to be before an Irish government decides to do the right thing and investigate the matter.

The latest revelations — that the Government was informed by the Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) almost two years ago that there “may be thousands” of cases where people had their birth history falsified so they could be illegally adopted — poses a very simple question: Why was this not investigated?

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs was told by an AAI delegation in June 2013 — more than a year before the mother-and-baby home scandal — that there were “at least 120 [confirmed] cases” of illegal registrations. Not an insignificant number from the sample examined.

However, the AAI went further, stating its belief that this could well be the tip of the iceberg and that there “may be thousands” more. It named a well-known former private nursing home — St Rita’s in Dublin — where women went to give birth to their children before having to place them for adoption, as a “huge source of illegal registrations”.

It specifically named one religious-run former adoption agency — St Patrick’s Guild in Dublin — as being “aware of several hundred illegal registrations”, stating that the agency “are not seeking the people involved” but were, rather, “waiting for people to contact them”. The agency holds 13,500 adoption files — one quarter of all adoption files in the country

In a statement to this newspaper, AAI chief executive Patricia Carey said that the “may be thousands” comment made at the meeting was “a throwaway remark” and was “not based on verifiable facts”.

However, the fact that the department had called for a meeting on the subject and that an AAI delegation was willing to speculate at all on such a large number, indicates the issue was firmly on the radar of the adoption regulator.

With all of this information, you would imagine that someone in Government would think that this warranted investigation. Instead, five months later, then children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil she “had no plans to initiate an audit of all [adoption] files”.

She also claimed that all adoptions “which the Irish State has been involved in since 1952 have been in line with this [Adoption Act 1952] and subsequent adoption legislation”. This claim was repeated on two separate occasions by her successor, Charlie Flanagan.

Both made the claim despite the fact the full-scale audit of adoption records held by the State and accredited adoption agencies which could prove the claim has ever been carried out.

To adoption campaigners, this came as no surprise. They have long called for an audit of all adoption files held by accredited adoption agencies and the State so that the full scale of illegal adoptions and birth registrations can be uncovered. These calls to both the department and the AAI have always fallen on deaf ears.

However, it has now emerged that the decision not to order such an audit was made in the knowledge that the department was informed by the very body charged with regulating adoption in Ireland — the AAI — that it believed there “may be thousands” of cases of illegal birth registrations.

Why? The Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the department asking why it had not acted on this information and launched an investigation. Did it not feel that the AAI’s belief that thousands of people in the country had their identities falsely registered — a criminal offence — warranted investigation?

The department declined to respond to the specific questions asked, but said a full audit of adoption records would be “of very limited benefit”.

“It is important to note that the only way information generally becomes available is when someone with knowledge about the event comes forward… There is little, if any, supporting information in relation to these arrangements… Accordingly, an audit of all adoption records would be of very limited benefit in establishing the number of illegal registrations that took place,” said the statement.

However, the very body regulating adoption seems to think differently. The 120 cases mentioned by the AAI in the June 2013 note refer to a 2010 audit it carried out of its records on foot of an Irish Examiner story on the case of Tressa Reeves, whose son was illegally adopted and falsely registered as the natural child of the adoptive parents without her consent. This was facilitated by St Patrick’s Guild who allowed the couple to take the child without a formal adoption order being made.

The audit uncovered approximately 99 cases, while a further 20 were identified in the following years. In a report prepared for the department in June 2011, the AAI said it considered carrying out a more comprehensive audit of the cases it uncovered, but because of the transfer of senior personnel and the “pressure on resources of the imminent establishment of the Adoption Authority no further action was taken”.

So clearly, the AAI felt the number of cases it uncovered in its own files warranted further investigation and “a more comprehensive audit”.

The statement by the department that there is “little, if any, supporting information in relation to these arrangements” is also contradicted by a record of a meeting between two nuns from St Patrick’s Guild and representatives from Tusla, the Child And Family Agency, which states that the agency’s records contained “some illegal registrations” and, crucially, that “full details are available on the majority of cases”.

The agency is in the process of transferring its records to Tusla.

Why was none of this immediately investigated by the State?

Despite being aware of this almost two years ago, no full audit has been carried out of adoption records nor is one planned. Despite loud and repeated calls from a range of adoption groups, St Patrick’s Guild was also excluded from the mother-and-baby home inquiry.

The agency has been making headlines for decades. In 1997, former justice minister Alan Shatter said the behaviour of the agency in relation to how it dealt with adopted people and natural mothers looking for information about their identity was “almost beyond belief”.

“It is unacceptable that an adoption society such as St Patrick’s Guild has deliberately misled people by giving grossly inaccurate information, both to adopted persons and to birth mothers, with regard to the background to their adoption,” he said. “It is almost beyond belief that an adoption society deliberately set out to tell adopted persons the wrong names, wrong dates of birth and the wrong ages of the birth mothers.”

Adoption, specifically forced and illegal adoption, has always been the elephant in the room for the State in relation to the mother-and-baby home inquiry. Adopted people and birth mothers are waiting decades for tracing and information legislation to grant them basic identity rights. They get told it is very “complex” but work is “progressing”. One wonders if offering tracing rights and opening up adoption files may open up another can of worms the State would rather stay firmly closed.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/no-appetite-to-uncover-scale-of-illegal-adoption-scandal-323556.html