State has known of St Patrick’s Guild illegal adoption cases for years

Finally there will be a sample audit of all records held by the State, writes Conall Ó Fátharta.

The announcement by children’s minister Katherine Zappone that 126 cases of illegal birth registrations have been found in the records of the St Patrick’s Guild adoption agency should surprise no one.

The involvement of this agency in such practices has been known for years.

However, the fact that Ms Zappone has announced a sampling exercise to see if an audit of all adoption records held by the State is needed to ascertain the scale of the illegal adoptions scandal is welcome.

It’s also a complete U-turn by her department who for years have said such an audit would be a wasted exercise.

Ms Zappone deserves credit for finally committing to such a process. None of her predecessors had the courage to do so.

However, the irony of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) announcing a sampling exercise of these records should not be lost on anyone.

It has spent years telling this newspaper that such an audit was “of limited benefit” as looking at the records “would yield little useful information”. Ms Zappone’s own words yesterday show the folly of such responses.

Adoption campaigners have called for a full audit of records for years. All of these calls fell on deaf ears.

You can go back two decades to find St Patrick’s Guild hitting the headlines but let’s start a little closer to the present.

None of what Ms Zappone said yesterday should shock anyone. It was already known St Patrick’s Guild had large scale evidence of illegal registrations in its records, and the issue of illegal registrations has been on the radar of successive governments for many years.

In April 2015, the Irish Examiner  revealed that an Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) delegation told the DCYA in June 2013 that there were “at least 120 [confirmed] cases” of illegal registrations.

It specifically named 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 held 13,500 adoption files and those have been in the possession of Tusla since 2016.

Tusla paid the agency €30,000 to support the storage of the files while the transfer was being negotiated and to assist the agency with its closure.

The AAI delegation also 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”.

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.

In short, the regulatory body for adoption in this country was admitting there may be thousands of Irish adults with no idea that their birth certs are fraudulent and that the people they believe to be their natural parents are, in fact, their adoptive parents.

Of note from the record of the meeting was an acknowledgement that none of these people had been informed of the circumstances of their births. Five years on, it would appear they continue to be in the dark about the fact they are adopted. And this refers to just one adoption agency. St Patrick’s Guild was by no means alone in these practices.

In 2015, AAI chief executive Patricia Carey said that the “may be thousands” comment made at the June 2013 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 and the DCYA at least five years ago.

More than that, it also had concrete information that St Patrick’s Guild had knowledge of “several hundred” cases of illegal registrations.

However, no audit or investigation was announced. In fact, nothing happened.

It seems the revelations made little or no impact at the time. Just five months after the meeting, 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 that no State agency ever examined all the records.

When the Irish Examiner published this information in 2015, it asked the DCYA did it not think 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.

However, the AAI clearly disagreed. The 120 cases mentioned by the AAI in the June 2013 meeting refer to a 2010 audit it carried out of its records on foot of a story by this newspaper 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, which 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” was also contradicted by a record obtained by this reporter 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”.

In response, the DCYA said the record of the meeting had been “interpreted incorrectly”.

The Irish Examiner also asked if the department had any plans to inform those victims of illegal birth registrations from St Patrick’s Guild of the true circumstances of their births. In response, the DCYA said any consideration of an investigation into the issue of illegal registrations of births would have to be “cognisant of the impact the receipt of such information could have on the persons who were the subject of the illegal registration and were never aware of this fact”.

“The wider impact on families that may have sought to surround the identity of a child in secrecy must also be considered,” said a statement. It concluded by saying that the benefits of any audit of adoption records “are questionable”.

Three years on, it seems that opinion has changed. They will now tell the people affected by these illegal acts. They will now begin a sample audit of records. It is not before time.

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Tusla was recording illegal adoptions and birth registrations as far back as 2016

Tusla was recording illegal adoptions and birth registrations in 2016 — two years before the agency’s revelation that it had uncovered unlawful registrations at St Patrick’s Guild.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil yesterday an independent review into the cases between 1946 and 1969 was ordered after Tusla said it recently uncovered 126 cases where births were illegally registered.

However, emails obtained by the Irish Examiner show Tusla was aware as early as 2016 of the illegal adoptions and registrations and was actively recording them.

The emails between Tusla’s national manager for adoption, Siobhán Mugan, and other Tusla staff, discuss an individual case where an illegal adoption occurred.

On September 19, 2016, a principal social worker emailed Ms Mugan under the subject title: “illegal adoptions” stating that a case had come to her attention “that might imply an illegal adoption”.

“I know that you asked to be made aware of all such cases. Can you let me know what you would like me to send you in the way of information.”

Ms Mugan forwarded the email to another staff member, asking her to “get the details of this for our register”.

This staff member then emailed the principal social worker: “Could you please complete the attached register. If there are any further details, please add them to the notes part of the register.”

A note of the National Business Adoption Managers’ Meeting on July 5, 2016, released separately under Freedom of Information, also contained the instruction: “Any illegal registration cases you come across, you must inform the national register in national office”.

A later email on September 29, 2016, under the subject heading “Illegal adoptions” and marked of “High” importance, show Tusla’s Longford/Westmeath Adoption Office, based in Dartmouth House in Dublin, forwarded details of cases of illegal adoptions. The personal details of those cases were redacted.

“Attached as requested the Dartmouth House illegal adoptions registrar,” the email stated.

In May 2017, the Irish Examiner asked Tusla if it held a register or database where adoption cases that raised concerns were noted. It stated: “No, there is no database or register held”.

The Irish Examiner asked Tusla a series of questions on the register — including why its existence was denied.

It stated that it “does not hold a register of suspected illegal/irregular adoptions” but that, in mid to late 2016, it did “consider tracking anomalies/issues of concern” as they were notified to the National Manager for Adoption to ensure procedures were being followed.

“This was trialled for a short period but was discontinued. Tusla does not have a legal basis to collate this information. Tusla’s only formal basis for processing this data is for the purposes of providing an information and tracing service to applicants,” said a statement.

Tusla said it would not be making “any further comment on the issue of incorrect registrations of birth”.

The Irish Examiner revealed in 2015 that an Adoption Authority (AAI) delegation told the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2013 that St Patrick’s Guild was “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”.

In an audit it carried out in 2010 following the Irish Examiner exposé on the case of Tressa Reeves, the AAI turned up approximately 120 cases of illegal registrations.

In a report prepared for the department in 2011, the AAI said it considered carrying out a more comprehensive audit of the cases it uncovered.

In a number of responses issued to the Irish Examiner in 2015, the department said an audit of records was “of limited benefit” and “would yield little useful information”.

In the Dáil, Independent TD Clare Daly reiterated calls for the immediate establishment of an inquiry and said a sampling exercise, as announced by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone, was not sufficient.

Mr Varadkar said the fact that births were being were illegally registered by St Patrick’s Guild opens “another dark chapter in our history”. He also acknowledged the revelations about St Patrick’s Guild were not new, but that the issue was now being dealt with.

DCYA refuse to say how many adoption records will be examined in “scoping exercise”

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has refused to say how many adoption records will be 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.

Campaigners had called for the results of the scoping exercise to be based on a large sample of records.

It has now emerged that the number of records to be examined and the methodology used in the audit will not be made public and will only be revealed in Ms Reynolds’ final report, which is due at the end of September.

The Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the Department of Children, 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.

The department declined to answer the queries and stated that any information on what the audit will examine and how it will examine records will not be made public until Ms Reynolds’ report is published.

“A number of challenges have emerged, including issues in relation to the condition and diversity of the records concerned, which are being actively addressed by the review group. Tusla and the Adoption Authority are committed to full participation in the review and significant work has been undertaken to date,” stated the department. “Details of the sample and the methodology will be set out in Ms Reynolds’ report.”

When the Irish Examiner sought more details, it stated it had “nothing further to add to the response”.

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.

Adoption campaigners have said they will not be satisfied if the audit is based on a small sample size, particularly in light of private admissions within the department that the scandal goes across multiple agencies and would require “massive resources” to investigate fully.

The revelation is contained in a note of an April meeting between representatives of the department and the AAI.

At the meeting, attended by department secretary general Fergal Lynch and prepared by the Department of Children adoption policy unit, there is an acknowledgment that evidence of illegal registrations was not confined to St Patrick’s Guild.

It was stressed that a full investigation of these issues would be “onerous, requiring massive resources”.

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.

748 more cases of concern in St Patrick’s Guild adoption scandal

Tusla has raised concerns about a further 748 adoption cases from St Patrick’s Guild which contain evidence of names being changed, cash payments and other “irregularities”.

The revelation is contained in a note of a meeting between representatives of Tusla, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Adoption Authority of Ireland on March 13.

At the meeting, the recently revealed 126 illegal birth registration cases marked “adopted from birth” were also discussed.

However, Tusla also raises “concerns” about a further 700 cases from St Patrick’s Guild’s records — some of which involve children sent to the USA. The number of cases of concern rose to 748 in later correspondence.

These cases contain evidence of names being changed, payments being made to the agency, and placements of children with no corresponding adoption order. Reference is also made to “other matters that indicate irregularities”.

The report of the March 13 meeting said: “Furthermore, Tusla said that a further examination of the scanned index cards had raised concerns in that some 700 index cards contain references to placements with no Irish adoption order, change of names and other matters that indicate irregularities.

Some of these 700 index cards relate to children that went to the USA.

“Tusla also noted that many of the index cards made reference to payments (often £100) being made to the Guild.”

Released under Freedom of Information (FOI), the note indicates that Department of Children and Youth Affairs secretary general Fergal Lynch, who was present at the meeting, advised that “due to the sensitivity and importance of the matter” it had been the subject of “an early warning notification to Government through the Department of An Taoiseach”.

Tusla then prepared three interim reports for the department on the issue between March and May.

In the first of these on March 23, Tusla stated that 748 cases had been identified as containing “out of State placements” and “other possible anomalies” and that these files were being reviewed.

The third interim report, prepared on May 10, states that 611 children were identified as having been sent overseas and that “a deeper review and analysis” would be required “to track the journey of each child from birth to the point where the infant left the jurisdiction”.

In a table prepared on May 9 outlining the number of illegal registration cases found, reference is made to this larger tranche of 748 cases.

Alongside the “first tranche” of 126 cases outlined by Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone at the end of May, Tusla also lists the “second tranche” of 748 cases which are recorded as “Anomalies including Adoptions overseas”.

In a presentation for Ms Zappone on May 10, Tusla also revealed that, while dealing with tracing inquiries since it took possession of the St Patrick’s Guild records in 2016, it had discovered “a significant number” of suspected illegal registrations — 25 such cases as far back as June 2017.

The Irish Examiner  has published documented cases of illegal registrations in relation to St Patrick’s Guild as far back as 2010. In 2015, this newspaper revealed that the AAI informed the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2013 that St Patrick’s Guild was aware of “several hundred” illegal registrations.

At that time, the department stated that an audit of adoption records was of “limited benefit” and would yield little useful information”.

Meanwhile, Ms Zappone has said the delay in bringing the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2016 into law is due to issues surrounding the natural parents’ right to privacy.

The legislation will create for the first time a statutory right for adopted people and people who have been the subject of an illegal birth registration to birth certificate information and certain other information.

Ms Zappone held a series of meetings yesterday to brief advocacy groups on the legislation. She will also brief them on the issue of illegal birth registrations.

DCYA admit illegal registrations exist in multiple adoption agencies but full audit would be “onerous”

Evidence of illegal birth registrations exists in the records of multiple adoption agencies but a full inquiry into the scale of illegal adoptions would be “onerous” and require “massive resources”.

The revelation is contained in a note of a meeting between representatives of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), Tusla and the Adoption Authority (AAI) held in April.

At the meeting, which was attended by department secretary general Fergal Lynch and was prepared by the DCYA adoption policy unit, there is an acknowledgement that evidence of illegal registrations was not confined to St Patrick’s Guild.

However, it was stressed that a full investigation of these issues would be “onerous, requiring massive resources”.

“It is feasible that illegal registrations exist in the balance of SPG [St Patrick’s Guild] records but only a comprehensive audit would verify this matter. It was noted that while individual cases of illegal registrations have been identified in other agencies any attempts to quantify the issue would be onerous, requiring massive resources,” said the note released under freedom of information.

The confirmation that a full audit of records would quantify the scale of illegalty contained on the records stands in contrast with the department’s publicly stated view for many years.

In response to numerous queries by this newspaper over a number of years, the DCYA has repeatedly stated that an audit of adoption records would be “of very limited benefit” and yield “little useful information”.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone has said that “a validation exercise is under way” with respect to some 140 cases of illegal registrations reported to her department by the Adoption Authority.

However, the vast majority of these cases were uncovered as part of a 2010 audit carried out by the AAI following the exposé of the Tressa Reeves case by this newspaper. These cases were reported to the department at that time.

The authority has also reported concerns around illegal registrations, including hundreds of cases relating to St Patrick’s Guild to the department on numerous occasions since then.

In a report prepared for the department in June 2011, the AAI pointed to the need for 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”.

In 2015, the Irish Examiner revealed an Adoption Authority delegation again told the department, in June 2013, of there being “at least 120 [confirmed] cases” of illegal registrations found as the result of the 2010 audit.

It specifically named St Patrick’s Guild as being “aware of several hundred illegal registrations”, stating the agency is “not seeking the people involved” but rather, “waiting for people to contact” it.

The AAI said this could be the tip of the iceberg and that there “may be thousands” more.

Just five months after the June 2013 meeting, then children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Dáil she “had no plans to initiate an audit of all [adoption] files”.

A 2014 note of a meeting between two nuns from St Patrick’s Guild and representatives of Tusla acknowledged the agency’s records contained “some illegal registrations” and that “full details are available on the majority of cases”.

Late last month, the Irish Examiner revealed that Tusla has raised concerns about a further 748 adoption cases from St Patrick’s Guild which contain evidence of names being changed, cash payments, and other “irregularities”.

Mother and Baby Commission yet to decide on extending inquiry

It is beyond comprehension how you can examine 14 Mother and Baby Homes while excluding adoption agencies like St Patrick’s Guild – particularly considering what it has admitted in terms of illegal birth registrations

 

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission has yet to decide whether to ask for an extension of its remit to examine other institutions.
It comes as adoption groups have reiterated calls for a number of adoption agencies as well as a range of State and private maternity homes to be included in the investigation.
Under its terms of reference, the Mother and Baby Homes Commission will investigate how unmarried mothers and their babies were treated between 1922 and 1998 at 14 State-linked religious institutions.
The three-year inquiry — which has a €23.5m budget — will examine mother and baby homes, county homes, vaccine trials on children, and illegal adoptions where babies were trafficked abroad.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, the Commission said it “not yet made any decision about recommending any extension of its terms of reference”.
St Patrick’s Guild has been commonly cited by campaigners as a glaring omission from the inquiry. The agency holds 13,500 adoption files — one-quarter of all adoption files in the country.
Last year, the Irish Examiner revealed that the agency was excluded from the scope of the inquiry despite the Government being told in June 2013 by an Adoption Authority (AAI) delegation that the agency was aware of “several hundred” illegal birth registrations.
A note of a meeting between two nuns from the agency and representatives of the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, on February 3 last year also revealed that  St Patrick’s Guild’s records contained “some illegal registrations” and that “full details are available on the majority of cases”.
The AAI also named St Rita’s private nursing home – also excluded from the inquiry – as a “huge source of illegal registrations”.
Claire McGettrick of the Adoption Rights Alliance (ARA) and Justice for Magdalenes Research (JFMR) said she expected the Commission to add to the current “short list” if institutions it is examining.
“The legislation makes an express provision for the Commission to add to the initial list and it has resourced the Commission very well with a team of historians led by Prof. Mary Daly, President of the Royal Irish  Academy.”
“Historians realise there were many institutions and agencies involved in the Mother and Baby home sector in Ireland – JFMR and ARA have given a list to the Commission of some 170 institutions, agencies and individuals which our organisations and academic historians are also investigating,” she said.
Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Homes (CMABS) said it was a “national disgrace” that so many people were being excluded from the inquiry when so little effort is required to include everyone.
“If the Inquiry ‘sampled’ as little as four or five further institutions and a home birth, then all survivors would be included. The sample would include a holding centre such as Temple Hill, a public Maternity Hospital such as Holles Street, a so-called orphanage such as Westbank or Saint Philomena’s, a private nursing home such as St Rita’s and a home birth where the baby was forcibly removed by a social worker or a member of the religious acting on behalf of an adoption agency which would be investigated,” he said.
Kathy McMahon of the Irish First Mothers group said the Commission needed to adopt a “fully inclusive model”.
“Otherwise, we are on track to cherry-pick the truth so as to exclude the majority of women from consideration,” she said

No probe into illegal adoption files – 2010

I wrote this in 2010 – almost five years before we get a State inquiry. It also came years before I obtained material showing the Adoption Authority of Ireland was warning the Government that there could be “thousands” of illegal adoptions. The HSE took three months to issue me a response. It answered none of the questions I asked.  The full audit of all adoption records, which I have written about so many times before and since, has yet to happen

 

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.

 

http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/icrime/no-probe-into-illegal-adoption-files-133262.html