Joan Burton at the launch of the Adoption Bill

Introduction of Bill to Provide Legal Certainty for Informal Adoptions

Labour TD for Dublin West, Joan Burton, has introduced in the Dáil her Informal Adoptions (Regularisation) Bill 2019, which if passed into law would provide legal certainty following the illegal registration of informal adoptions where a false birth certificate was issued.

Introducing the Bill, Deputy Burton said:

“Adoption was first introduced to Ireland and regulated by the Adoption Act 1952. There was no lawful adoption in Ireland before 1952 and for a period after 1952 there was a widespread practice of informal adoption. Sometimes that took place within the wider family and sometimes through the aegis of a church or other voluntary agencies such as St. Patrick’s Guild.

“In May 2018, 126 cases of illegal registrations were finally confirmed by Tusla following analysis of files from St Patrick’s Guild. In those cases the adoptive parents were incorrectly registered as the birth parents on the birth certificates between 1946 and 1969. Instead of applying under the Act and registering with the Adoption Authority, infant children were simply transferred directly into the hands of their adoptive parents.

“The information provided to register the births was false and the children were as a result given false birth certificates, as the children of the adopting couple. That is where the illegal registration occurred. That generation of children are now in their 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s. They are without the benefit of a valid adoption order and their status within their families is legally uncertain.

“To date, the Minister has not indicated what legislative action will be taken to address the illegal registrations and to provide legal certainty to those affected.

“Under this Bill, where documentation is available and an individual desires a valid adoption, a person who was informally adopted could apply to the Circuit Court for a declaration of adoption. If satisfied with the evidence presented, the court may make a declaration that the applicant is deemed to have been validly adopted on a particular date. The Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths will then cancel the false birth certificate while the Adoption Authority of Ireland will issue a valid adoption certificate.

“The second remedy deals with individuals who may have been told and had believed that they were indeed that natural children of those who reared them as their parents. They had no reason to believe they were adopted, regularly or irregularly. There may be no surviving records to enable them to trace the original parties to this informal arrangement. The Bill would change the rules of evidence to protect those who wish to preserve what they had considered to be the status quo.

“The Minister is offering social workers to people in their 40’s, 50’s, 60s or 70s so that they can pursue the issue. These people do not need social workers. They need a fairly simple court process to regularise their status. It is the children of today who are homeless who need the attention and support of social workers.”