Under new legislation approved by the cabinet, adopted people will be given the automatic right to information regarding their background. The Birth Information and Tracing Bill, legislation that aims to enshrine in law a right for adopted people to access their birth certificates and early life information, was published in January of this year.
Adopted people seeking documents about their birth and early life will no longer have to attend an in-person meeting if one or both of their birth parents has registered a no-contact preference. Under a previous iteration of the Bill, adopted people seeking records would have been required to attend a mandatory information session with a social worker if the person’s biological mother or father had opted to not be contacted. This right has been highly sought after among Irish adoptees for decades now but was denied by previous governments due to the infringement it poses on birth parents and their right to anonymity.
In a similar manner to Subject Access Requests under GDPR, people will be able to apply to the Adoption Authority, Tusla or any designated relevant body that may hold information about them.
In the case of early life and care information, it is expected that the information will be automatically provided on receipt of an application from the adopted person. In terms of medical information, a person will automatically be provided with any medical information which relates to themselves.
Information relating to a birth relative which is relevant to the medical history or health of the applicant and is necessary for reasons of “substantial public interest”, is expected to be released to the person’s nominated medical practitioner. In these circumstances, the information “shall not identify the birth parent or relative but only the fact of the medical condition/health issue being something which arises in the applicant’s birth family”.
The State’s regulator for adoption services and custodian of over 70,000 adoption files and records, including all adoption files from 1953 has welcomed the Bill’s publication.
The Adoption Authority said it was correct to give adoptees their original birth certificates, all their early life and care information and, critically, their medical information. It described the legislation as “a hugely significant step” in removing the stigma, silence and secrecy surrounding adoption for so many adoptees, natural parents, and their families.
In a statement, the authority welcomed the establishment of the new Contact Preference Register, which will retain the details of over 14,000 applicants currently registered on the National Adoption Contact Preference Register, operated by the authority since 2005.
NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website www.nfg.ie, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.