The Irish Cabinet is discussing a bill this week that could provide answers for over 50,000 adopted individuals, including 2,000 Americans adopted from Ireland.
The Adoption Information and Tracking Bill would finally give those who have been adopted access to their birth certificates, which would contain important information regarding their birth parents, family history, and other birth details. Currently access to birth certificates is very limited and only available with birth parent consent.
Though a lengthy process to full enactment of the bill (which would then be followed by an awareness and consultation period of 12 months before going into effect), this week’s Cabinet meeting is the first step in opening new doors for people who desire to know more about where they came from.
If the bill is enacted, interested parties would have to request information from the child and family agency TULSA, rather than from the Civil Registration Office like all other individuals, which is of concern to groups such as the Adoption Rights Alliance, who wish to see more balanced rights for adopted individuals.
The Adoption Bill also seeks to provide information without going against the wishes of the birth parents. Though individuals would have access to their birth certificates, in order to actually see it they would need to sign a declaration indicating that they will respect the wishes of the birth parents, and not contact them if that is their desire. There have not been any consequences listed as of yet for going against the declaration.
The bill would be a great opportunity for the 2,000 Americans who have been adopted from Ireland to connect on a deeper level to their Irish roots and family history. Many of these individuals are estimated to be a part of the forced adoptions that has made headlines over the past few years, including the heartbreaking stories of women forced to work and give babies up for adoption while working in the secretive Magdalene Laundries facilities and other convent like locations.
The plight of these mothers, and their desperate search for the children taken away from them was featured in the 2013 film “Philomena” which starred Judy Dench and Steve Coogan. In the movie, Dench plays a mother committed to finding her son, who she was forced to give up while living in a convent. Accompanied by Coogan, who plays a political journalist, she travels to the United States in order to track her son down.
The film is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, who despite successfully finding out who her son grew up to be (Michael Hess, a prominent legal counsel in the U.S. Republican National Committee), was never able to reconnect with him due to his death that occurred a few years prior to her discovery. In this case both mother and child desperately sought after one another for years, but were never able to meet.
With the passing of the Adoption Bill however, future reunions can be arranged and life enhanced for those actively seeking to reconnect, or at the very least, to have a more complete picture of just who they are as an adopted individual of Irish descent.