Ireland’s ‘first wave of intercountry adoptions’?

Irish Minister for Health and Children Barry Andrews’ official statements on Wednesday, 3 March (at the Committee debate on a pending adoption bill) leave me with my jaw gaping and wondering if this man is fit for office. He said, “The first wave of inter-country adoptions occurred in the early 1990s. Some of those individuals are now coming of age and beginning to take an interest in tracing. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to wait until we have a little bit more knowledge and experience of this area. There is a perfectly good system for tracing in this country. It has worked well. “

This is an absolute insult to the more than 2,000 of us who were involuntarily sent from Ireland for adoption between the 1940’s and 1970’s, largely to the U.S. We represent that ‘first wave’ and are now well into adulthood (some of us even have grandchildren…imagine that). We are tax-paying, voting, middle-aged adults who, by the way, hold dual citizenship. We, along with our in-country adopted Irish brethren, have also been vocal in adoption reform for the last twenty years. It is truly unfortunate that the government largely chose to ignore us, despite our best efforts to produce sane legislation and truly efficient post-adoption services. It is clear Minister Andrews himself has either chosen to ignore us or would like to conveniently forget this dark chapter of baby-brokering in Ireland’s own history. Time and again, we have offered sound proposed legislation, including the restoration of unfettered access to the original documents of our birth – a right enjoyed by every other citizen save adopted people.

The last sentence of his statement above also absolutely beggars belief and I happen to know firsthand that it is largely untrue.

Having availed of the ‘perfectly good’ post-adoption services offered by the Sacred Heart Adoption Society in Bessboro’ as early as 1997, I can attest to the absolute ineffectiveness of the current system. In fact, the handling of my own particular case was so disastrously mismanaged by this agency that in 2003, I was forced to file a complaint with Mr. John Collins of the Irish Adoption Authority. Among the agency’s many egregious mistakes were the following:

Their trace coordinator was following several incorrect birth certificates for my natural mother, despite the fact their own records noted her correct date of birth on admittance forms (which I was given a copy of, in violation of the agency’s own ‘non-identifying information only’ policy). I was told my mother was an “orphan,” that her parents had been killed; she was actually, like me, born out of wedlock. The same trace coordinator would have contacted some poor woman in Limerick of no relation to me, except that I had grown so weary of their inefficiency that I managed to trace my mother on my own. It took me one e-mail to a heritage researcher based in Dublin, and an hour later I was looking at a faxed copy of my mother’s and my own birth certificates. Over the next few years, I established welcomed, careful contact with my mother (we enjoy an ongoing close relationship).

For my mother’s part, she too tried at various times over the years to contact this agency. Initially, she was told I had been sent to California, when in fact I was raised in Philadelphia. Shortly after I arrived in the U.S., my adoptive parents sent a letter to her, along with photos of me at my first Christmas with my new family. They wanted to assure her that I was happy and healthy and assimilating to my new life. She only got one photo; the others and the letter were withheld from her.

After informing them of the success of my self-trace, I received a nasty letter from the aforementioned trace coordinator, including a copy of private and confidential correspondence between this coordinator and my adoptive mother (still living). I did not solicit this letter and it was unnecessary. When I informed my adoptive mother of this breach of her own confidentiality, she was absolutely horrified.

This same coordinator was captured on videotape showing a visitor from the U.S. the records room at Bessboro’ and announcing that only she and one other person had access to this room – a professional publicist who they were “hiring to write a book to refute that [June, author of ‘The Light in the Window‘] Goulding woman’s lies.” So I’m given to understand that some publicist off the street can have free access to my and my adoptive parents’ private information, but I myself can’t? And this is effective post-adoption service?

My experience is completely typical of that currently experienced by many thousands of adopted adults in and from Ireland. For me and others who were part of the wave of children sent to the United States, it is further compounded by distance, costs and either lack of information or disinformation. Let’s try listening to the elder voices of those who have experienced inter-country adoption – we don’t have to wait for the “1990s” crop to come of age. And here’s a news flash, Minister Andrews: many of those voices came from your own backyard.