Incorrect Registrations of Birth: New Evidence in St Patrick Guild Records
Social Workers working to identify and locate people in 126 cases
“A highly sensitive issue with very personal and profound implications for those affected”
Statement by Dr Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs
Tuesday 29th May 2018
The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Dr Katherine Zappone has announced today (Tuesday 29 May 2018) that Tusla, the Child and Family Agency will make contact with people in 126 cases where births were incorrectly registered between 1946 and 1969
The cases have been identified during an analysis of adoption records that were transferred to Tusla by the former adoption society St Patrick’s Guild, which show irregularities in the birth registration process.
Incorrect or ‘false’ registrations occur where a child is placed with a couple or individual who was not the parent, but the birth is then registered as if the child had been born to that couple or individual.
Minister Zappone said:
“We have known about the practice of incorrect registrations for many years, but it has been extremely difficult to identify and prove in individual cases because of the deliberate failure of those involved to keep records. However, Tusla has found clear evidence in the case of some records previously held by St Patrick’s Guild.”
The Minister said that following an initial examination of around 13,500 records from St Patrick’s Guild, Tusla were able to identify the incorrect registrations because, unusually, there was a marker specifying ‘adopted from birth’ on the record.
Having cross-checked the records with those of the Adoption Authority of Ireland and the General Register Office (GRO), Tusla identified 126 incorrect registrations as follows:
- 79 people who have had no contact with St Patrick’s Guild and may be entirely unaware of the true circumstances of their birth;
- 14 people where a relative had contact with St Patrick’s Guild, but where it is not clear whether the person affected are now aware of the incorrect registration;
- 31 people who have had previous contact with St Patrick’s Guild and who may or may not be aware of the incorrect registration in their case
- 2 people who though later adopted legally, were the subject of an illegal registration initially.
In the case of a further 16 people, Tusla found insufficient evidence to determine whether an incorrect registration had taken place. Tusla and the AAI continue to work on these figures, and they are likely to change as their work proceeds.
Minister Zappone commented:
“This is a very serious and sensitive issue. People have the right to know of their true origins and, where we have clear evidence, I believe we have an obligation to tell the people affected. Some may know already, but for others it will be entirely new and very difficult information indeed.
Tusla has developed a plan for making contact with people and for providing the right supports for them as they absorb this information.
For the purposes of clarity I would like to emphasise that our current information is that:
• If you or your child has an adoption order you are not affected.
• If you were born before 1946 and after 1969 you are not affected.
• If you were born between 1946 and 1969 and were placed by St. Patrick’s Guild and do not have an adoption order, you may be affected.”
The Minister said that Tusla was today publishing details of how they will contact people, and that it will be carried out carefully in line with good social work practice.
The Minister noted that Tusla has notified the Commission on Mother and Baby Homes, and transferred relevant records to it. Tusla has also notified An Garda Siochana and is liaisisng with them.
In light of the information from the St Patrick’s Guild records, the Minister has directed that further investigations be carried out now to see if clear evidence of incorrect registrations can be obtained from the records of other former adoption agencies held by Tusla or the Adoption Authority.
The Minister said:
“Because of the huge volume of records – around 150,000 in all - I have asked that a targeted sampling exercise be carried out in the first instance by Tusla and the Adoption Authority of Ireland. This process will be overseen and quality-assured by an Independent Reviewer, Ms Marion Reynolds, who is a former Deputy Director of Social Services in Northern Ireland.
We want to know if a major trawl of the many thousands of adoption records is likely to identify hard evidence of incorrect registrations. This might be possible, for example, if other adoption societies used a label or marker such as that used by St Patrick’s Guild. Following the sampling process, I will ask the Independent Reviewer to make recommendations to me about what further form of investigation or analysis would be appropriate, having regard to what they find.”
The Minister said that the terms of reference for the review would be published shortly, and the timescale for the work would be agreed. The aim would be to complete this process by within four months of the work commencing.
Notes for Editors:
St. Patrick’s Guild
St Patrick’s Guild Adoption Society (SPG), was established in 1910 by the Sisters of Charity. It was historically, one of the largest agencies in the country involved in the facilitation of the placement of children for adoption. SPG was accredited under the Adoption Act 2010 for the provision of information and tracing service. It ceased operations on the 31 December 2014. Its records were transferred to Tusla on the 26th May 2016.
The Adoption Authority of Ireland
In addition to the new information from the St Patrick’s Guild records, the Adoption Authority of Ireland identified possible cases of incorrect registrations in its records since 2010, mostly from individuals seeking information through the National Adoption Contact Preference Register. It published information about this in the past. The latest number of possible, but unconfirmed, cases is 142. It has always been very difficult to substantiate these cases due to the lack of information on file, but at the request of the Minister, the AAI will now conduct a further detailed review of these cases to see if any further facts can be established.
Independent Reviewer for further analysis
Marion Reynolds MBE, Bsc, Dip Soc Work, CQSW, Cert Adv Soc Work, is a former Deputy Director of Social Services in Northern Ireland. She has worked since 1975 at practitioner, management, inspection, policy development and commissioning levels in family and child care services in Northern Ireland. She now provides independent analysis and reports for a range of social service providers in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.