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Tracing — a Guide for Illegal or 'De Facto' Adoptions

Tracing — a Guide for Illegal or 'De Facto' Adoptions

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We know that there have been over 40,000 legal adoptions since the introduction of legal adoption in 1952. We know also, however that there were many, possibly thousands, of illegal and/or 'de facto' (an adoption where the child is registered as the natural child of the adoptive parents) adoptions and that the practice is still ongoing.

Obviously there is not much information available about the practice. We do know that:

  • Illegal adoption took several forms, including falsification of documents, forced signing of consent forms, forgery of signatures, etc.
  • Not all such adoptions were private — some were conducted through registered adoption societies
  • A former Registrar of the Adoption Authority (previously the Adoption Board) has stated that the practice was widespread and that the Adoption Authority knew about it but didn't act
Many people subject to illegal/de facto adoption are never told by their adoptive parents that they were, in fact, adopted, but of course many still find out about it anyway through friends, relatives, overheard gossip, or finding documents.

This document outlines our advice about what you could do if you find that you have been subject to either an illegal or de facto adoption in Ireland.

Questions You Should Ask

  • Who adopted you?
  • The address of your adoptive parents at the time of your placement?
  • Your date of birth as stated on birth certificate?
  • Do you know if your date of birth was changed before being registered?
  • Who registered your birth?
  • Your Place of Birth as stated on birth certificate?
  • Other possible places of birth mentioned to you by any source?
  • The name of the Doctor who delivered you?
  • The Family doctor to your adoptive parents at the time of your birth/placement?
  • Names of all family members known to you and their relationship to you?
  • Specific family members who know/knew about your placement?
  • Details of your placement from members of family?
  • Details of your placement from any other source and name the source/s?
  • Explore possibility of requesting then/current family doctor to request birth records from relevant home/hospital/nursing home? Details to include: time of birth, weight at birth, medical history, hereditary conditions known about etc
  • Did any source mention siblings of yours?
  • Do you have any details of any named persons involved in your placement other than your parents?
Information Needed to Progress

Preferably the name of the agency involved in your placement, failing this, the name and current address of a person, doctor, priest, nun or other, hopefully still alive, who was involved in your placement.
Options Depending on Detail Obtained

  1. Armed with the above detail, you could either make a direct approach in person, bring a friend, make a list of questions you need to ask. Give the impression that your mother gave you her blessing to inquire for details etc. Invite yourself in and keep asking questions till something slips out. Leave a contact number and address with them in case they remember anything further after you have left that they can pass on. Try and get a contact number for them and any contact detail for any name they mention during conversation, allow one person to talk while the other takes subtle notes of dates, names etc.


  2. Contact the Adoption Authority with concrete evidence of names, dates and details from sources with a current address. Request the Board members, individually, in writing and by registered post, as a matter of extreme urgency to intervene and retrieve any or all information from the agency/person etc. Explain that you need this information to enable you to confirm your original identity, to obtain your medical history and also to trace natural family while they may be still alive. Also ask them to search their records and inform you if any inquiries were ever made about you and request that they furnish you with the details.
We advise that you do not provide a phone number to the Adoption Authority and only correspond by registered post. Make yourself aware of counselling and adoption procedures outlined by the Adoption Authority.
National Contact Preference Register (NACPR)

The Irish Adoption Authority launched the National Adoption Contact Preference Register (NACPR), in April 2005. This involved a leaflet drop to every household in Ireland inviting adopted people and natural parents and family members to register. If you have not yet received a Registration Form, or if you live outside Ireland contact the Adoption Authority at www.adoptionboard.ie or Shelbourne House, Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4, Tel. 01-2309300

Please visit the AdoptionIreland website or ask to be included on our mailing list for updates on adoption matters and public meetings in Ireland. AdoptionIreland wishes you the very best of luck and we hope you reach a successful outcome!

Useful Names and Addresses

AdoptionIreland: The Adopted People's Association: 14 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2. Helpline: 01-6790011 E-mail: info@adoptionireland.com

Adoption Loss (formerly NPNI): Adoption Loss (formerly the Natural Parents Network of Ireland) is a voluntary self-help organisation formed in 1996 by a group of women who had been parted from their children by adoption in the past. They provide help to natural families separated by adoption in four ways: Individual advice by email or letter; Monthly open meetings; Information to Media on adoption issues; Views to Government on adoption legislative reform. Postal address: PO Box 6714, Dublin 4; Email:secretary@adoptionloss.ie Telephone helpline: Sundays 2pm-4pm only 1890-200046 Or visit the Adoption Loss website at www.adoptionloss.ie

ACE (Adopted Citizens of Éire): Northeast US-based group promoting awareness of Irish adoption to the US. ACE is a NY-registered non-profit organisation. Contact: ACE, P.O. Box 628 Islip, N.Y. 11751-0628.

Adoptive Parent's Association of Ireland: Representative association for adoptive parents. Secretary: Helen Gilmartin, APAI, Glendalough Post Office, Co. Wicklow Tel 0404 45184, Fax 0404 45700, e-mail: apai@tinet.ie Public Relations Officer: Helen Scott, APAI, 40 Fairyhouse Lodge, Fairyhouse, Ratoath, Co. Meath Tel 01 8252043.

AFPAI (Adopted and Fostered Person's Association of Ireland): Bernadette Joyce 23 Portmarnock Crescent Portmarnock Co. Dublin. Tracing and information for people who were in long-term foster care and/or raised in institutions.

Barnardos: Adoption Advice Service, Tuesday 2-5pm and Thursday 10-2pm.Christchurch Square, Dublin 8 Tel. 01-4546388. Website: www.barnardos.ie

Births, Marriages and Deaths, (General Registrar's Office): Dublin Office: Joyce House, Lombard St., Dublin 2. Tel: 01-6711968. Roscommon Office: General Register Office, Government Offices, Convent Road, Roscommon. Tel: 090 6632900 LoCall: 1890 252076 Fax: 090 6632999 or www.groireland.ie

Birth Parents of Adopted Children (Cork): "We are a support group based in Cork for birth parents of adopted children. We meet quarterly for support and provide a telephone support service. If anyone is interested in further details, you can email bpacsg@eircom.net"

Justice for Magdalenes: Former members of the Magdalene Memorial Committee have joined with a group of Magdalene Laundry survivors to form a new group to campaign for justice for women who were incarcerated in Magdalene Laundries. Contact: Claire McGettrick, PRO, Justice for Magdalenes at Crocknahattina, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan. Web site: www.magdalenelaundries.com E-mail: info@magdalenelaundries.com; Telephone: +353 (0)87 9526345.

Know My Own: Know My Own is a Cork-based support group for adopted people, allied to AdoptionIreland. Monthly meetings are held in the Ardmanning Inn, Togher. Please see the AdoptionIreland Mailing List for further details (details of meetings are posted there) or e-mail knowmyown@gmail.com

Mathair Áil: Mathair Áil is a group of Irish mothers who lost one or more children to adoption. They run monthly support meetings, have an internet based support group and a helpline number at 087 645 1494 which is available to callers on Sundays from 2pm to 4pm and on Thursdays from 7pm to 9pm. Access to information and support is provided on the Mathair Áil website www.mathairail.org

The National Archives, Bishop Street, Dublin 2, Tel.01 4783711

Treoir: The Federation of Services for Unmarried Parents and their Children, Information Centre, 36 Upper Rathmines Road, Dublin 6 Telephone & Fax 01-4964155.

Adoption Agencies and Relevant Authorities

The Adoption Authority: Shelbourne House, Shelbourne Rd, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4. Direct lines for Adoption Information and Tracing Unit: 01-2309327 / 01-2309328/ 01-2309325 Main Switchboard: 01-2309300 Duty Social Worker: 01-2309306 E-mail: adoptioninfo@health.irlgov.ie Website: www.adoptionboard.ie The Authority has details on all legal adoptions since 1953. Also has the records for St. Therese's Adoption Society, Whitefriar St., Dublin 8, & Catholic Women's Aid, Cork.

Irish Health Boards: For information on specific contact details for relevant Health Boards, visit the Oasis server hosted by the Irish government at www.oasis.gov.ie

St. Patrick's Guild: 203 Merrion Rd., Dublin 4. Tel. 2196551

Sacred Heart Adoption Society: Blackrock, Cork. Tel. 021-4357730.
Also has the records for Sacred Heart, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath and Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary.

St. Louise's: 1st Floor, Park House, N.C.R. Dublin 7 Tel. 01-8387122.

Cunamh: 30 South Anne St. Dublin 2 Tel. 01-6779664.


P.A.C.T.: 15 Belgrave Rd. Rathmines, Dublin 6 Tel. 01-4975155.

St. Brigid's: 16 The Coombe, Dublin 8 Tel. 01-4542917.

St. Anne's, Cork: (This agency has now closed and all files and casework have transferred to the Southern Health Board).

Limerick Catholic: Unit 3, St. Camillus Hospital, Shelbourne Rd. Limerick Tel. 061-326677.

Challenge: Waterford Rd. Kilkenny. Tel. 056-21653.

St. Attracta's: St. Mary's Sligo. Tel. 071-43058.

St. Catherine's: Clarecare, Harmony Row, Ennis, Co. Clare Tel. 065-28178.

St. Kevin's: South Eastern Health Board, 32 the Mall, Waterford Tel. 051-78574.
Also has the records for St John's, Waterford and Challenge, Waterford.

St. Mary's: 20 Denny St. Tralee, Co. Kerry Tel. 066-22524.

CLANN: Merlin Park Hospital, Galway Tel. 091-751131 ext 311.
Also has the records for St Nicholas', Galway

St. Mura's: Pastoral Centre, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal Tel. 074-21653.


2008 Jan 1