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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 6 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 4

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Placement of Foster Child.


asked the Minister for Justice if he has investigated the circumstances surrounding the placing in care of a foster child (details supplied); if so, what inquiries and inspections were made prior to the placing of the child; if he is satisfied that the authority placing the child and all other health authorities competently adjudicate on applications for foster children; whether any improvements are proposed; if so, if he will give details; thereof; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The child concerned was not a foster-child, in the sense in which that term is normally used. It was a child placed with a view to legal adoption and a widely-publicised allegation that legal adoption would have been impossible because of the ages of the prospective applicants, or one of them, is based on a misreading of the Adoption Acts and is without any foundation. The placement is governed by the Adoption Acts and the Health Authority, as such, has no function in the matter.

The child was placed with a view to legal adoption by a registered adoption society who arranged for the transfer of the child from another family who were temporarily taking care of it. The society had obtained testimonials from several responsible people as to the suitability of the proposed adopters and their own inspection of the home also gave a very favourable impression.

As it turned out, the placement had a tragic end. The child died, apparently as a result of beatings administered by the adoptive father who was thereupon charged with murder. A jury found him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

The Adoption Board is the authority with statutory responsibility for supervising adoption societies and dealing generally with adoption. The board has carried out a full investigation and are satisfied that no blame attached to the adoption society. I am not prepared to go behind the decision of the board. I do not agree that anything should be done that would amount to putting in the dock the members of a private, charitable organisation against whom the only charge was that they failed to do well a charitable work which only they and societies like them are willing to do at all.

In justice to those concerned, I can also say that both the board and adoption societies in general are conscious of the need to ensure that the safeguards to be adopted are kept under constant review. As it happens, this particular society, of its own volition and with a view to achieving the highest possible standards in its work, completely re-constituted itself last year and is now, with the help of a number of additional members, operating a much more elaborate system of examination of cases than obtained previously.

This, I am glad to say, is typical of the attitude of adoption societies in general. Far from objecting to supervision by the board, these societies have welcomed such supervision, as a means of helping them to achieve their own objective of securing the highest possible standards in their work. If, however, it were to happen that a society failed to exercise proper care in the placement of children for adoption, the board would have ample powers to take remedial action.

I accept entirely the content and spirit of the Minister's reply which, I think, is the way to deal with this sad event.

The remaining questions will appear on tomorrow's Order Paper.