I have received detailed submissions from the group which outline suggested amendments to the Adoption Act, 2010 and proposals in relation to information and tracing for those affected by adoption. I am currently examining a number of proposals in relation to amendments to the Adoption Act, 2010. I intend to bring forward any changes to the legislation in conjunction with the draft Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill 2013.
Work is ongoing on the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill, which will provide for a structured and regulated approach to providing access to adoption information and will facilitate contact for those affected by adoption, including in circumstances where an adoption order was not effected. It is intended that the Bill will provide for the Adoption Authority to have access to all adoption records. The Bill will provide for a National Index of Adoption Records to be maintained by the Adoption Authority containing information as to where all known adoption records are located within the State. It is envisaged that only the Authority, the HSE and accredited bodies will hold adoption records, with the Authority having overall charge of those records.
It is also intended that the Bill will provide for placing the National Contact Preference Register on a statutory basis. The purpose of the Register is to allow persons affected by adoption to register their names with a view to receiving information about a person from whom they have been separated as a result of adoption and will allow for registering a preference, as to whether or not, they want to have contact with that person.
A National Tracing Service will be established, the operation of which will be subject to guidelines which will be set out in regulations. It is intended that the Tracing Service will be made available to adopted persons, birth parents and relatives with the Adoption Authority having the overarching responsibility for the service. It is intended that prior to the release of adoption information, counselling will be offered by the Adoption Authority, the HSE or by an accredited body to an adopted person, a birth parent or to an adoptive parent if, in the opinion of the Authority, the HSE or an accredited body, such counselling would be beneficial in the circumstances, or if such counselling is requested by the applicant seeking the adoption information.
Complex issues have arisen during the course of the preparation of the Bill including the criteria for balancing an adopted person's right to information about his or her identity as against a birth parent's right to privacy. My own view is that persons affected by adoption should be provided with as much information as possible within permissible Constitutional boundaries. Consideration of legal and policy issues is ongoing and once these have been satisfactorily resolved, I intend to seek Government approval to publish the Heads of Bill. It is my intention to bring this Bill before the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming months.