I propose to take Questions Nos. 241, 242, 249, 250, 257, 258, 285 and 286 together.
The Government approved the publication of the Heads and General Scheme of the Adoption (Information and Tracing) Bill and referred it to the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children for pre-legislative scrutiny. The Committee issued its report in November 2015 and included reference to the issue of refusal to disclose birth certificate information where Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, considers that there are compelling reasons, such as may endanger the life of a person, for so doing.
My Department considered the report of the Committee and a revised policy was developed to reflect concerns raised. The Bill provides that where a birth mother has registered her details on the Register, Tusla will notify her, in writing, of the adopted person’s application for his/her birth certificate information. She will be offered support and guidance by the Agency and advised that the adopted person has also been also been offered support and guidance. The birth mother will be advised that the information will be provided to the adopted person unless she advises Tusla within 12 weeks, that she considers that there are compelling reasons not to release this information. Where the Agency having considered any information, either provided by a birth parent or otherwise available to it, considers that there are compelling reasons for not disclosing information, it will refer the matter to the Circuit Court for determination. Any court hearing will be held in private. Compelling reasons are reasons that, having regard to all the circumstances, are likely to endanger the life of a person. This process only applies to the provision of birth certificate information to an adopted person, as such information which identifies the birth mother is being provided to an adopted person without the birth mother's consent. Any information about an adopted person will be only provided to a birth parent, where the adopted person consents.