Will I Vote YES or NO

I have been involved in the http://www.yesforchildren.ie campaign for a little while now and I am strangely torn. I am one of Irelands 52000 legally Adopted Adults, there are also god knows how many illegally Adopted Adults. I have been concerned for a while that I mightn’t vote yes in the forthcoming referendum, that I couldn’t vote yes because it didn’t satisfy my personal need, it didn’t do what I wanted it to do, it didn’t contain the necessary inclusion of the right for me to have access to my files, my birth cert, my family of origin.

This, I felt, caused a further difficulty for the new legislation, the piece that allows young people to be adopted by their foster family. How could I reconcile the fact that by providing a family (legally and permanent) for a young person in care we were then making them unequal under the law with their peers. The reason being is, as foster children they were and are entitled to access to their family, they can see and know their files, history, lineage and birth cert, and once they are adopted if they are treated the same way as me they will be entitled to nothing.

Then I put my professional head back on and thought of the many young people who I have worked with, young people who by the time I met them had been in a myriad of care settings some of them between 15 and 50 different placements. Very few of the young people returned to their family, very few had any meaningful contact at all, and any time there was contact there was chaos. I wonder if early in their lives the opportunity for them to be adopted would have made a difference. Now, I understand the argument that a child is always better off with their family and I fully subscribe to this 100%. But none of the young people I’m talking about could live with their family or indeed should have to live with them.

So on November the 10th I will be voting yes, I will continue to fight for changes in the adoption legislation, I will continue to seek a one tier system so that all people, adopted, fostered, de-facto adopted and illegally adopted are all entitled to their files and birth certs, and I will continue to advocate for the young people that I work with above and beyond my own personal needs and desires. So don’t forget on November the 10th get out and vote YES to give children an independent voice in their own lives.

Adrian McKenna is a frontline child care professional; he has worked for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, Social Justice Ireland and the YES Campaign for Children.

All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.


One thought on “Will I Vote YES or NO

  1. I will not be voting yes.

    The main reason: it’s all lip-service. “We’re putting the child’s interest at the centre, their needs become paramount”, according to the yes side.

    Except – they’re not.

    Anything the referendum claims to be introducing can already be done, just with legislation.

    The only thing that can’t be done – and that’s debatable, senior judges seem to think so anyway – is extending adoption to the children of married parents.

    But if the child’s interests really are paramount and this isn’t just a bullshit, happy-clappy good-news-story referendum, then:

    * Why has no legal provision been made for open adoptions? All adoptions taking place from this referendum will still be closed, secret, 1952-law adoptions, with no right of contact for siblings, non-offending parents, extended family such as grandparents, etc. Sure, a social worker can propose and an adoptive family can agree to access prior to adoption – and then shut it down once they have the adoption order.

    * Why does the very next piece of “child centred”/adoption-related legislation to be introduced – the Adoption Information & Tracing Bill – get it sooo wrong. It grants no right of access to the birth cert – in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It permits access to “non-identifying information” only. Whoop-de-do. I had that 20 years ago, without any law needed. All this law does is copper-fasten the status quo. But it’s the same law proposed by Mary Hanafin that got rejected by adopted people and natural parents because it was unjust. The same law we agreed at the 2003 consultation that should include access to birth certs and the full adoption file.

    * Where is all the *other* legislation that is so blatantly, obviously missing? Still no law on donor-assisted human reproduction, for example. Nothing on surrogacy. either. Despite please for these going back years. (In the meantime, though, we’ve again concluded a bilateral adoption agreement with a country that has an appalling track record in adoption corruption and still has no domestic adoption department. But hey, it’s all about the kids).

    * What about all the existing constitutional provisions and their total lack of implementation? Free education? Never existed. The right to an education in the ethos of your (parents’) choice? Still doesn’t exist, unless the parents live in the right area and have your name down a couple of months prior to conception. The right for a raped, suicidal 14-year-old to access safe abortion? Sure, that’s in the constitution, but no, here’s your Ryanair ticket, because we’ve not managed a law in 20 years. (But here’s one on blasphemy to be going on with, because the constitution says we need to have one).

    The nub of the issue for me, though, goes back to that Adoption Information & Tracing Bill. The same minister is responsible for the referendum, and that bill. How can she propose both and not be a hypocrite? She’s either read all the background material and recommendations and said to herself “It doesn’t matter what’s in the child’s best interests, some anonymous natural mothers might be put out, and some poor adoption agency might be revealed to have lied” – in which case, what happened the “child is paramount” argument? Or she genuinely believes that adopted people shouldn’t be able to know their origins, in which case she presumes to have better expertise than all of the professionals and advocacy organisations, and clearly shouldn’t be trusted. She can’t have it both ways.


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