The landmark Birth Information and Tracing Act 2022, enacted on 30 June 2022, allows for certain access rights to birth and other information and for the establishment of a tracing service. These provisions of the Act have now come into effect. This means that, from 3 October 2022, individuals can apply to the Adoption Authority of Ireland (the Authority) or Tusla for their information, register their preference in relation to contact, and trace their relatives.
This is the second stage of the coming into operation of the Act. The provisions establishing a Contact Preference Register (the Register) and requiring a public information campaign were brought into effect on 1 July 2022.
Access to information
Since 3 October, relevant persons over the age of 16 are entitled to access information such as birth, care, early life, medical and incorrect birth registration information and provided items, such as a letter or photograph.
A relevant person is a person who:
- Is adopted, or
- Is the subject of an incorrect birth registration, or has reasonable grounds for suspecting so, or
- As a child, has been resident in a Mother and Baby Home or County Home Institution, or has been the subject of a nursed out or boarded out arrangement, or has reasonable grounds for suspecting so.
Qualifying persons, i.e. persons over the age of 18 whose mother or father, or adoptive mother or father, is a deceased relevant person as well as next of kin of relevant persons may also access largely the same information.
Applications for information may be made in writing to the Authority or Tusla. The Minister for Children may designate other bodies as bodies to which applications may be made, but no further bodies have been designated so far.
Since 3 October, Tusla and the Authority also provide a tracing service. Applications may be made to Tusla by a relevant person, or a specified relative, who would like contact, or further birth or other information.
Tusla or the Authority may request certain persons, including a Minister, the Health Service Executive, or a church diocese/parish, to provide information that Tusla or the Authority reasonably requires to facilitate the provision of the service.
While the tracing service is separate to the Register, which is operated by the Authority only, the information on the Register may be used as part of the tracing service. The Authority reported on 22 September that more than 2,000 people had already registered contact preferences. This brings the total number of adopted persons, birth parents and other relatives who have now registered with the Authority to 16,634, since the Register was created by the Authority over ten years ago. Helpfully, the Authority has provided a breakdown of applications to the Register on its website.
The Act also now places an onus on secondary information sources, which includes registered adoption societies, accredited bodies under the Adoption Act 2010 or other persons in possession of relevant records, to retain and maintain all relevant records that they hold. Relevant records include, for example, records containing birth information or early life information. The Authority may also direct or request the information source to transfer the records to the Authority.
Almost all the Act is now in effect meaning that, as of 3 October, the Authority and Tusla have begun the important work of responding to applications for birth and other information and facilitating tracing. Persons and organisations who hold relevant records may begin to see requests from the Authority for the transfer of those records or may wish to seek the transfer themselves.
For more information, contact a member of our Public, Regulatory & Investigations team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.