The Baby Ann case

NPNI calls for reform of Adoption Law, Regulations & Practice

Commenting on the recent High Court judgment by Justice John MacMenamin, refusing custody to the natural parents of a fostered child, Chairperson Bernie Harold of Adoption Loss/Natural Parents Network of Ireland said:

While we sincerely welcome The Adoption Board’s initiative in wishing to publicise this difficult issue, the actual text of the Judgment is unfortunately ambiguous and unclear in its chronology of events and points of law.

The Judgment does not mention, for example, whether Initial or Final Consent to Adoption Forms were signed by the natural parents. Nor does it say whether they enjoyed any form of contact with their daughter since her birth. What is stated, however, (and which has received no mention in recent media coverage of the case) is the fact that the natural parents had already begun wardship proceedings and that Baby Ann had been made a Ward of Court. As a result of this: "A level of appropriate access has been granted. It originally had been intended that the adoption be an 'open' one".

Could it be that the natural parents began proceedings for wardship and custody of Baby Ann because the promised contact with their daughter was thwarted or refused?

We are very glad that Justice MacMenamin has highlighted the lack of independent counselling available to the natural parents in this case. Our Helpline and Support Meetings reveal that many women felt very pressured by social workers to agree to their child’s adoption, when what they really needed was practical support to enable them to provide a proper home for their baby at the time. It has been said before and is worth re-stating: Adoption is a permanent solution to what is often a temporary problem.

The value of publicising this Judgment lies in its revealing the dysfunctional nature of legal adoption as it is presently constituted in this country. Why a child should have her identity changed, her records hidden and all contact with her natural parents barred surely cannot be seen as a benefit in the 21st century? If there is any positive aspect to being adopted it must lie in the fact that you have two sets of parents, both of whom love you and want the very best for you. The most important thing is that children should grow up with the knowledge that they are loved by their natural and adoptive families.

Love is not about ownership.

Bernie Harold concluded: It is now more than eight years since we began making formal Submissions to the Department of Health on the need for reform of our adoption laws and this latest case provides clear evidence of the pain caused to all parties because of the inexcusable delay in implementing promised changes.

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