Monday 5 March 2018

ISOGG Ireland commentary on the proposed Adoption Bill 2016

Last year a group of us within the ISOGG Ireland group wrote a 27-page commentary on the proposed Adoption Bill (Information & Tracing) 2016. The Irish government is in the process of passing this legislation into law and our ISOGG Ireland group provided feedback and comments on the proposed legislation in June 2017. The entire document can be downloaded for free from the ISOGG Ireland wiki page here ... Media:Adoption_Bill_2016_-_ISOGG_submission.pdf

The commentary was sent to Minister Katherine Zappone at the Department of Children & Youth Affairs and to a variety of TDs (Teachta Dála, members of the Irish Parliament) who had previously expressed an interest in adoption policy. I subsequently attended a very constructive one-on-one meeting with officials from the Department, explaining the key points of the commentary and addressing the various questions they had. The Adoption Bill is currently undergoing review and as yet there is no definite date for its enactment.

Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children & Youth Affairs, Ireland

Below is a summary of the key points made in the ISOGG Ireland commentary.
  1. DNA testing is here to stay. It has become an integral part of researching family history. 
  2. There are currently over 7 million people worldwide in the databases of the major DNA testing companies. 
  3. This number is growing exponentially and is predicted to hit 25 million by the year 2020. 
  4. This exponential growth has largely abolished anonymity, in particular for sperm donors and birth parents. 
  5. The “right to anonymity” is not absolute and must be clearly distinguished from the “right to privacy”, which is also not absolute. 
  6. Many Irish people are reconnecting with relatives via DNA. 
  7. The adoptee component of the worldwide “genetic genealogy” community is disproportionately large and increasing. 
  8. Success rates for adoptees finding immediate birth family via DNA currently vary from 21% (non-US) to 52% (US). These numbers will increase as the databases grow. 
  9. There is a considerable amount of help and support available for adoptees from the genetic genealogy community (via Facebook groups, Forums, websites, etc) 
  10. DNA testing is the only avenue of investigation for those people who were illegally adopted or whose birth information is grossly inaccurate or non-existent. 
  11. DNA testing should be a routine part of the Agency’s tracing service. 
  12. The cost of DNA testing should be borne by the Agency. 
  13. Professional genetic genealogists should be an important part of the Agency’s tracing service team. 
  14. There is an urgent need for education, training and support for adoptees to help them contact and (if desired) develop a relationship with immediate birth family via DNA testing (including birth parents, full & half-siblings & close cousins) 
  15. The government's dilemma always has been (and still is) to balance the rights and responsibilities of adopted people and the rights and responsibilities of their birth parents. There is no need for genetic genealogists to take sides in this debate, other than to point out that the solution must acknowledge the DNA revolution, and any proposed solution that does not acknowledge the DNA revolution will be doomed to immediate failure. 
  16. The genetic genealogy community has the knowledge base and skills to assist in the process, and we are ready and willing to help the Minister in any way we can.

In October 2017, a group of us from the ISOGG Ireland group were invited by the Council of Irish Adoption Agencies to give a training day on DNA testing and how it can be used by adoptees to help trace their birth family. This training day (morning and afternoon) was attended by about 45 social workers and other adoption agency staff from all over the country. It is encouraging to note that some adoption agencies in Ireland are now starting to refer clients to genetic genealogists within the ISOGG Ireland group when the usual routes for tracing family have been exhausted.

Ancestry were kind enough to give me 10 free DNA kits in 2017 for my pro bono work with Irish adoptees and as a result of these tests I am happy to report that (so far) several Irish people have been reconnected with their birth families. One of them was of mixed African-Irish heritage and she has been reconnected with both her Irish and her African family. Such is the increasing power of DNA.

Maurice Gleeson
Mar 2018

Thursday 1 March 2018

GGI2018 presentations on YouTube

Over the course of the next few weeks, the presentations from the DNA Lecture schedule at GGI2018 Belfast will be going up on our YouTube channel. Sound quality is good as we had a dedicated room for the presentations, away from the noise of the main exhibition area.

The first of these is the excellent talk by Debbie Kennett on "Mysteries of the Titanic solved by DNA". This was a very poignant presentation given the historic setting of the conference in the Titanic Centre.

You can also view this video on YouTube here.

These lectures are sponsored by FamilyTreeDNA and organised by volunteers from ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy).

The video presentations from GGI2017 Dublin will be uploaded AFTER the Belfast videos (as the sound needs to be optimised given the background noise in the auditorium which was unfortunately beyond our control).

Maurice Gleeson
Mar 2018