Case Studies


Mary was born in a Magdalene Laundry, Denny House, in Donnybrook Dublin.  She was adopted through the ‘Protestant Adoption Society’, now known as ‘PACT’. 

While Mary grew up knowing that she was adopted, she knew next to nothing about where she came from, or who her birth family were. She carried deep questions about her identity and her place in the world throughout her childhood and teenage years. 

Everyday normal things that most non-adoptees take for granted, like dating, were far from carefree – with the prospect of unknowingly forming a romantic relationship with a relative weighing heavily on Mary’s mind.

“As a teenager, young adult, always looking for someone who looked like you. When dating, I'm always afraid they could be related. Not knowing [my] background.”

Doctors’ visits were made unnecessarily difficult for Mary, because of the adoption agency’s decision to withhold medical information.

Mary describes the sense of unease she lives with, fearing that she cannot prevent genetic diseases she may have a higher risk of – because access to her family medical history is being blocked. 

“A friend died from inherited breast cancer. Always afraid there was something in my background. So sick of [doctors] asking for medical family history and having to say I don’t know”

Indeed, Mary describes the process of searching for medical and identity documents as painful and re-traumatising. 

“Extremely painful. A social worker sitting with a file and won’t tell you anything. Months of delay, each time I had to phone a social worker to try to get an update. Dreadful process”.

Even the most mundane tasks became massively complicated for Mary, saying that accessing a Public Services Card, and indeed social services in general, was unnecessarily difficult. 

Mary is clear on what needs to happen so that other adoptees don’t have to go through what she did when it comes to accessing identity rights. Mary believes that both an adopted child and their birth parents should have access to their birth certificate. Mary believes that the State should have no ownership over the document. 

Mary remarks on the “total unfairness of the system’ and believes that adoptees deserve full access to their identity documents, and that ultimately, they should be in control of their lives and identity rights. 

“The [adopted] child should come first, and have full access [to personal information] at age 18”.
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