Tracing your birth information and birth family
If you were adopted, you may want to find your birth family. Or, you might be a birth parent trying to trace your child who was adopted. The new Birth Information and Tracing Act 2022 (pdf) provides a right of access to birth certificates, birth and early life information for people who were adopted, boarded out, the subject of an illegal birth registration or who otherwise have questions in relation to their origins.
You can also access information if you are a child of a relevant person and your parent has died, or you are the next of kin of a child who died in an institution. A 'relevant person' is someone who was adopted, the subject of an illegal birth registration, was boarded out or lived as a child in an institution.
While it is possible to trace your birth family or child on your own (or with the help of a private detective), it is recommended to use the established official channels. This is to make sure that neither party is forced into something they are unwilling or unable to cope with.
This page explains the Birth
Information and Tracing Act 2022 (pdf), the Contact Preference Register,
how to access your birth and early life information, and the new Tracing
Birth Information and Tracing Act 2022
The Birth Information and Tracing Act 2022 (pdf) was signed into law on 30 June 2022. This Act gives adopted people, people who were boarded out, or born in a Mother and Baby or County Home Institution, or people who had their births illegally registered the right to receive:
- Their birth certificate
- Information about their birth, early life and care
- Medical information relating to their own medical history, or that of a genetic relative important to the maintenance or management of the person’s health
In July 2022, the new Contact Preference Register opened for applications. This had to be open for 3 months before applications for birth certificates and other information could be made. From 3 October 2022, applications for birth information and tracing can be made.
Contact Preference Register
The new Contact Preference Register is a way for people to state their contact preferences in relation to contact with family, including a request for privacy. The Contact Preference Register (CPR) replaces the previous National Adoption Contact Preference Register (NACPR). All data from the NACPR has been transferred over to the new register.
The CPR is similar to the NACPR with some additional functions. It allows people to register their wishes in relation to contact with family, as well as provide contact details, information and items for sharing with specified family members. The CPR is not a tracing service. For more information about tracing services, see ‘Tracing Service’ below.
The Adoption Authority is responsible for the CPR. This means the Adoption Authority is the agency that identifies all potential matches on the CPR.
Who can join the Contact Preference Register?
The Contact Preference Register is for the following people to register their preference in relation to contact with each other.
You can apply to join the register if you were:
- The subject of an illegal birth registration (where a birth was illegally registered and no formal adoption took place)
- Resident in Mother and Baby Home Institution or County Home
- Placed in a care arrangement
The following people can also apply to join the register:
- A parent of one of the above (or someone who believes they might be a parent)
- A relative of one of the above (or someone who believes they might be a relative)
- If the parent of one of the above has died, a friend of that parent who has information to share
- Next of kin of one of the above where that person has died
- Someone who provided care to a child in a care arrangement
- Someone who was a relevant guardian of an adopted person
To join the register, you need to be over 18. If you are an adopted child under 18, an adoptive parent may join on your behalf.
What preferences can be registered?
There are 2 main types of contact that can be registered.
A preference for contact
- You wish to make contact with a specified person
- You wish to be contacted by a specified person
- You are looking for information about a specified person
A preference for no contact
- You do not want any contact of any kind
- You do not want to have contact with the specified person but you are willing to provide information if requested by a specified person
Updating your contact preferences
When an application for information is received, only preferences on the register at that point in time can be released with the associated information. If you want to update your details or contact preferences you previously recorded on the NACPR, you need to fill out a new CPR application form and send it to the Adoption Authority with a copy of photo identification such as a passport or driver’s licence. The Adoption Authority will acknowledge that it has received your application and update your details.
Where a preference for contact is registered
If you register a preference for contact, and the Adoption Authority identifies a match, the Adoption Authority or Tusla will contact you. You will both be given the option to use a mediation service if you wish.
If you register a preference for contact and there is no match on the CPR, you may wish to begin a trace yourself. Visit birthinfo.ie for tracing application forms.
Where a preference for no contact is registered
If a match is made on the register but a preference for no contact has been made, this preference will be communicated to the other person (the match) in an information session. During the session, you will be informed of your entitlement to your birth information, the parent’s right to privacy and their expressed wish for no contact. Once the information session has taken place, all available information will be released to you.
Where parents register a preference for no contact, they will be informed of their right to access counselling, which will be provided by Tusla. Counselling can also be provided to all parents and relevant persons who request it.
Birth and early life information
If you were adopted, boarded out, subject to an illegal birth registration (or suspect you were) or spent time in a Mother and Baby or County Home Institution as a child, you can access your information and records about your birth and early life, where this information is available. You must be over 16 to apply.
You will get unrestricted access to all of the following information, where it is available:
- Birth certificate
- Birth information
- Care information
- Early life information
- Medical information
- Medical information of a genetic relative
- Illegal birth registration information
- Provided items
Any information or records relating to any of the above must be released.
What are ‘provided items’?
‘Provided items’ are any item held by the Adoption Authority or Tusla, which was provided by a relevant parent, carer or other family member for the purpose of being made available to another relevant person on request. The item could be a letter, photograph, memento or other document or object. It could have been provided historically, or it could be an item which was lodged through the Contact Preference Register.
How do I apply?
Many societies, institutions, or agencies that held records in the past on people who were adopted, boarded or nursed out, had their birth illegally registered, or who lived in a mother and baby home as a child, have since closed. At the time of closing, available records were transferred either to the Adoption Authority or Tusla for safekeeping. You will need to make an application to either one, or both, depending on which agency holds the records you are seeking access to. See a list of adoption agencies and societies and which agency currently holds the records.
It is possible that both Tusla and the Adoption Authority may both hold information and records that you are requesting. You will need to make a separate application to each organisation to find out what information exists.
For more information on accessing your birth and early life information, see birthinfo.ie.
If you want to locate and make contact with a birth relative, a Tracing Service is available to you.
The Tracing Service can assist with sharing information while supporting a level of contact (if any) that both you, and the person you are seeking, are comfortable with.
You can apply for the service if you were:
- Boarded out
- The subject of an illegal birth registration
- A parent or a genetic relative of the relevant person
- In a mother and baby home, county home or institution
More details on who can apply for a tracing service is available at birthinfo.ie.
Information on the Contact Preference Register may be used as part of a Tracing Service search. But it’s important to note that they are 2 separate services and need to be applied to separately.
There is no charge for the Tracing Service or to make a tracing request.
The process of tracing your family, and the range of possible outcomes, can be very emotional. You may benefit from talking to a counsellor and talking to other people who have been through the same experience. Counselling can be provided by Tusla to all parents and relevant persons who request it.