10 Facts About Irish Adoption

1. There were more than 2,000 children trafficked to the US (official number unknown). The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, who issued passports to outgoing children, puts the number at about 2,080, but at least another 100 children (probably more) who were not issued passports and likely exited Ireland on US military or private transport, where adoptive fathers were serving US military or high-ranking government officials. Many of those children were never naturalized as US citizens, and are technically still living in the US under a green card visa status.

2. Pregnant young women who were unwed were sent to Mother-Baby homes  run by the Roman-Catholic Church. Women were also sent to county homes and private service providers (e.g. ‘nursing homes’, private operators such as OB/GYNs, nurses, etc.) It is important we include them along with the mother-baby homes as all were part of the baby trade in and from Ireland.

3. The mothers usually spent up to three years, or more in some cases, working at the moter-baby home after their child was put up for adoption. They were required to stay and work until their debts were paid off.

4. The young women had to sign declarations stating the child was born out of wedlock, and that they relinquished all claim to the child forever.

5. Many of the mother-baby homes have mass grave sites for all of the young women and babies who did not survive. Their  graves unmarked, their names forgotten.

6. There are many books written on this topic, one of the most well known is Banished Babies written by Mike Milotte

7. The movie Philomena, released this past year, tells the story of a woman searching for her child 50 years later. The film brought world-wide attention to the issues behind Irish adoption

8.Records remain sealed largely because of the unethical practices that both State and Church engaged in – more so than the desire to hide mothers’ identities or the shame/stigma, although this is the “official” line the government will give out. There is also a strong impetus to hide any trail of the fathers involved, as often these men were high-ranking government officials, business men and even clergy.

9. The real life Philomena Lee is now backing the Adoption (Identity & Information) Bill that would provide 100,000 adoptees with the right to their birth certificates for the first time.

10. To end on a happy note… This bill, if passed, will give many adoptees and mothers the opportunity to reunite, like my dad and his mother have been able to do.







Mari Steed (Committee Director, Co-founder, Justice for Magdalenes US Coordinator, Adoption Rights Alliance The Philomena Project)


4 thoughts on “10 Facts About Irish Adoption

  1. I just learned A LOT! There was not a single fact in here that I had heard before and, wow, these are very powerful. I am adding Philomena to my list of movies to watch. I find number 2 especially interesting given that in the United States there are home like this for pregnant young women, however, I am not sure how many are are run by the Roman-Catholic Church—my guess would be less than half of them. It’s great to hear about the Adoption Bill that gives adoptees the chance to find their birth mothers. I look forward to following your fathers story!


  2. This post was really informative! I also really like the list format because it was really easy to read. I didn’t know any of this information, and I feel like I probably should because I’m Irish. I think it is so sad that the mothers and children that die are put into mass graves. The movie you discussed sounds really interesting, and I’d definitely like to watch it. Have you seen the movie? If so, what did you like about it and what did you dislike about it? I’m curious to know your side since you have somewhat of a personal connection to the story it tells.


    • I have seen the movie! I was hesitant to watch it at first because I was unsure how I would feel about it but I think it does a good job of representing the issues behind Irish adoption while also telling a touching story. I definitely recommend watching it.


  3. I never knew about the Banished Babies from Ireland before reading your blog and I found all the facts to be really informative and interesting. I appreciate how you make a point to end on an optimistic note despite some of the more grim facts.


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