Ireland Proposes Sealing Records of Institutional Child Abuse

“Globally, there is a growing movement to address issues of historical abuse, a welcome acknowledgment that nations must face their past rather than continue a damaging pattern of denial and avoidance of responsibility.”
Dr. Margaret Humphreys
Sydney, March 26, 2015

Ireland is considering legislation that would seal the records of official inquiries into its foster care, institutional care, adoption, and child protection schemes. If enacted in 2015, the proposed legislation would seal the records until the year 2090, preventing scholars and historians from compiling a complete history of child welfare programs that extends back many decades of time.

The proposed legislation comes with a plain English translation included in the text. As it clearly spells out, the intention is to seal all of the horrors of foster care, institutional care, adoption, and child protection that have been exposed in the more recent inquiries conducted to date. The legislation provides

that records of the Residential Institutions Redress Board, the Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee and the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, other than those records which the Director of the National Archives certifies do not warrant preservation, shall be deposited with the National Archives on the dissolution of the body concerned. It provides that these records will be maintained and preserved by the Director and will be sealed for a period of 75 years from the dissolution of the body concerned. Thereafter the records will be available for public inspection in accordance with such conditions as may be stipulated by the Director and regulations made under the National Archives Act, 1986. Records that are certified by the Director as not warranting preservation will be destroyed in a confidential manner. The consent of the Minister for Education and Skills is required prior to the destruction of records certified as not warranting preservation.1

According to an article in The Irish Independent, “the bill has been approved by Cabinet for drafting.”2

Tom Cronin of Irish Survivors of Institutional Abuse International said abuse survivors were “shocked and horrified” that the records would be sealed for so long. “I can understand that these documents are sensitive and that they might need to be sealed for a period of years.

“But why seal them for 75 years? Why not seal them for five or 10 years? By the time they can be accessed again, everyone associated with this most shameful period of Irish history will be long dead. The whole thing won’t be anything more than a footnote in history by 2090,” he told the The Irish Independent.


The Residential Institutions Redress Board – among the agencies slated to have their records sealed – was set up in 2002 to compensate those who were abused as children in various State and Church institutions dating back to 1936. By the end of 2013, the Residential Institutions Redress Board had dealt with 16,620 applications for compensation. The total awards made amounted to €944.1m, the average award being €62,530.3

The Residential Institutions Review Committee – also targeted for the sealing of its records – is an avenue to appeal unsatisfactory judgments of the Residential Institutions Redress Board, As the Department of Education and Skills explains it on their web site, ” A person not satisfied with an award made by the Residential Institutions Redress Board may, following a hearing, apply to the Residential Institutions Redress Review Committee for a review of the Board’s award. The Review Committee may uphold the Board’s award, or increase or decrease the amount of the award.”4


The five-volume report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse concluded that church officials encouraged beatings, and consistently shielded paedophiles from arrest amidst a “culture of self-serving secrecy.” The report also found that government inspectors failed to prevent the chronic beatings, rapes, and humiliation of children who were wards of the institutions.

Much of the Commission’s report concerns physical abuse in institutional settings. One chapter deals with a Christian Brothers’ school called Letterfrack, describing it as “an inhospitable, bleak, isolated institution accessable only by car or bicycle and out of reach for family or friends of boys incarcerated there.”

The report continues on to note that: “Physical punishment was severe, excessive and pervasive and by being administered in public or within earshot of other children it was used as a means of engendering fear and ensuring control.”

Chapter 15 of the Commission’s report is devoted to conventional foster care; that is to say placement with foster parents as opposed to institutional care.5 The report details not only the succession of multiple placements that is typical of foster care, but also emphasizes time and again that the primary reason that these children were “rescued” into foster care was that their single parents – primarily mothers -were deemed unsuitable to raise them. The reports notes that,

Among those witnesses who reported being in out-of-home care for lengthy periods, seven witnesses reported that their placement in foster care followed a series of other placements over a period of up to seven years. These witnesses reported being in Children’s Homes, county homes, hospitals or Industrial Schools for varying periods of time prior to being placed in foster homes that, in most instances, became their final childhood residence. All of these witnesses were the children of lone mothers with whom they reported having no further contact.

The report also explains that the majority of witnesses went to great lengths as adults in trying to establish their family ties, and the bureaucratic resistance that they encountered both from the Churches and their own government as they sought to do so:

The majority of witnesses reporting abuse in foster care were the children of single parents and had scant information about their family background and social circumstances. They generally knew little about their family of origin and were reliant on official documentation for details of their place of birth and early life experiences. This documentation was most often reported to have been obtained through Freedom of Information legislation, family tracing services and other charitable organisations.

The child protection industry has everything to gain by sealing these records. First, sealing all the records would indemnify those powerful organizations – many of them religious – against any potential legal claims for the litany of abuses they had inflicted on thousands of individual children.6 Although from the standpoint of the Catholic Church – which ran the vast majority of institutional homes – even that threat bears no teeth.

The findings of the Report may not be used for criminal prosecutions, at least in part because the Christian Brothers denomination successfully sued the Commission in 2004 to prevent the identities of all of its members from being revealed, regardless of whether they were dead or alive. As the Guardian explained in a 2009 article, “Nine-tenths of the bill for compensating victims of the institutionalised abuse will be shouldered by Irish taxpayers rather than the church. In June 2002, a special deal between the Catholic hierarchy and the government of Bertie Ahern, agreed that the Church would pay only €128m in compensation. The overall cost of compensation, according to official figures, will be €1.3bn.”7

Second, ensuring that now-adult adoptees are not reunified with their parents minimizes the risks associated with the likely discovery that the adoption was not voluntary; rather that consent was obtained by means of fraud, duress, or trickery. As journalist Padraig O’Morain explained in The Irish Times:

The adoption societies and the State are always eager to point out that these women signed away their babies, that they did so under conditions of strict confidentiality. The reality is that these girls were led into rooms and made to sign documents of which they understood nothing; that if they tried to escape from the mother and baby homes they were brought back by the Gardai; that they were prevented from communicating with the fathers of their children and that, on occasion, signatures were forged.8

This categorization may itself be an over-generous one inasmuch as many hundreds of of young Irish babies were simply plucked from their mother’s arms after birth and adopted out without any consent whatsoever. While the adoption industry tried to deny it for many years, few today would question that the “banished babies” era is a part of Ireland’s not-too-distant history.9 Few would question that is was American and Canadian citizens who provided for the lion’s share of this market in stolen children, though the extent of their awareness of the problem was in most instances unknown to them at the time.

Third, the state itself has everything to gain by concealing the true extent of its complicity with the adoption agencies and the religious institutions that warehoused so many children. As time went on, the number of children voluntarily placed with at least some of the religious orders came to be replaced exclusively by children provided by state child welfare workers. Significantly the state paid for the maintenance of the children, and assumed increasing responsibility for their care.



With mounting evidence at hand, Amnesty International played a role in bringing about the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry. As an article on the organization’s site explains, “We campaigned successfully alongside victims for the Northern Ireland Executive to set up an inquiry into institutional child abuse. The inquiry, now up and running with Justice Anthony Hart in the chair, is an important step towards delivering justice for victims and survivors.”10

News of the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry traveled quickly to neighboring territories, and by January of 2014, Scotland’s STV News reported “Victims of abuse have urged the Scottish Government to undertake a similar exercise, but so far their appeals have fallen on deaf ears.” One woman told STV that she had been mentally, physically, and emotionally abused for 15 years in the Quarriers care home in Renfrewshire, Scotland.11

As a press release from Justice Anthony Hart dated May 19, 2014, explains, “The Inquiry has a remit to investigate physical, emotional and sexual childhood abuse, and childhood neglect which occurred in residential institutions in Northern Ireland over a 73-year period up to 1995.” The release continues on to explain:

For the purposes of this Inquiry “child” means any person under 18 years of age; “institution” means any body, society or organisation with responsibility for the care, health or welfare of children in Northern Ireland, other than a school (but including a training school or borstal) which, during the relevant period, provided residential accommodation and took decisions about and made provision for the day to day care of children; “relevant period” means the period between 1922 and 1995 (both years inclusive).12

That is, indeed, quite the extensive inquiry. For its part Amnesty International is also “campaigning for inquiries into allegations of clerical child abuse and abuse suffered by residents of ‘Magdalene Laundries’ in Northern Ireland,” the site explains.13 To overlook that particular aspect of the institutional care would indeed appear to be a glaring oversight, as journalist Paul Waldie of the Globe and Mail explains:

The inquiry has been criticized for dealing only with victims who were under the age of 18, which excludes hundreds of people who alleged were abused by clerics and women who were sent to Magdalene laundry-type institutions, where unmarried pregnant women were coerced to give up their babies and forced to work in harsh conditions. There were about a dozen Magdalene-style facilities in Northern Ireland up to the 1950s.14

A number of recent press releases indicate that Amnesty International is well-versed in the human rights issues concerning institutional and foster care, and that it plans to continue applying pressure to the Northern Ireland government to use the Inquiry to its best advantage to reveal the absolute truth.15

A great deal of information has come to light during the more recent hearings held by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry. In January 2014, certain orders of the Catholic church took the preemptive measure of offering apologies in advance of what would inevitably be revealed during the hearings. As the Belfast Telegraph explains it, Kevin Rooney QC, on behalf of the De La Salle Brothers order, said: “That some brothers abused boys in care was in contradiction to their vocation as De La Salle Brothers.”

They accept and deeply regret that boys in their care were abused. They wish to offer their sincere and unreserved apology to all those whom they failed to protect.”16

Another apology was tendered by the Sisters of Nazareth order of nuns, who ran institutions in Belfast and Londonderry. Their lawyer, Turlough Montague QC, said they were shocked and appalled at some allegations.

“They apologise unreservedly for any abuse suffered by children in their care. They go forward hoping that lessons will be learned, not just by them in the provision of care but also by carers generally in society and in wider society at large, Montague said.”17

The apologies aside, the most crucial point of the article is one that may be overlooked by the casual reader; that point being that a majority of the children came to be in these homes not because they had been abused or neglected by their natural parents. The reality is that,

Many young people were taken into care because their mother was not married, because their families were too poor to keep them or because they were orphans.18


Dr. Margaret Humphreys, a former social worker who uncovered the child migration scandal during the 1980s, testified before the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry on September 1, 2014. In her written submission, she addressed both the abuse institutional care as well as Northern Ireland’s role in child migration.19

These two forces combined to put some young children in double jeopardy. Northern Ireland participated in a particularly cruel practice against children. The child migration scheme, as it has come to be known, consisted of shipping young children to foreign nations – primarily Australia and Canada – in order to provide what was described at the time as “good British stock.”20

“It is matter of public record that former child Migrants were abused. These were the most exquisitely vulnerable of our young children both in the United Kingdom and Australia,” Dr. Humphreys explains.

She notes also that a Member of Parliament visited Australia in 1998 to hear evidence from former Child Migrants, some from Northern Ireland. “War Crimes without a war” was her expressed view. More recently, during public hearings in held in Western Australia, “Crimes against humanity” was seen as an appropriate description of the plight endured by these children.21

She explains further that there was “physical, sexual and emotional abuse endured by former Child Migrants while placed in institutions prior to their migration from Northern Ireland.”22

One of the key submissions to the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was sent to Chairman Sir Anthony Hart in August 2013. The report, Impacts and outcomes of child migration experienced by former child migrants from Northern Ireland, authored by the support group Tuart Place, managed to encapsulate the challenges faced by those children who had first been placed into institutional care in Northern Ireland, only to be thereafter shipped off to a foreign land. Much as Dr. Humphreys noted, the report explains:

Had these children remained in Northern Ireland they may well have suffered the types of abuse that have been reported by ex-residents of Northern Ireland’s orphanages, however they would not have experienced the additional range of harms specific to child migration.23

The report explains that of the 793 Catholic child migrants sent to Australia, an estimated 112 were sent from Northern Ireland, and were placed in orphanages operated by the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy and Nazareth in Western Australia. Significantly the migration scheme was well orchestrated, and to the extent that it had predetermined shipping routes for the children.

“These 112 children were selected for migration by local authorities in Northern Ireland and were sent to Australia via England. Typically, children left Belfast by ferry, then travelled to London by train. All departures for Australia took place from the port of Southampton,” the report explains.24

Regarding the timelines, the conditions endured by migrant children and the participants in the migration scheme, Dr. Humphreys explains:

Child migration from Northern Ireland involved approximately 120 children and was primarily a post war policy. Usually it was arranged through the Sisters of Nazareth rather than the broad range of voluntary agencies working across the United Kingdom, such as Barnardos and Fairbridge. The only other significant agency known to be involved in Northern Irish child migration was the Presbyterian Church which sent a group of children to Victoria in 1950.25

These children found precious little sympathy abroad. According to Margaret McNay’s analysis of the literature concerning the young forced migrants that came to be known as the Canadian home children: “In all the papers, policies, and literature of the time, it is difficult to find evidence of any concern for the psychological well-being of these children who, in terms of modern, Western understandings of child-rearing, were denied their family, heritage, homeland, and childhood.”26

A common theme that arises time and again in the narratives of care leavers is that of the bureaucratic resistance that child migrants, former residents of foster or institutional care, and adoptees meet at every step of the way as they seek to reunite with their families. This point was not lost on Australia’s Senate Community Affairs References Committee, which concluded that:

The Committee notes the appalling inaccuracies and discrepancies in the data on the numbers of child migrants by Governments as well as the receiving and sending agencies. The Committee suspects that this goes far beyond the imperfect record keeping characteristic of the time and at worst amounts to gross incompetence at best. The evidence indicates, on the part of sending and receiving agencies, that this was due to deliberate fraud or criminal neglect. Parents were lied to as to the fate of their children, and children were lied to with respect to their origins, parents and status. To say that in some circumstances children were stolen from their parents and their country is not putting it too strongly. When it is considered that in the case of child migrants sent to this country under the auspices of the Catholic Church from the United Kingdom that in up to 80 percent of cases it is unknown whether parental consent was given, there emerges a picture of total disregard of the rights and feelings of both parents and children – a feature symptomatic of the overall operation of the child migration schemes. Such a pattern of systemic incompetence and abuse cries out for redress, which is addressed in detail in the succeeding chapters of this report.27


On May 29, 2014, Ms. Christine Smith, QC, appearing as Counsel to the Inquiry, voiced a series of troubling questions, striking at the very heart of the government’s involvement in all of these affairs.:

In respect of the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of Health & Social Services did the responsible government department (a) construct and (b) implement an appropriately rigorous inspection regime to ensure the children in St. Joseph’s Home, Termonbacca and Nazareth House were safe from abuse? Did the responsible government department take sufficient steps to ensure that these voluntary homes were acquired and/or helped to provide (a) suitable premises and (b) sufficient and suitably selected and properly trained Sisters and lay staff to ensure that the children in these homes would be provided with child care (1) in accordance with the standards of the time and (2) of the same standard as received by children in homes in the statutory sector?

Looking at the role played by the County and County Borough Welfare Committees and their statutory successors, did the statutory bodies which placed or assumed responsibility for children in St. Joseph’s Home, Termonbacca or Nazareth House take adequate steps to monitor the care given to the individual children in either home? Did the statutory bodies which placed or assumed responsibility for children in either home take adequate steps to monitor the facilities for and standards of care provided to children in either home? Did those statutory bodies take adequate steps to inform themselves of the provision made by the Sisters of Nazareth for the care of other children in either home whose circumstances might have brought them within the responsibility of the statutory bodies? Did those statutory bodies provide adequate financial or administrative support for the children they placed in the care of the Sisters of Nazareth? Did those statutory bodies take adequate steps to deal with any instances of abuse in either home that came to their attention? Did those statutory bodies take adequate steps to report any instances of abuse in either home that came to their attention to the police?28

Consider Christine Smith’s questions in view of the remarks of Mr. Kevin Rooney, QC on behalf of the De La Salle Order delivered before the Commission on December 17, 2014. During this hearing, Rooney asserted,

The De La Salle Order was and is a congregation of teaching Brothers. They are dedicated and have been dedicated to improving the education of neglected, orphaned and under-privileged children. When Rubane opened, the task of the Order was both to teach and to care for those children. Between 1950 and 1953, when the numbers were small, the Brothers managed this dual role perfectly well, but then the numbered increased. The diocese continued to send more and more children. The welfare authorities continued to send more and more children. Quite simply, there were too many children for the number of Brothers. The resources were clearly inadequate, both in terms of the numbers of staff but also in respect of the required expertise.29

Advocates may recognize a distinctive ring of familiarity in his remarks. Time and again, child advocates have seen seemingly promising endeavors overwhelmed by the sheer number of children shoveled into their programs by child protection workers who are far-too-eager to rescue children from their perceived-as-marginal homes to the perceived safety of the foster care system.

Rooney continued on to explain that what some would describe as a toxic mixture of damaged children had been sent to the De La Salle Order; children who would never be tossed together today in such a manner. The implication is that many of these children came to the Order as having been already damaged by multiple placements and the other negative experiences they experienced while in the care system. In effect, Rooney seems to suggest that the system that removed the children from their homes had inflicted much of the damage themselves, further compounding the injuries by shoveling children en masse into the hands of the De La Salle Order which, in turn, found itself unable to effectively handle the resulting chaos. As Rooney explained it,

The Brothers were teachers. They were not trained carers or social workers. To undertake this new role they needed guidance. They needed advice. They needed good practice guidelines. They needed clear protocols. They really needed as much help as they could get. Unfortunately they didn’t get much.30

On September 29, 2014, Mr. Joseph Aiken, Junior Counsel to the current Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, explained that

when the Inquiry examined the two homes at Termonbacca and Nazareth House in Londonderry run by the Sisters of Nazareth Order, as the years went on, the numbers of voluntary children reduced and the numbers of welfare authority children increased, and we will come to see that by the early ’70s all of the voluntary children in Rubane were formally taken into care by welfare authorities, with the consequence that from that point all the children residing in the home were maintained by the State as well as the home itself being regulated by the State.

Mr. Aiken cited a police report by an experienced Detective Chief Superintendent who was investigating reports of sexual abuse at the Rubane home. In his report, the Superintendent unambiguously wrote: “This home was funded by the Northern Ireland government and administered by the De La Salle Order.”31

In any analysis of Ireland, the political boundaries between Northern Ireland – a part of the United Kingdom – and Éire, also known as the Republic of Ireland, are certain to arise. What must be understood is that the religious institutions – both Protestant and Catholic alike – had established themselves on both sides of the porous boundary. It would scarcely be an exaggeration to suggest that, as Pope Benedict XVI has said, “the Church has no boundaries, she is universal.”32

Journalist Daragh Brophy of the The Journal provides an illuminating article of the subject of the Westbank home, operated by Adeline Mathers, In his article entitled “The Protestant orphanage where children were whipped, beaten — and everyone had the same name,” Brophy describes young children being taken across the border to Northern Ireland, with Ms. Mathers raising money by parading the children around and using them for fundraisers for her organization in church halls in Northern Ireland.33

Pitching them as “the poor Protestant orphans from the South,” Mathers would plead for money, ostensibly on the children’s behalf.

The boundaries were porous enough to allow some children to be “trafficked into Northern Ireland and placed with unregistered foster parents,” Brophy explains. To be sure there were also the illegal adoptions. One former resident of her homes reported that she was “spirited out of the country” by Mathers and taken to Scotland.

My adoption went against the 1952 Adoption Act where it is stated that no child of a marriage could be put up for adoption, nor an Irish baby be taken out of the country without the necessary permissions. I was taken cross-border to NI in the middle of the night, very secret going – on.34

While the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry is not currently slated to be sealed for 75 years, it is within the realm of possibility that it may be added to the list once its remit has been fulfilled.

Advocacy organizations would do well to resist the pending legislation, as other official reports are spun in a light that is positive to child protection while minimizing its shortcomings. By way of example, a 2006 report issued by the Social Services Inspectorate regarding child protection in Northern Ireland mentioned institutional care only in passing in the entirety of the report:

Severe pressures and difficulties were, however, identified across a number of the Boards and Trusts with systemic failures in a number of Trusts in the discharge of statutory functions and lack of appropriate safeguards for children within fieldwork and residential settings. There was clear evidence of repeated failures to undertake timely and appropriate assessments and to provide child protection intervention, resulting in children being left at risk both at home and in residential care.35

While that is a facially valid statement, buried in the context of an otherwise run-of-the-mill report expounding on the “challenges” and “difficulties” faced by social workers and their respective Boards and Trusts, a casual reader may walk away the the impression that greater coordination between agencies, better managerial oversight, and other such recommendations drawn from child saver apologetics are all that are needed to bring into effect the reforms that are needed.36


While the findings of the inquiries in Northern Ireland may appear startling, they are consistent with problems identified in institutional care throughout the world. Kathleen Daly, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University, Australia, undertook a global review of institutional abuse, publishing her results in Current Issues in Criminal Justice in 2014. Daly explains that:

The first public inquiry to focus on ‘institutional abuse of children’, as a named social problem, was conducted in the United States. Other inquiries were established in the 1980s and 1990s in England and Wales, Northern Ireland, Canada, and Australia. Since 2000, many more national inquiries, redress schemes, and related responses have been launched or completed in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England and Wales, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and the US. Clearly, something is happening.37

Clearly, something is happening. But, what exactly it is that is happening is difficult to state with precision.

This point was not entirely lost on an Australian Committee that noted, “Previous Assembly inquiries, evidence provided to the Committee and the Government’s own submission all point to there having been many, many reviews in recent years on issues related to the rights, interests and well-being of children and young people.”

The Committee continued on to explain that “it is difficult to see where progress has been made and members of the community may legitimately ask how many recommendations, from how many reviews does it take for action to occur?”

The Committee had no desire to produce yet another report that simply sits on someone’s shelf collecting dust.”38

Anne-Marie McAlinden of the School of Law at Queen’s University, Belfast, notes that in what she describes as “contemporary settled democracies,” which would include the USA, England, Wales, and Ireland, each such state had “witnessed a string of high-profile cases of institutional child abuse in both Church and State settings.”39

McAlinden argues that the process of the public Inquiry, such as it has been applied in the Republic of Ireland, may serve to conceal the entirety of the truth from the investigating body. In applying a broader perspective to include current events in Northern Ireland, I believe that McAlinden’s thesis may find direct applicability given the many parallels to be found among the more recent Inquiries. McAlinden explains that,

It is the Church–State relationship which makes the Irish situation noteworthy and unique. The Catholic Church and child care institutions are especially self-protective, secretive and closed by nature, and strongly discourage the drawing of attention to any deficiencies in organisational procedures. The nature of the public inquiry process also means that there is often a rather linear focus on accountability and apportioning blame. Collectively, such difficulties inhibit fuller systemic investigation of the veracity of what actually happened and, in turn, meaningful modification of child care policies.40

Yet there does remain a glimmer of hope. As Dr. Margaret Humphreys explained before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney on March 26, 2015, “Globally, there is a growing movement to address issues of historical abuse, a welcome acknowledgment that nations must face their past rather than continue a damaging pattern of denial and avoidance of responsibility.”41

1 The complete title of the proposed legislation is “Bill entitled an act to provide for the retention of the records of the commission to inquire into child abuse, the residential institutions redress board and the residential institutions redress review committee, to amend the commission to inquire into child abuse act, 2000, to amend the residential institutions redress act 2002 and to provide for related matters.” Its short title is “Retention of Records Act 2015,” Available from Department of Education and Skills, “General Scheme of a Retention of Records Bill, 2015,” March 10, 2015. See also generally Department of Education and Skills, “Minister for Education and Skills publishes draft General Scheme of Retention of Records Bill,” press release. March 10, 2015.

2 Ralph Riegel, “Survivors Outraged at Plan to Seal Abuse Reports for 75 Years,”, (March 23, 2015).

3 Ibid.

4 Department of Education and Skills. “Residential Institutions Review Committee (RIRC),” n.d.

5 See statement of Arthur Harvey, QC, Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, transcript, Monday, December 15, 2014, page 11 (discussing the potential implications for children who “would have found placements earlier, and within a very short period of time”). While it was not a simultaneous occurrence, child welfare systems around the globe eventually came to figure out that “family-like” settings were preferred over institutional care The American experience in this area is of some relevance as the United States generally leads the way in the development of child welfare policy with Great Britain frequently following in its footsteps.. The modern-era American preference for the “least-restrictive” setting stems from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Olmstead v. LC, 527 U.S. 581, 119 S. Ct. 2176, 144 L. Ed. 2D 540 (1999), however the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 predates that ruling, mandating that a state’s foster care placement should provide the “least restrictive, most family-like setting available located in close proximity to the parent’s home, consistent with the best interests and special needs of the child.” Without question, children generally fare better in a stable family-like placement rather than in institutional care, however with so many children unnecessarily removed from their homes and placed into foster care, by the time they find their way into a permanent placement, the damage may well have already been done.

6 The role of religious institutions in child welfare is so thoroughly documented that the subject hardly requires a citation, however, see generally my blog entry of January 14, 2014, “Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry Holds First Public Hearing” for a discussion of the Ryan report. For a particularly thought provoking read on the topic, see Susie Donnelly and Tom Inglis, “The Media and the Catholic Church in Ireland: Reporting Clerical Child Sex Abuse,” Journal of Contemporary Religion 25, no. 1 (January 1, 2010): 1–19. (“we argue that the rise of the media as a public watchdog and social conscience of Irish society can be linked to the secularisation of Catholic Ireland, both at a macro-level in terms of the decline in the institutional power of the Church and at a micro-level in terms of the decline in institutional participation and trust”).

7 Mary Jordan, “Irish Panel Documents Physical, Sexual Abuse at Schools From 1930 to 1990,” The Washington Post, (May 21, 2009), World section (“The Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep its members unnamed, noting that many of the brothers were dead and could not defend themselves.”); Henry McDonald, “Thousands Raped and Abused in Catholic Schools,” The Guardian, (May 20, 2009) (reporting on the costs of settlements over claims of abuse being borne by taxpayers rather than the responsible parties)

8 Padraig O’Morain, “Review of Banished Babies by Mike Milotte,” The Irish Times, (June 5, 1997). The term “Gardai” refers to the Irish police force.

9 Ibid. O’Morain points out that both the Catholic and Protestant churches played a role in exporting Irish babies. He notes also that the Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, particularly feared that “Catholic babies from the South would be adopted by Protestant families in Northern Ireland.”

10 Amnesty International, “Institutional and Clerical Abuse in Northern Ireland,” June 2, 2014. (accessed April 15, 2015).

12 Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry, “Chairman Announces Plans for next Stage of Inquiry,” Press Release, May 19, 2014.

13 Amnesty International’s contentions have considerable merit. The Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries, published in February 2013, acknowledged that in addition to Ireland, such laundries existed in Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States. Many were Catholic-operated, however, Protestant institutions that were similar in nature also existed. For more information about the push to move the inquiry into Magdalene Laundries to include Northern Ireland, see the entry “Magdalene Laundries Inquiry May Expand Northward,” June 22, 2013.

14 Paul Waldie, “Northern Ireland to Probe Stifled History of Institutional Child Abuse,” The Globe and Mail, (August 16, 2013).

16 “De La Salle Brothers Abuse Apology,” Belfast Telegraph, (January 14, 2014).

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid. But see also Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, “The Workhouse Orphans,” August 1, 2007 (“Normally designated orphans, many still had one, and sometimes both, parents still alive, but once they entered the workhouse they were regarded as the wards of the Poor Law guardians, to be disposed of as the guardians saw fit”).

19 Submission of Margaret Humphreys, “Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry,” Banbridge Court House, Banbridge, September 1 2014. Margaret Humphreys revealed the child migration scheme in her 1994 book “Empty Cradles: One Woman’s Fight to Uncover Britain’s Most Shameful Secret.” For a short biography and interview revealing how she came on the essentially secret program shared by nations, see Aida Edemariam, “People should sort this mess,” The Guardian, February 19, 2010.

20 Katherine Karr, “The Lost Children of Britain,” Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration, June 2012, 41-46 (“the term ‘good British stock’ was often used during this era to reflect not only the racial (or phenotypical) requirements, but also mental criteria, such as IQ”); Dow, Coral, and Janet Phillips. ‘Forgotten Australians’ and ‘Lost Innocents’: Child Migrants and Children in Institutional Care in Australia. Department of Parliamentary Services, 2009 (“A key motivation for child migration was to maintain the racial unity of the Empire and populate the Dominions of Canada, Rhodesia, New Zealand and Australia, with ‘good white stock'”); House of Commons, Select Committee on Health, The welfare of former British child migrants, London, July 1998, Volume I – Report HC 755-I, Background (“A further motive was racist: the importation of ‘good white stock’ was seen as a desirable policy objective in the developing British Colonies”); National Archives of Australia, and Barry M. Coldrey. Good British stock: child and youth migration to Australia. National Archives of Australia, 1999; Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions, and Leneen Forde. Report of the commission of inquiry into abuse of children in Queensland institutions. The Inquiry, 1999 p. 31. (“These children were part of an Empire-wide social experiment designed to bolster the population base of Britain’s former colonies”); Senate Community Affairs References Committee. “Lost innocents: Righting the record. Report on child migration.” Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia (2001); Trew, Johanne Devlin. “Migration in childhood and its impact on national identity construction among migrants from Northern Ireland.” Irish Studies Review 17, no. 3 (2009) 297-314.

21 Submission of Margaret Humphreys. See note 19. Given the analogies to war crimes made by professionals, the interest that Amnesty International has taken regarding these issues becomes abundantly clear.

22 Ibid. p. 3. Emphasis added.

24 Ibid.

25 Submission of Margaret Humphreys. p. 5.

26 Margaret McNay, “British Child Emigration to Canada, 1869-1933,” Vitae Scholasticae Spring (2004).

” name=”sdendnote27sym” href=”#sdendnote27anc”>27 Senate Community Affairs References Committee. “Lost innocents: Righting the record. Report on child migration.” Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia (2001). pp 69-70.

28 Statement of Christine Smith, “Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry,” Banbridge Court House, Banbridge, Transcript of May 29, 2014 pp 24-25.

29 Testimony of Kevin Rooney, “Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry,” Banbridge Court House, Banbridge. Transcript of December 17, 2014, p. 13. Emphasis added.

30 Ibid. By no means am I suggesting that the Catholic orders that cared for children should necessarily be excused for their transgressions -and they numbered in the many. What I am suggesting is that there is plenty of blame to go around. While the religious institutions may well have been the final destination for many children, they did not in all instances actively seek to have more children than they could handle. Rather the children were scooped up from the field by the child welfare caseworkers who had come to rely on the religious institutions for their ability to warehouse children on a massive scale.

31 Statement of Joseph Aiken, “Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry,” Banbridge Court House, Banbridge. Transcript of September 29, 2014. p. 28-29. Emphasis added. For additional background on the police investigation referenced by Joseph Aiken see Paul Donnelley, “Catholic Children’s Home in N Ireland Scene of ‘rampant’ Sexual Abuse,” Mail Online, (September 29, 2014) and Deborah McAleese, “More than 200 Boys Suffered Harrowing Abuse in Co Down Home, Inquiry Told,” Belfast Telegraph, (September 30, 2014).

32 Homily of Pope Benedict XVI, Santa Maria di Leuca, June 14, 2008. From the political standpoint, the United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. For a good introductory analysis of current relations between these “nations within a nation,” see generally Devolution of powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland: Explaining the background to devolution and how the legislatures and administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland work. In the Republic of Ireland, legislative independence was declared in 1931. A new constitution, as well as the name of “Ireland” were adopted in 1937.

34 Ibid.

36 Apologetics is defined as “the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity,” according to which is based on the Random House Dictionary. I use term intentionally, and somewhat more generally, as there would appear to be an unwritten hymn book from which child saver invariably draw excuses for their continued failures. Terms such as that of a child “falling through the cracks,” and of families experiencing a “constellation of problems” are among the many favored terms used by those in the field. The more current of such phrases is that of “empirically-validated” programs, which upon close scrutiny appear to have precious little empirical evidence to back their stated claims of efficacy.

37 Daly, Kathleen. “Conceptualising responses to institutional abuse of children.” Current Issues in Criminal Justice 26, no. 1 (2014): 5. (Internal citation omitted). The inquiry in the United States to which Daly refers is Abuse and Neglect of Children in Institutions, 1979. Hearings before the Subcommittee on Child and Human Development of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, US Senate, 96th Congress, First Session on Examination of the Problems of Abuse and Neglect of Children Residing in Institutions or Group Residential Settings. Three hearings held on January 4, 1979, San Francisco, California; January 24, 1979, Washington, D.C.; and May 31, 1979, Los Angeles, California. (Among the opening remarks of Sen Alan Cranston during the January 24 hearing: “The subcommittee has received reports of runaway children being confined in iron cages, held in solitary confinement in leg irons and handcuffed, tear-gassed and placed, as punishment, in dormitories with older inmates who sexually abuse them. We have heard reports here in California of children confined in institutions which rely on physical punishment, and food deprivation as well as solitary confinement under the guise of treatment techniques”).

38 Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly: Standing Committee on Community Services and Social Equity, The rights, interests and well-being of children and young people, Report No 3, August 2003 (ACT Assembly 2003). p. v.

39 McAlinden, Anne-Marie. “An inconvenient truth: barriers to truth recovery in the aftermath of institutional child abuse in Ireland.” Legal Studies 33, no. 2 (2013): 189-214.

40 Ibid.

41Statement of Margaret Humphreys. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Transcript, Case Study 25, Day 131. Sydney. March 26, 2015. p. 13743.