Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by the Family Care Society


1. MISSION STATEMENT1.1 Family Care Society aims to enhance the dignity and well being of disadvantaged children, young people and families through the provision of a range of professional family care services. This work is rooted in our acceptance of Christian values.1.2 Family Care Society is registered by the department of Health and Social Services as an adoption agency and undertakes work previously carried out by the Down and Connor Adoption Society and the Sisters of Nazareth Society in Derry. The Society has been re-organised to enable us to offer a service to all sections of the community.1.3 Family Care Society operates from office bases in Derry and Belfast and employs a team of seven specialist social workers. The practitioners are supported by a Management Committee, an Adoption panel, foster parents and a number of professional advisors.

2. CHILD MIGRATION SCHEMES/NUMBERS AND DESTINATIONS2.1 The first episode of child migration by Catholic child care agencies was to Canada, from 1870 until 1930s.2.2 The second was the Australian Child Migration Scheme which started in 1938 just before the onset of the second World War, resumed in 1947 after the War and continued until 1965. During this time Catholic agencies in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland worked within the legislation framework of the British and Australian governments in nominating children for migration to Australia.2.3 The total number of children sent under the scheme was approximately 3,000 of whom 1,200 came from Catholic children's homes and agencies. Two thirds of these went to Western Australia, the remaining third were spread thinly over the other states. Most of these children were sent under the auspices of the Catholic Child Welfare Council acting on behalf of Diocesan agencies and religious orders.  While a total of 110 children from Northern Ireland went to Australia via CCWC it is important to note that a significant number of children from England, Scotland and Wales had Irish parentage.

3. RATIONALE/IMPACT ON CHILDREN3.1 Child migration was historically considered as providing these children with opportunities not available in their country of origin.3.2 We now recognise that the experience of being sent to a country at the other side of the world, away from familiar faces and environments with no knowledge of their birth families and without the possibility of access to them, had a profoundly adverse effect on many of these migrants.

4. CURRENT WORK UNDERTAKEN ON BEHALF OF AND FOR FORMER CHILD MIGRANTS AND THEIR FAMILIESWhilst CCWC (acting as agent) sending children to Australia passed on responsibility for them too the Australian church agencies, today Family Care Society working in close liaison with CCWC accepts a commitment to these former migrants and their birth families through the provision of information and of professional social work services.4.1 Family Care Society carries out research and tracing to help locate family/relatives for former child migrants in collaboration with CCWC and other agencies.4.2 Working on the principle that re-unification visits work best with as much planning and liaison as possible Family Care collaborate with CCWC, Christian Brothers ex Residents Services Western Australia and other agencies to help former child migrants as follows:

  • To locate family/relatives in North/South Ireland
  • To prepare family/relatives for the visit of former child migrants and provide professional counselling as required
  • To confirm that family/relatives are willing to receive them i.e. acknowledge as family/relatives offer friendship during the visit
  • To provide practical assistance with locating moderately priced accommodation
  • To provide practical support i.e. meet former child migrants at airports and bring them to their accommodation
  • To act as intermediary and provide post union support to former child migrant and their birth families
  • To arrange for them to visit their former residential homes in Northern Ireland
  • ie Nazareth Lodge Belfast
  • ie Nazareth Lodge, Termonbacca, Derry which is now a Retreat Centre under the aegis of the Carmelite Fathers and provide transport and support as necessary
  • To arrange a short stay at the Retreat Centre if requested
  • To arrange for former child migrants to visit their Place of Birth, Church of Baptism and provide transport as required.

5. CURRENT ISSUES5.1 Family Care Society together with other sending agencies is endeavouring to promote professional standards and principles in working with former child migrants.5.2 Lack of resources present a major constraint in the provision of services to these former child migrants. Specifically and in addition to the costs of a professional social work service, there is the cost of Reunions, travel in Northern Ireland and accommodation during their stay.

April 1998

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Prepared 10 August 1998