3.2 Access to Information

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at on 21 November 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

3.2.1 Adopters need to have information about the child that is to be placed with them before placement, to help them plan and decide. When the child is placed they then need, at that point, as much information as possible to help them care for the child and access necessary services. At our Society we give adopters a full pack of information on the child within four weeks of placement in those cases where the birth parents approach us directly to have their child adopted.

3.2.2 With regards children placed by local authorities with adopters we have assessed, it may well be over a year before the Adoption Order is granted. Receiving information at that belated stage will not help the placement. We therefore would wish to see something of the spirit reflected in legislation of the relevant Standard from the National Adoption Standards, which stipulates that ``full written information'' is given to potential adopters before a match is made.

3.2.3 We consider that the Clauses dealing with access to information by adult adoptees mark a retrograde step. Allowing birth parents to put a block on certain information being given to their child when an adult, is not modernising the system of adoption but sets it back to the unhelpful secrecy that often pervaded adoption prior to the passing of the 1976 Adoption Act.

3.2.4 That Act enabled adopted people to have access to information from their original birth certificates. That change had a profound positive impact on the culture of adoption. It made it much more open at all its stages, because both those directly involved as well as the professionals and courts, knew that adult adoptees may wish to seek this information. The fears expressed at the time that this right would be abused have not been borne out by the experiences of the last quarter of a century of practice. This is not just the finding of this Society, dealing as it does with some 300 to 400 cases a year of adults seeking information, but is also the finding of a growing body of respected research.

3.2.5 It needs also to be recognised that most children adopted today will have often lived for significant periods of their lives with their birth parents.

3.2.6 It is right that the welfare of the person to be adopted should be paramount and that adoption is a lifelong process. These points need to be followed through in all aspects of the legislation.

3.2.7 Perhaps a way forward is to recognise that there is a distinction to be made between the giving of information about birth parents and the making of contact with them. At the Society we have also recognised and respected this distinction. Therefore when we act as an intermediary between an adopted adult who wishes to make contact with their parents and where the latter do not want that contact, we work to help the adopted person accept this situation.

3.2.8 Flowing from the above is therefore the need to make the provision of intermediary services a statutory obligation.