Discussion

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 21 November 2001.

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What the above analysis tells us is that 94 per cent of the birth mothers who were sought by their sons or daughters had a very positive or positive experience and a similar proportion were very pleased or pleased that their son or daughter sought them out. A reminder that in the study (Howe, D. and Feast, J., Adoption, Search and Reunion, London: Children 's Society, 2000), 72 per cent of adopted people sought by their birth relatives were positive about the contact and its aftermath. The rest had found it ``emotionally upsetting and negative'' (p. 142). Birth mothers who were sought in this study have been infinitely more positive than adopted people. Even amongst many of those birth mothers who initially expressed some concerns, such as worry or anxiety (see Table 2 above), they were now pleased for having being sought. Some comments indicating their earlier anxieties included:

—``Concerned about my husband's reaction—that was the thing that concerned me most.''

—``Nervous in case I found out something bad had happened to him i.e. died or seriously ill.''

—``My biggest fear was he wouldn't like me and would not want a second meeting.''

We have an abundance of quotes from the 94 per cent of birth mothers who expressed satisfaction and pleasure at being sought and the following are only a tiny sample:

Initial stage:

—``I was absolutely over the moon when I learned that she wanted to make contact with me. I 'd been hoping she would, right from when she was young.''

—``surprised, shocked and delighted.''

—``I had waited 30 years for this moment, fearing I would die before ever seeing her again.''

After contact:

—``A feeling of overwhelming happiness at finding each other.''

—``I am no longer sad and worried about his well-being.''

—``Mainly as reassurance that she did have a happy childhood and that I made the right decision.''

—``It eased the feelings of loss and in our case to find she had a happy home life.''

In final conclusion to all accounts Section 51 of the Adoption Act 1976 has been shown to have worked very well indeed. There have been no reports that the facility has been abused. Apart from having proved so invaluable to adopted people in terms of their genealogy and identity, on the basis of our provisional findings outlined earlier, it appears also to have had an even more positive impact on almost all the birth mothers who were sought by their sons or daughters. Contact greatly helped to alleviate their anxieties about the child 's well-being, lessened the element of loss and guilt associated with the parting decision and brought about piece of mind and improved mental health to many.

It is unlikely that a 100 per cent agreement can be reached in human relationships. The 94 per cent found in our current study, which was based on a 76 per cent return, should be accepted as very high and convincing. If there have been representations by some birth mothers to the Committee against Section 51, these cannot reflect the views of the vast majority of birth mothers. The best that can be said for them is that they should be able to place a veto not on information but simply on face to face contact. Because preferences are not usually static they should also be able to change their mind. The suggested changes in the Adoption Bill would, in my view, bring about untold misery to those adopted after the enactment of this piece of legislation. If the changes are based on anecdotal type evidence it is more regrettable. If the proposed legislation goes forward it will be a retrograde step. On the basis of the evidence produced from our current study I would urge the Committee to leave things as they are.

If anything I have been urging for years now that birth parents should have an equivalent right. When the adoption review first began, over a decade ago now, it was expected that future legislation would stipulate for adoption agencies to have a duty to provide intermediary services for birth mothers. It is disappointing that this has not been prescribed in the Bill. If it is the government 's intention to overhaul and modernise adoption then there needs to be a clause which ensures that this important opportunity is provided.