Appendix 1 — The Memorandum submitted in May 2001 - EVIDENCE FROM NORCAPFOR THESELECT COMMITTEE ON THEADOPTION AND CHILDREN BILL - 1. Introduction

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

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1.1 The National Organisation for the Counselling of Adoptees and Parents (NORCAP) was established in 1982. It offers practical support and services, advice and counselling to adults whose lives have been affected by adoption. In particular it works with adopted adults who are wishing to obtain information about their birth family or to have renewed contact with birth relatives. Over 6,000 reunions have been facilitated through the NORCAP intermediary service. NORCAP established the first register to link adopted adults with birth relatives. It has been operational for over 19 years and contains more than 50,000 entries. 750 links have been achieved. The operational detail of the NORCAP register is very different from the Adoption Contact Register of the Registrar General. Comments sent direct to NORCAP and findings in independent research * (1) report that the unique supportive framework within which potential links on the NORCAP register are facilitated is welcomed by many users.

1.2 NORCAP assists with the search necessary to obtain information or locate birth relatives; it offers an intermediary service to ensure the initial contact is made in an appropriate manner and that each person has adequate support at what can be an emotional time. NORCAP also provides various services including local groups where adopted adults can explore the impact of adoption upon their lives with other people who have also experienced adoption. Many adopted adults use NORCAP services when they need to renew contact with brothers and sisters who were adopted into other families. They use the support of NORCAP to help them communicate effectively with their adoptive parents and to help them understand that their need to renew contact with birth relatives does not reflect negatively on their adoptive family.

1.3 Our second largest group of members and service users are birth relatives, particularly birth mothers and siblings of adopted people. In the early days of its existence NORCAP offered only a passive service to birth relatives. This reflected our understanding of adoption law at that time. However by offering some service, even a passive one, to birth relatives NORCAP was working at the forefront of adoption provision and pushing out boundaries which had effectively excluded birth relatives for over 50 years.

1.4 From 1990 NORCAP has been campaigning for birth relatives in the UK to have access to active service provision similar to that enjoyed by birth relatives in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. NORCAP was the first to identify the opportunity for adoption agencies to use their powers under section 1 1976 Adoption Act and regulation 15(2) within present legislation to provide an outreach service for birth relatives and have advocated its use. Many agencies followed our model and substantial numbers of birth parents benefited as a direct result of NORCAP's campaign. NORCAP has worked in partnership with adoption agencies in over 400 cases enabling an intermediary service to be offered to birth relatives through our pioneering use of non-disclosure agreements. After ten years the Department of Health issued practice guidance on this.*(2)

1.5 NORCAP has been able to establish through work with our members past and present and their relatives by both birth and adoption that skilled services which re-open adoptions which have been closed for decades provide lasting benefit for everyone involved. Adopted adults, birth parents and other relatives and adoptive parents all benefit from enhanced understanding and the removal of the burden of guilt which appears to walk hand in hand with secrecy within families.

1.6 NORCAP has been concerned for many years about inequality of service provision. When services are not prescribed as duties upon agencies the variation of service provision is unacceptable and results in injustice and great distress. As a result of the history of adoption and the varied routes and individuals through which the adoption service developed, one of the major barriers to equality of service is the specific history of any adoption situation. To remedy this the Adoption and Children Bill as well as providing a positive framework for adoption in the future must also address the inequality and injustice of the past. Some 3 to 4 million adults in the UK live with the impact of adoption. They have seen how people in similar circumstances around the world have benefited as one legislature after another has introduced provisions to benefit adults affected by adoption in years gone by. They expect that this bill will address their needs by providing similar opportunities and services here.

1.7 NORCAP is a registered charity. It employs 4.5 full time equivalent staff and replies upon over 60 volunteers nation-wide to provide services to the current membership of 4,000 adopted people, birth relatives and adoptive parents. Other interested people and professionals form our associate membership.

1.8 Our evidence to the Select Committee on the Adoption and Children Bill is in three sections:

—Provisions for adults that appear missing from the Bill

—Provisions concerning adults that need amendment

—Provisions for adoption services in general on which NORCAP wishes to express an opinion, based upon our collective experience