Birth parents still in the dark

Widen the net, urges Julia Feast, project
manager for the post-adoption and care project at the Children’s
Society.

In
August, the Department of Health issued national standards for
adoption, and a standard for consultation concerning adopted adults
and their birth siblings. This is to be welcomed. But what has
happened to the adopted adults’ other relatives – such as parents,
aunts, grandparents and adoptive parents? Do these other
significant family members have no rights to the services
identified for birth siblings? Do birth and adoptive parents and
other relatives not need support or guidance when the adopted
person is over 18?

Are
these draft standards for adult adopted people an indication of
what will be in the forthcoming Children & Adoption Bill? If
so, why is the fact that adoption has lifelong implications – as
reported by user groups, professional specialists and research -
being ignored?

The
forthcoming adoption legislation must embrace the needs of all the
people involved – in particular, those birth parents who have been
waiting a generation for legislation acknowledging their need to
know what has happened to the child they placed for adoption.

For the
past decade, many agencies have developed intermediary services for
birth relatives, most of whom are mothers. This practice has arisen
in response to research that found most adopted adults agree they
have the right to be informed by an adoption agency of a birth
relative’s interest. They can then decide how they wish to respond.
And just a year ago, the DoH issued practice guidance for agencies,
encouraging them to provide an intermediary service for all birth
relatives and aiming for uniformity of practice throughout England
and Wales. Yet the draft standards carry no reference to this
guidance.

Given
that the expert working group appointed by the DoH did a lot of
work on the needs of birth parents, it is perplexing that so little
has been reflected in the national standards and the draft
standards for adopted adults.

The
standards document suggests that the government has not accepted
the knowledge of post-adoption workers, and research evidence.
Legislation and standards must embrace all parties – addressing the
needs of today’s children and the shortfalls of past practice that
affect millions of adults. Without this, they will be
discriminatory and backward step.

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