The Association of Directors of Social Services withdrew its
evidence supporting the right of birth parents to deny adopted
people the opportunity to gain access to their birth records,
during the committee stage of the Adoption and Children Bill,
writes Jonathan Pearce.
“I’m not going to defend my corner, but I’m going to
retreat from it,” former ADSS president, and Kensington and Chelsea
director of social services, Moira Gibb told the House of Commons
special standing committee.
Indicating that the ADSS had received further information on the
issue, she added: “If you wanted to accuse us of being confused,
then you would have some justification.”
Clause 58 of the bill, as it currently stands, would make it
impossible for adoption agencies (including local authorities) to
disclose to adopted adults the information needed to obtain a copy
of their original birth certificate, where a birth parent objected
to the disclosure of the information, thus reversing the existing
right introduced by the Children Act 1975.
Earlier in the session, committee chair David Hinchliffe MP
pressed the Department of Health’s bill principal James Paton
on the reasons behind the change.
Paton said disclosure was “an extremely difficult and sensitive
area”, where it was “difficult to balance the various interests of
the parties”, but that the government wanted to ensure a more
consistent approach to the information adopted people could access;
allow all parties the opportunity to express a view about the
disclosure of identification information; and put in place
safeguards for the small minority where disclosure would be
“inappropriate or harmful”.
When asked for evidence supporting the reasons, Paton said the
DoH had received a small number of representations where disclosure
might be potentially dangerous for birth parents, including one
case in which an adoptee had set out their “express intention of
killing their birth parent”, because the adoption had taken place
after severe abuse which had left the adoptee physically
In reply, Hinchliffe suggested the government was using “a
sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
Paton also admitted that the DoH did not have any information on
criminal offences committed by adopted people against their birth