News is not usually good news in social care. One doesn’t have to
be a pessimist or a cynic to understand why the correspondence
pages of this magazine often reflect anxiety, anger, frustration
and opposition to much of what is happening.
But credit where it is due. There are things that can restore one’s
faith in politicians and in the power of argument, reason and
persuasion. Last month, the House of Lords supported a government
amendment to the Adoption and Children Bill that will give birth
relatives the right to ask for an intermediary service, so they can
let the adopted adult know of their interest for contact. Until
that amendment such a facility was to be available only for those
adopted after the bill’s enactment, now all those affected by
adoption will benefit.
This right to an intermediary service has long been fought for. For
more than 10 years birth relatives, adoption professionals and
self-help organisations have supported modernising adoption law to
address the life-long needs of people affected by adoption.
The change in legislation will end the misery of thousands of birth
relatives who have never known whether the son or daughter, brother
or sister placed for adoption is alive, well and happy. The
amendment allows registered adoption-support agencies to act as
intermediaries and facilitate contact between adopted people and
birth relatives. It will be the adopted adult’s right to choose
whether to respond to the inquiry. No identifying information will
be given to the birth relative without the adopted adult’s
permission. It, therefore, does not force adopted people to take up
this opportunity but it does give them access to information
allowing them to make their own decisions.
Another success occurred this month when an amendment allowing
unmarried couples and gay couples to adopt was passed and the bill
finally made it on to the statute books. Meanwhile, those people
who have been campaigning for several years should feel proud that
their efforts have resulted in a humane approach to the lifelong
issues of adoption – and one that has gained legislative
Duty demands we speak out on issues that we know about, so that we
can help ensure that policy, practice and legislative changes are
derived from evidence-based practice. We spoke, the legislators
listened. It’s supposed to be the way our democracy works. This
time it did.
Julia Feast is policy research and development consultant
for Baaf Adoption and Fostering.