Call to change law as birth mother fails in bid to trace disease-risk son

The case of a mother who has been thwarted in her attempts to warn
her adopted child that he may have a fatal hereditary disease has
brought a demand for a change in the law.

Baaf Adoption and Fostering chief executive Felicity Collier said
the law over tracing rights for birth parents needed to be

Wendy Watson, who gave up her son for adoption in 1966, has been
trying to contact him because he has a 50 per cent chance of
inheriting Huntington’s disease, from which his father suffers.
Although the adoption agency has informed her son’s adoptive mother
of the medical history, the woman is apparently reluctant to pass
on the information.

Collier said if adoption agencies had a legal duty to help birth
parents contact their children and provide information to them it
could help prevent such problems arising.

Baaf is backing an amendment to the Adoption and Children Bill that
would give birth parents a statutory right of access to an
intermediary service that would seek the adopted child after they
had reached 18 to ask them whether they wanted to communicate.

The amendment will be debated in the House of Lords in the autumn.

The government would prefer a single intermediary agency to carry
out the search and pass the information to the adoption agency,
which would have the choice of whether to inform the birth relative
(news, page 14, 15 August).

However, the government’s proposals would only cover adoptions
after the legislation came into force, whereas Collier says there
should be a duty on agencies to apply it retrospectively.

The government is concerned that introducing such a requirement
could divert resources away from placing children for adoption.

Collier said: “This case highlights the risks that adopted adults
face when they are not given information. Every adult has the right
to know whether they have that risk as it could affect their

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