Examination of Witnesses (Questions 237
TUESDAY 8 MAY 2001
237. Colleagues, can we open this second part
of the session and welcome our witnesses from NORCAP. Could I
briefly ask you each to introduce yourself and perhaps one of
you would be good enough to give a brief outline of the background
to the work of your organisation?
(Ms Hodgkins) NORCAP is an organisation
that has been in existence for 19 years. It is a support organisation
for adults affected by adoption. Of course, the difference about
adoption from all the other options of child care is that adoption
is for life and the impact of adoption extends into adult life
for adopted people, for their birth relatives, for their adopted
parents and for the other peripheral members of the families.
NORCAP provides support, advice and counselling for any of those
people. Often our work is connected when there is a potential
reunion between birth relatives and adopted people but, also,
more generally around the issues of identity and loss that is
inherent in the adoption process.
238. Would you like to say a little bit about
your personal reasons for being involved?
(Ms Hodgkins) I am an adopted person. In the early
1980s I traced my birth mother and, subsequently, my birth father
and had a very positive reunion experience with them. However,
although that experience was very positive the emotional impact
of having taken that very major step was quite profound and there
were no support organisations at that time. In fact, on the advice
of a local officer within social services that there should be
an organisation I started one.
(Ms Ward) I am Doreen Ward and I am a Trustee of NORCAP.
Before I became a Trustee in NORCAP I was the national co-ordinator
for an organisation which is actually represented here today by
some of the visitors called Natural Parents Network. Natural Parents
Network was set up by some women who found each other via the
press and who wanted to talk to each other many, many years on
from having placed babies for adoption in the 1960s and 1970s.
I think it was the first time their voice had been heard and their
voice still needs to be heard because it is very, very difficult
for women in that situation to represent themselves publicly as
they are often the unrecognised part of the adoption triangle.
That is my personal interest in adoption and that is why I am
a trustee of NORCAP.
(Ms Webster) I am an adopted adult. Unfortunately
I was a foundling, one of those babies left on a doorstep. I joined
NORCAP back in 1987 hoping to find people like myself and there
were not anyin fact I think there might have been oneand
Pam said to me, "Why don't you start a foundling group",
which I did in 1992 with the aim of peer support, but it did not
work out like that and I am well aware of over 100 foundlings
who approached me to find out how they could find their families.
I do get rung up a lot by the media because they wish to publicise
what is happening. I am now involved in an advisory group looking
at why abandonment happens because the numbers are rising. I very
much turned my personal experience into much more raising the
profile of the issues involved in the hope we can get some movement
forward for people like myself and for the children of today who
are being left bereft of any knowledge of their backgrounds. I
am a nurse by profession, not a social worker.
(Ms Tanner) Angela Tanner, I am chair of the trustees
of NORCAP. I am a birth parent and the reason I joined NORCAP
12 years ago was because I had another daughter in my marriage
who had no knowledge of the fact I had had another child adopted
and I wanted help in telling her. I am also a qualified social
worker and work in family placement, adoption and fostering, so
I have up-to-date knowledge of current practice.
239. Thank you very much. That is a very helpful
introduction. You probably heard when we opened the last session
that a number of us had not had the opportunity to fully digest
the information you sent. I actually saw an earlier letter you
had sent which broadened out the issues you are concerned with.
Can I open by asking you to say a little about why you feel this
whole area is missed in the Bill which I gather is the general
concern you have, that the points you have all raised about your
own experience are not covered by what will be a radical change
in the adoption legislation?
(Ms Hodgkins) The focus of the Bill is clearly upon
children in the public care system who may need adoption in the
future and the families who will adopt them. As our friends from
Adoption UK said, the proposed provision of post-adoption services
is limited to new adoptive families not even to ones who have
children within their families at present. It is the fact that
however many children may need adoption in the future, even if
you get your 50 per cent increase on the numbers being adopted
now, in the next generation you are not going to see 4 million
people affected by adoption, and that is the approximate figure
of people who exist in England, Scotland and Wales who are living
with the impact of adoption on their lives. Some of them are very
elderly, some of them are women who parted with babies for adoption
around the Second World Warextra-marital children from
the war and births to single parentsand if nothing changes
in this Adoption Bill to benefit them they will not get another
chance. It might be another 20 or 25 years before you next amend
adoption law and they will not be around then. We feel very, very
keenly that there is a need for the adult aspects to be addressed.
In some legislation in the world they have actually removed the
services for adults and actually have separate legislation for
them. British Columbia is one such example where they have adoption
services and information for adults legislation. In England and
Wales that has not been the tradition, the whole of adoption legislation
has been bound up in adoption bills, basically one every 25 years,
and clearly there are some measures relating to adults within
this Bill which very much carry forward measures without actually
getting to grips with the issues which are there. 25 years ago
there was no statutory right of access to birth records and that
right was introduced in England and Wales by the 1976 Act when
we were at the forefront of adoption practice, because at that
time none of the Commonwealth countries had anything like it.
What we learned from that was that not only do you provide access
to birth records but you go on and provide access to services
for birth relatives; you recognise that adoptive children need
protection but adopted adults need rights, and with rights go
responsibilities and the other people affected by adoption also
have rights and with them go responsibilities.