Select Committee on Select Committee on the Adoption and Children Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Helen Glaze

  I write as a birth mother of 38 years. For each one of the days that have made up those years, I have thought of my son and longed for information on his welfare. I have received no current or identifying information. It was only recently that I learnt something of the adoptive family situation at the time of his adoption.

  I have been in contact with Westminster Social Services since 1985 and been listed on the, insufficiently advertised, Contact Register since its inception. As you know, the Department of Health issued practice guidelines "Intermediary Services for Birth Relatives" in August last year. Whilst these record examples of good practice they do not carry the force of law. For example:

    "They set out what can (not must) be offered within the current legislative framework, recognising also that the policy of each agency will determine the extent to which such services are provided. . .

    Services have however developed in an uneven, non-uniform way . . ., leading to unequal access to services and varying standards of practice and provision."

  On 22 January this year, Westminster Social Services decided to follow the Guidelines. However, the system that is being instituted is convoluted and each case will need the personal permission of the Director before a search can begin. This Authority is said to hold 22,000 records.

  Birth relatives have been campaigning for a change in policy for many years, in agencies where no exchange of identifying information is permitted. Birth relatives agree that this should be with the permission of the adoptee. As time goes by, the mothers who were subject to "closed adoption" in the 50s, 60s and 70s, believe sadly, that they will never learn something of their lost children, before they die, unless a change in the law is made.

  Present adoption policy ensures that in over 90 per cent of present day adoptions some contact is maintained with the birth family. If that is seen as right now why cannot the law be changed to right the wrongs of the past?

  There is a need for a reciprocal arrangement by law, which would enable birth relatives the right to information on their adult children. Adoptees have had this right since 1976.

  Other Commonwealth countries concede that this policy is humane and workable. I enclose a pamphlet[4] from New Zealand's Children, Young Persons and Their Families Service, which I visited in Wellington last month. I went to discuss their policy for information for birth relatives. I was interested to learn that only a handful of adoptees had placed a veto on information being passed on. Please read the leaflet, especially the part that refers to birth relatives.

  Recent research by Janet Smith and Rose Wallace of the Children's Society, studied birth relative intermediary services. In non-searching adoptees, 90 per cent of those who were found by birth relatives, considered the experience positively. Again a large majority felt it was right that the agency holding their records should pass on information if this was the wish of birth relatives.

  If the Government wishes to promote equal access to information, then the policy promoted in the Guidelines must be given the force of law to stop intransigent authorities from not conforming. It cannot be right that some birth relatives have access whilst others do not, depending on the agency which holds the records. This Bill is the obvious place to include a clause, relating to, birth relative initiated contact.

  Adoption is not concluded once the Court order has been made. It is a lifelong experience for everyone involved. For birth mothers denied information, it is a lifetime of sadness and regret.

  Please consider this matter sympathetically for inclusion in the Bill.

April 2001

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