Memorandum submitted by Angela Day
Adoption is devastating. It represents society's
failure to support its children within the family structure they
were born to.
The commitment and resources which have been
expended on this review of adoption should mirror a similar exercise
aimed at supporting all families by including consideration of
1. Introducing a comprehensive programme
of parenting skills made available to all.
2. A more intensive programme for families
clearly in distress.
3. Introducing the teaching of the basics
of human psychology and child development to children within the
4. Appointing an ombudsman/commissioner/minister
These need to be clearly defined and resourced
It is important to include health and education
services in a "joined up" approach to post-adoption
support. Many children available for adoption need specialist
help if the confusion and trauma they have suffered is not to
destroy their lives. Equally, their adopting parents need the
support and expertise of specialists eg child psychologists, educational
psychologists etc etc for the complex task they undertake to be
successful for them as well as the child.
It is critical to acknowledge that adoption
is a life-long issue and not just about a moment in time when
"ownership" of a "possession" is passed from
one party to another in a legal process which has been so comprehensively
outlined in this Bill. Post-adoption support is needed throughout
the lifetime of all parties to an adoptionthe adoptee,
the adopting family and the birth family.
C. BIRTH FAMILY
I welcome the introduction of a social worker
to be there for the birth family at the time of adoption. My own
experience clearly demonstrates this need. In 1954 my sister was
taken from us for adoption. My mother was emotionally destroyed
by this and as a child I was shattered by seeing my mother's pain
and being unable to understand or help her. We were abandoned
when we were most vulnerable and both our lives were effectively
destroyed. The impact of losing a family member through adoption
on the birth family is not sufficiently acknowledged or understood.
I urge more research into this issue.
Research has shown however, how important it
is for the adoptee to have the right to know his/her origins and
to keep in contact with the birth family wherever possible. This
has been incorporated in legislation since 1976 and is current
practice. But prior to 1976 there is no mention of the birth family
and despite much lobbying and conscientiously working with you
through the consultative paper issued last year, we are once again
left out of legislation. We are here and our need for information
about our family member grows more urgent.
The newly published guidelines "Intermediary
Services" (September 2000) are a welcome step in the right
direction, but whilst they remain outside the legal framework
they are discretionary for Local Authorities and Agencies dealing
with these matters. It was made clear to me in March of this year,
when I enquired of the local authority holding my sister's records,
that they are not obligated by law to assist us and help for birth
families in this matter will remain a low priority.
I urge you to consider specifically the pre
1976 adoptions. Our relatives are mature adults now. They were
lost to us through adoption policies which were considered appropriate
by the standards of society then, but which defy belief today.
My mother, for example, back in 1954, left our abusive and violent
father in a desperate attempt to make a better life for us. There
was no support then for a family in these circumstances. The only
"help" mum was offered was to take her baby, my sister,
away from us for adoption. We are perfectly ordinary, responsible
and sensitive people who can never forget our lost family. We
can never turn back the clock and we recognise that our relative
belongs to their adopting family and is socially a stranger to
us. But we wish them love and need to know that they have fared
well. It is important for our healing process and peace of mind.
It is important for our relative to know we care and have never
stopped loving her. Our relative was never rejected by us, it
is us, the birth family, who were and continue to be rejected
by society. It serves no purpose to continue to hurt us. The adopting
family have nothing to fear from us and our family member is presented
with the opportunity to understand themselves more clearly, if
this is their wish.
I am sure that if you were aware of the reality
of this situation you would not perpetuate this situation. There
are over two million of us affected by this and time is running
out for the birth mums of pre-1976 adoptees. It is my experience
that the birth family is perceived today to be composed of child
abusing inadequates. The system currently labels us and treats
us as such. This must end and incorporating birth family initiated
contact into legislation will go a long way in dispelling this
This issue of birth family initiated contact
must be addressed. It is a serious omission in existing legislation
and in the current Bill. It will not go away and if the Committee
feels unable to include this in the current Bill, I urge you to
commission an urgent review of the whole area of search, contact
You have established your targets and tightened
up policies and practices for today. In my sincere opinion what
is needed now is:
(1) a commitment to improving awareness of
how we bring up our children in society today;
(2) a more comprehensive definition of the
role of post-adoption services acknowledging the highly sensitive
task ordinary well meaning people are offering to do for us when
they put themselves forward to be adopting parents;
(3) a thorough consideration of adult adoptees
and birth family initiated contact the pre-1976 adoption issue;
(4) consideration of the role of a minister
These issues will not go away. Now is the time
to comprehensively deal with these matters and ensure this legislation
proactively advances the rights of the child, whatever his age,
whatever his circumstances.