Select Committee on Adoption and Children Bill Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 237 - 239)

TUESDAY 8 MAY 2001

MS PAM HODGKINS, MS ANGELA TANNER, MS DOREEN WARD AND MS SANDRA WEBSTER

Chairman

  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 any—in fact I think there might have been one—and 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 War—extra-marital children from the war and births to single parents—and 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.


 
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