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


Letter from Una Cottingham

  At the urgent behest of the "Natural Parents' Network" but also from my own long involvement with the field of adoption practice in the UK may I offer (qualified) support to the requests from birth parents to greater parity in law with adult adoptees?

  My own involvement with adoption began in 1960, as a researcher into Third Party Adoption for the Cobden Trust. From the mid-sixties to the mid-eighties I was professionally a Fostering and Adoption worker—in the seventies I inaugurated and managed for some time a new service in a London local authority—offering a full service. I have been responsible for numerous section 51 enquiries since 1976—still, at times undertaking these for local authorities.

  I am an adoptive parent. I failed to trace their birth parents at various stages............

  Now I work to enable children separated from one parent to have contact. Between 1986 to 1996 I was a Guardian ad Litem often enabling the adopted children to be assured of indirect birth family contact and, often, direct sibling contact. Over the years this is proving beneficial.

  There seems no single cogent reason for failing to review the situation of birth parents/families where some mutual exchange of information may be of real value to all parties. However, just as counselling was a pre-requisite in 1976 and proved supportive and enlightening to many, many adoptees any birth parent enablement must be similarly prepared. In my own experience a birth family "found" a young adult adoptee at a stage when the adoptee's own life was under considerable stress. The birth family made considerable demands and so distressed the adoptee that the response was to be inclined to reject all contact. An appropriate intermediary would have avoided this unhappy state of affairs. So—yes, to a service being offered by LAs and Voluntary Agencies—at the very least to enable birth parents to know whether their child still lives. Beyond that—extending the present service to birth parents will require well trained counsellors. My concern is that, today, there are far fewer long experienced adoption workers. Birth parents are entitled to a very well set-up service—then they, the adoptees, and the adoptive families may all benefit.

April 2001

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