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.
"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
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
Please consider this matter sympathetically
for inclusion in the Bill.
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