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


APPENDIX 26

Memorandum submitted by Angela Day

A.  ADOPTION

  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 the following:

    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 school curriculum.

    4.  Appointing an ombudsman/commissioner/minister for children.

B.  POST-ADOPTION SERVICES

  These need to be clearly defined and resourced appropriately.

  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 adoption—the adoptee, the adopting family and the birth family.

C.  BIRTH FAMILY SUPPORT

  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 myth.

  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 and reunion.

D.  CONCLUSION

  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; and

    (4)  consideration of the role of a minister for children.

  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.

May 2001


 
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