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
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 workerin the seventies I inaugurated
and managed for some time a new service in a London local authorityoffering
a full service. I have been responsible for numerous section 51
enquiries since 1976still, at times undertaking these for
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. Soyes,
to a service being offered by LAs and Voluntary Agenciesat
the very least to enable birth parents to know whether their child
still lives. Beyond thatextending 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 servicethen
they, the adoptees, and the adoptive families may all benefit.