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6.2.15 Access to Birth Records and Adoption Case Records


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Access to Information
  3. Counselling
  4. Historical Abuse
  5. Sharing Information from Records with Adopted Adults
  6. Delivering the Service
  7. Services to Adopted Adults
  8. Birth Relatives and Access to Files
  9. Adoption Contact Register
  10. No Contact Requests and Vetoes

    Appendix 1: Birth Record Counselling (Already Applied to the GRO)
    Appendix 2: Birth Record Counselling (Access to Information on Adoption File)
    Appendix 3: Record of Decision - Re. Access to Adoption Records
    Appendix 4: Format for the Initial Counselling Interview
    Appendix 5: Summary Format
    Appendix 6: Form to Sign for Receipt of Records
    Appendix 7: Record of Decision - Re. Access to Birth Records
    Appendix 8: Letter


1. Introduction

Adoptive adults continue under the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to have a right of access to information which allows them to find out about their adoption and the reasons why they were adopted.

The Adoption Support Team will continue to provide this service as requested by the General Register Office and for Bolton residents generally.

There are additional requirements arising from the Act which are also covered in this Procedure - particularly the right of adopted adults to register a full or potential veto.


2. Access to Information - Legal Context

The department has additional responsibilities by virtue of the Adoption and Children Act 2002. In brief, both adopted adults and birth relatives (whose adopted 'children' are now 18 years old) have a right to request an intermediary service as they search for their relative. The basic principle is that people should have access to information to help them make informed decisions about their lives.


3. Counselling

People who were adopted before 12th November 1975 are required to attend a counselling interview in order to receive the birth record information. Prior to attending for interview, applicants will be send an information sheet exploring the process. There are two relevant information sheets depending on whether they have or haven't already applied to the GRO (see Appendix 1: Birth Record Counselling (Already Applied to the GRO) and Appendix 2: Birth Record Counselling (Access to Information on Adoption File)). This is the information needed to apply for a copy of their original birth certificate and also discover the approved adoption agency who dealt with the adoption.

People adopted after 12th November 1975 but before the Adoption and Children Act 2002 are not required to attend for a counselling interview but that service is still available for them. They can apply to the General Register office for a copy of their original birth certificate whether or not they already know their birth name.

The process for people adopted after December 30th 2005 (post commencement adoptions) will be dealt with in a separate PPD (issues will not arise until 2023).

If adopted people wish to access their adoption records, this can be done by application to the appropriate adoption agency (the AAA).

Counselling can only be undertaken by someone with a professional social work qualification.


4. Historical Abuse

Bolton Safeguarding Childrens Board acknowledges the potential for, and existence of, abuse to children. The Board believes that all children are entitled to the same level and standard of protection whoever is caring for them.

Thus, allegations against, for example, foster carers or adoptive parents will be investigated with the same thoroughness as allegations against parents/family members. All allegations will be examined objectively by workers who are independent of the situation.

Adults who came forward and report abuse that they experienced as a child, whilst living away from home in settings provided by the local authority or the voluntary or independent sector, should be responded to in the same way as if it were a contemporary concern.


5. Sharing Information from records with Adopted Adults

As an adoption agency, the Department continues to have the discretion under section 15 of the Adoption Agency Regulation 1983 to disclose the information it considers appropriate to the adopted person. Adoption records are exempted from the subject access provisions of section 7 of the Data Protection Act.

This means that individuals - adopted people, birth relatives, adoptive parents and prospective adopters - are not able to use the Data Protection Act to insist on access to records held about them.

Guidance as to what should or shouldn't be shared from records will be covered more fully later. However, the basic premise should be that we are wanting to give the adopted adult information which will help them gain an understanding of their past and the circumstances of their adoption. Thus we should look at the records and consider what, if anything, should NOT be shared and why.

The Adoption Support Team will fulfil its obligations under the adoption legislation. If this then becomes a data subject access request, this will then be passed to the relevant person responsible for providing the services.

It is very important that we keep a clear written record of what has been shared and what was withheld. Any contentions decisions should be recorded specifically noting the decision making process.

The decisions in this area of work are an Agency Responsibility and not an individual workers. (See Appendix 3: Record of Decision - Re. Access to Adoption Records).


6. Delivering the Service

With regard to adopted adults, workers within the Adoption Support Team will undertake the initial Schedule 2 counselling, helping to secure the necessary information from the AAA and sharing it with them.

Similarly, the Adoption Support Team will be involved in preparing information from our records for other adoption agencies who are requesting information on behalf of adopted adults where we hold the file.

Looking at existing records could also relate to situations where an Adoption Support Agency is helping a birth family member as an intermediary. In this situation we would be advising that agency as to the potential risks (if any) involved - see later.


7. Services to Adopted Adults

7.1 Counselling

Adopted adults will come to counselling knowing varying amounts of information with regard to details of their adoption. They will also be seeking different outcomes from the counselling itself - from very specific information to wishing to trace their birth family. It is important for the worker to support their particular wishes and offer appropriate advice. (See Appendix 4: Format for the Initial Counselling Interview for details of areas to be covered during interview).

They are entitled to information regarding the original name of the birth mother and the district where they were registered to enable them to get a copy of their original birth certificate. They will also be able to obtain from the Court the name of the adoption society or local authority who were involved in their adoption. At some stage, they may wish for the worker to approach those agencies for the information they hold. Having received the information from the adoption agency, judgement should be exercised as to whether all or part of the information should be shared with the adopted person. If all of the information is NOT shared, the adoption agency who sent the information should be informed and a record kept on file.

Where there is little or no information in the agency record, then the worker will assist the adopted person to apply to the Court where the order was made for the information held by the Court to be released. There is no automatic right to information but Courts are now increasingly helpful.

The worker also has a duty to consider the impact of receiving information on the adopted adult and therefore assess this risk. This may, for example, be relevant when the person concerned has mental health issues. Where appropriate, permission should be sought from the adopted person to liaise with other professionals involved who could then offer additional support.

When there are concerns that the adopted person is at risk to either themselves or others as a result of receiving the information, then the worker should discuss this with their manager.

After receiving counselling, if the adopted adult requires additional professional support, then the worker should signpost them to the relevant service.

Although the worker from this Agency will not usually be involved in the tracing and searching, the worker should help them consider the potential difficulties and benefits of such a trace. It may be helpful to discuss some of the methods that could be used - traditionally registers of birth, marriages and deaths, as well as electoral rolls - and the potential risks. Thus, using Friends Reunited or a website would result in the contact being unexpected for the birth family member and no support available for them. A fact sheet will be provided as an initial step (see Appendix 5: Summary Format).

7.2 Preparing the File

Consideration needs to be given as to what information should be shared from the file in order to give the adopted person a clear understanding of the issues which led to them being placed for adoption. Generally excluded from being shared would be confidential and third party information. Many more recent files will have very detailed information and it may be useful, as a first step, to discuss with the adopted person what they particularly want to know. In general, a good starting point would be a summary of the main issues plus a copy of the Form E/Child's Permanence Report. In addition, any personal documents may be of particular interest to the adopted person. Care must be taken when there are a limited number of personal documents to be shared by a number of siblings.

The adopted person is entitled to know about their birth family and its constitution. This will occasionally have information about siblings also placed for adoption. Only the birth name of these children should be shared and no detailed information about them.

Occasionally it will be necessary to share what the experience of these siblings was when living at home in order for the adopted adult to understand the circumstances of their adoption - for example, when children were removed at birth because of family history.

Clearly information about the birth parents should be shared which relates to their ability/inability to offer appropriate care. However some information which is held on file about them will not be relevant to that issue - for example, a birth mother having had a termination previously.

All Court reports held on file are the property of the Court and cannot be shared with the adopted adult unless the permission of the Court has been given. However, it would be possible, in preparing the summary outlined above, to include relevant information from those reports which relate directly to the adopted person and/or close relatives within their birth family. This can include relevant information extracted from a report written by another agency when it is not appropriate to share the document itself.

If there is specific medical information to be shared, unless it is entirely straightforward, the possible implications of it must be discussed with the Agency Medical Advisor.

With regards to addresses, it is appropriate to disclose the birth family's address when they were born as this is available on public records. Careful consideration would need to be given to disclosing more relevant addresses without, at least, reference back to the birth family.

It would be very unusual to share information about adoptive parents as this is clearly 3rd party information. However, such a request should be considered on its own merits. A decision may be reached to share the information if the adopters died many years ago and/or the adopted adult is alleging abuse by the adopters.

The file may make reference to introductory visits and correspondence between the agency and the adopters. The worker should consider the impact on the relationship between the adopters and the adopted adult in sharing this sort of information.

It would not usually be appropriate or necessary to share sensitive or judgemental comments made by visiting social workers about the adjustment of the adopters or their anxieties as new parents. However, this situation may change if the adopters have died or the placement disrupted.

Correspondence between the agency and the prospective adopters that will help the adopted adult make sense of the process of the making of the adoption order may be helpful - in addition, such correspondence may contain positive comments about the adopted adult made by their adoptive parents that the worker may consider it appropriate to share.

More generally it is important to put all information shared into a context, including the social context of any judgemental/discriminatory comments that may have been recorded. This is not excusing them but to explain them in the context of the time. Each piece of information should clearly describe the context of the information and provide all cautionary notes for the adopted adult. This would normally be provided in the form of the Summary (Appendix 6: Form to Sign for Receipt of Records).

Workers should clarify where possible whether the information recorded is fact or opinion. For example, a worker may have recorded the birth mother as being 'aggressive' others may have described her as 'spirited'. It depends on who recorded the information and the culture of the organisation.

The name of the alleged father is important for the adopted person. However the record in the file may be unconfirmed. This information should be shared but again placed in the context - for example, your mother told the worker that your father was Fred Smith who lived down the street, however there is no record whether or not he too thought he was the father or knows of this information.

Finally, consideration should be given as to how the information is presented. To put it into a booklet or folder can be a very tangible way of signifying the respect the agency attaches to the information. At the time the information is shared, the recipient will be asked to acknowledge receipt of documents received and the confidential nature of the information (see Appendix 7: Record of Decision - Re. Access to Birth Records).

If we are preparing the file rather than sharing it directly with the adopted person, we will share our records via another Adoption Agency/Adoption Support Agency and liaise with them if the information we are sharing seems likely to pose any risks for the adopted person. In this situation, we will similarly ask the receiving agency to ask the adopted person to sign Appendix 7 and also ask the receiving agency to provide feedback as to what has been shared and the eventual outcome of the work (see Appendix 8: Letter).


8. Birth Relatives and Access to Files

Intermediary services to birth relatives are provided by adoption support agencies as identified earlier. On occasions we will hold the adopted child's file in situations where the birth parent is wishing to locate the 'child' (now adopted adult).

In these circumstances we would read the file and advise the intermediary agency as to whether these were any potential risks to the adopted adult in continuing with the search.

We would share with the agency details of the adopted person and the adopted parents so that they can progress their enquiries.


9. Adoption Contact Register

Adoption workers should inform both adopted people and birth relatives that they can register their interest in contact via the Register which is held by the General Register Office.

Research shows that many adopted people and birth relatives are unaware of the existence of the register so it should not be presumed that their absence from the register is an indication that they would not welcome an approach.

Leaflets regarding the work of the Adoption Contact Register will be given as appropriate.


10. No Contact Requests and Vetoes

Since the implementation of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, it has been possible for adopted adults to register a wish for no contact on the Register. An adopted person does not have to go via the Adoption Agency to register a wish for no contact with the GRO. They can do this directly by completing the appropriate forms.

There is provision for adopted adults to register a veto to prevent an intermediary agency from making contact to inform them of a birth relative enquiry.

An absolute veto prevents an intermediary agency making contact with the adopted person. The AAA may, in exceptional circumstances, make contact to share information with the adopted person that is so significant that the AAA makes the decision that it is imperative it is passed to the adopted person, for example vital medical information.

A qualified veto is one that restricts the circumstances in which an intermediary agency can make the approach. The qualification of the veto may apply to the person asking for the approach, for example, 'maternal relatives only' or 'siblings adopted by another family'. Alternatively there may be a qualification about the nature of the request, for example an approach should only be made if the reason is to pass on a legacy or if the person requesting contact is terminally ill.

Any veto can only be registered with the AAA. This is the local authority that placed the child for adoption, or in cases of private adoptions the Local Authority that was notified. The AAA must be satisfied that the adopted person fully understands the implications of registering a veto. Therefore when an enquiry about registering a veto has been received, where possible an appointment should be made to meet with the adopted adult. This will enable the adoption worker to confirm the adopted person's identity and also to help with consideration of some of the implications registering a veto might have for the adopted person.

If after considering the potential benefits/disadvantages the adopted person wishes to record a veto the adoption worker should facilitate this. A written record will be kept on the adopted persons file and any relevant intermediary agency will be notified as necessary. We will keep a register of all vetoes placed for easy reference and to enable a prompt response to be made to enquiries from an intermediary agency.

It is important to inform adopted adults that registering an absolute veto may not preclude the AAA contacting them in the future where it considers it necessary to do so. For example, the AAA may consider that the adopted person needs to be informed of life threatening medical condition or that it has come to the AAA notice that a birth relative has obtained identifying information and intends to make contact. The AAA does have discretion to initiate contact with the adopted person in such circumstances even if a veto is in place. A veto will however prevent any intermediary agency from making an approach as a result of a request from a birth relative covered by a veto.

Because of the serious nature of a veto and its implications - which therefore understandably necessitate, if possible, a discussion with the adopted adult - it will be necessary to develop some joint working practices with other authorities particularly within Adoption 22. This is because, in practice, most of this authority's adopted adults will not live in and around Bolton.


Appendix 1: Birth Record Counselling (Already Applied to the GRO)

Information Sheet (1)

BIRTH RECORD COUNSELLING (Already applied to the GRO)

We have recently been notified by the GRO that you have expressed an interest regarding accessing your adoption records. Bolton adoption agency recognises the importance of this information to you and we endeavour to offer you an appointment within 2 working weeks.

People who were adopted before 1975

If you were adopted before 1975 you would have been adopted at a time when the sharing of information was a not very open. There was an air of 'secrecy' and people were told not to expect any further communication from the adopted child. However attitudes have changed over time and a much more open approach is now expected, this is reflected in adoption law and practice.

This may be the first time you receive knowledge/ information about the circumstances your adoption. We recognise this can be an emotional experience, and we endeavour to provide an interview that is sensitive, empathic, helpful and informative.

What if I was adopted after 1975?

Even though the law changed at this time and you might know more about the circumstances to your adoption, accessing your records can still be an emotional experience and therefore we believe it is good practice to offer you an interview with an adoption counsellor.

What we need from you

As you will appreciate your information is highly confidential and we wish to protect your confidentiality. Therefore we need you to bring with you some form of personal identification. This should include one photographic document such as a passport or driving licence. If you think you may have difficulty with this please do not hesitate to contact us.

It will also be helpful if you could bring along any information already in your possession received relating to your adoption, as this may assist our enquiries.

You may wish to bring along someone with you for personal support, however it may be necessary for this person not to be involved in the duration of the interview.

Please inform us in advance if you have any specific needs in relation to mobility, need for an interpreter etc.

What will happen at the interview?

We will have a discussion with you about your interest in accessing your information and what you hope to achieve from this process.

We will share any information received from the GRO, which may include information of your birth name and your birth parents name.

For some people that is all the information they wish to know and our involvement can end here. However you may wish to proceed in learning more around the circumstances to your adoption, if that is the case we will write to the court that dealt with your adoption in order to ascertain the name of the agency that dealt with your adoption.

What happens next?

Once we have received the name of the agency that dealt with your adoption we will write to them advising them of your interest in accessing your records. This is usually provided in a form of a summary rather than the actual adoption records. There will be some information that cannot be shared, because they come from third party sources, or relate to information about individuals other than you.

Please be aware that this process can take some time. We understand that this can be very frustrating and we will do all we can to make the process as smooth as possible.

What happens if I wish to trace a birth relative?

If you feel you want to make contact with a birth relative you may be able to use some of the information already obtained in order to trace that relative. There are various ways to do this including obtaining information from public records etc. However we strongly advise you to use an intermediary before making contact. We are able to advise you of services/agencies that specialise in this area, at the time of the interview.

If you have any questions regarding the above information, or you wish to speak to somebody prior to your appointment, please do not hesitate to contact the adoption support worker named on the letter.

We look forward to hearing from you


Appendix 2: Birth Record Counselling (Access to Information on Adoption File)

Information sheet (2)

Birth records counselling/Access to information on adoption file

How does this work?

You recently contacted Bolton Adoption support team expressing an interest in learning more about your birth history. This information sheet may help you understand what to expect at the interview and the process involved in accessing your adoption records.

People who were adopted before 1975

If you were adopted before 1975 you would have been adopted at a time when the sharing of information was a not very open. There was an air of 'secrecy' and people were told not to expect any further communication from the adopted child. However attitudes have changed over time and a much more open approach is now expected, this is reflected in adoption law and practice.

For many people this is the first time they will receive knowledge/ information about the circumstances of their adoption. We recognise this can be an emotional experience, and we endeavour to provide an interview that is sensitive, empathic, helpful and informative.

What if I was adopted after 1975?

Even though the law changed at this time and you might know more about the circumstances to your adoption, accessing your records can still be an emotional experience and therefore we believe it is good practice to offer you an interview with an adoption counsellor.

What we need from you

As you will appreciate your information is highly confidential and we wish to protect your confidentiality. Therefore we need you to bring with you some form of personal identification. This should include one photographic document such as a passport or driving licence. If you think you may have difficulty with this please do not hesitate to contact us.

It will also be helpful if you could bring along any information already in your possession that relates to your adoption as this may assist our enquiries.

You may wish to bring along someone with you for personal support, however it may be necessary for this person not to be involved in the duration of the interview.

Please inform us in advance if you have any specific needs in relation to mobility, need for an interpreter etc.

What will happen at the interview?

We will have a discussion with you about your interest in accessing your information and what you hope to achieve from this process.

Together we will complete an application form, which will be sent to the GRO. This will enable us to receive 3 pieces of information;

  1. An application form for you to apply for your original birth certificate;
  2. The name of the court that dealt with your adoption (which enables the counsellor to then write to that court to obtain the name of the agency that dealt with your adoption);
  3. A form to register your name on the contact register.

What happens next?

Once we have received the information from the GRO we will invite you in for a further appointment and share the information with you. For some people their interest is only in receiving their birth name and if that is the case our involvement will end there. However others are interested in learning more about their circumstances to their adoption and wish to access their adoption file. In this instance once we have received the name of the agency that dealt with your adoption we will write to them advising them of your interest in accessing your records. This is usually provided in a form of a summary rather than the actual adoption records. There will be some information that cannot be shared because they come from third party sources, or relate to information about individuals other than you.

Please be aware that this process can take some time. We understand that this can be very frustrating and we will do all we can to make the process as smooth as possible.

What happens if I wish to trace a birth relative?

If you feel you want to make contact with a birth relative you may be able to use some of the information already obtained in order to trace that relative. There are various ways to do this including obtaining information from public records etc. However we strongly advise you to use an intermediary before making contact. We are able to advise you of services/agencies that specialise in this area at the time of the interview.

If you have any questions regarding the above information, or you wish to speak to somebody prior to your appointment, please do not hesitate to contact the adoption support worker named on the letter.

We look forward to hearing from you


Appendix 3: Record of Decision - Re. Access to Adoption Records

Click here to view Record of Decision - Re. Access to Adoption Records


Appendix 4: Format for the Initial Counselling Interview

Why now?

 

(Has something/or crisis led to the adopted adult starting this process now?)

 

Attitude of the adoptive family

 

(What does the adopted adult know about his history? How does he/she feel about his adoption? How long have they known they were adopted? How open has his/her adopters been?)

 

Support

 

(Do they have support systems? Discuss that this is an emotional journey. Who will support them? Do they intend telling/have they told their adoptive parents of their interest? Do they think that they will go on and search/trace/ implications of not telling family.)

 

What is she/he hoping for?

 

(Discuss fears fantasies hopes and expectations. Tracing? Reunion? Explore their feelings behind this what are they hoping for? Punish? New family life? Are there any risk issues?)

 

Process and Summary

 

Explain the process, possible timescales. Summary /original documents. Agreements when/how they will be contacted.
Information of contact register
Vetoes
Information of other services.
Tracing leaflet.

 

 

NB. The counsellor throughout the interview session is making an assessment as to whether the agency will share all or some of these records (taking into consideration the impact/risk to self and others involved). In reaching this decision the worker must have regard to the welfare of the applicant. Legal advice may be necessary.

 

If Bolton is the AAA the worker will prepare a written summary of their adoption record.


Appendix 5: Summary format

The ethos of Bolton adoption support team is to be open as possible with the adopted adult. This is their opportunity to unlock their past and obtain information that other people may take for granted. Therefore not only 'factual' information should be sought, but other anecdotal information that helps put the pieces together of their early history.

 

Birth Mother

(Name, description, description of personality, date of birth, family history including her siblings, education, interests, location at the time of her birth.)

 

Birth father

 

(Name, description, description of personality, date of birth, family history including siblings, education, interests, location at the time of his birth.)

 

Grandparents (maternal)

 

Grandparents (paternal)

 

Birth history

 

(Where, when, time of birth, length, weight)

 

Circumstances/decision(s) leading to adoption

History of the child with their birth parents. Dates of child protection plans
Interventions of the agency Movements/placements
Court dates
Form E
Their medical report.

 

Other information:

 

School report/interest/hobbies/clubs attended/friends/pets/testaments from other people, teachers, carers.

 

(Check green dot file)

 

This information is valuable to the adopted adult and should be treated respectfully. Information should be presented in a wallet document that can be preserved. Time and care should be taken to check accuracy.

The adopted adult may wish to view all care files and information should be given as to the s.


Appendix 6: Form to Sign for Receipt of Records

Click here to view Form


Appendix 7: Record of Decision Re Access to Birth Records

Click here to view Record of Decision Re Access to Birth Records


Appendix 8: Letter

Click here to view Letter

End