Your Adoption Questions Answered (Adoption FAQs Part 2)

Another great video packed full of FAQs all covered by Dave, Alison and Dr Joanna North in all things adoption-related.

If you have any questions about the subject of adoption or tracing an adopted person or a birth parent that you would like to ask Dave and Joanna then please do get in touch, you can find us on social media where can answer them directly or in future videos.

If you are looking for someone where adoption is involved and would like us to help you then CLICK HERE to fill in a form and speak to one of the team.

If you didn’t catch it then you can watch part 1 HERE

Video Transcript

Dave Oates:

Hi everybody, it’s Dave Oates. I’m here back with Alison and Joanna to answer some more of the questions that we started answering in the last video. So without further ado, I’d like Alison and Jo to introduce themselves; then we’ll get on with answering your questions. Jo, if you want to start.

Joanna North:

Yeah, I’m Jo, and I do psychology and psychotherapy support for the adoption support agency.

Alison:

And I’m Alison, and I’m the adoption administrator. So if you contact the office via the phone or email, it’s me that you will speak to.

Dave Oates:

Fantastic. Alison, let’s have the first question.

Alison:

Okay. The first question is “How do I know that the person I’m looking for will be a safe person, i.e. what if they’re in prison, et cetera?”

Dave Oates:

I think I can start by answering that in the sense that this is a really commonly asked question. People are often worried who the person is that they might be getting into contact with. Sometimes a person we’re getting in contact with might be worried about our clients. So it’s a natural thing to worry about those things. It’s usually unfounded. There aren’t usually things that come up that are like that. If a person was in prison, we would know that when we found them, because obviously where we find them would highlight that to us.

In terms of being worried about more … about other things or a past, everybody may have some kind of a past. But when we put you in touch with people, we usually do it in such a way that it will be in … Most people now will have some kind of contact through us, via letter perhaps to start with, and build up a bit of trust and a bit of knowledge before you have any real contact. Or you might have a slow step-by-step process where you might have email contact for a little while and keep building that trust and get to know each other better, and only share more contact information and eventually meet somebody when that’s something that everybody is comfortable with. So that was my answer to it, but I think Joanna’s probably got a few more thoughts on it as well.

Joanna North:

Yeah, I think it’s natural, isn’t it, to feel fearful about things you don’t know. And we tend to perhaps exaggerate our fears a little bit, and we’re often sort of helping people dismantle their worries. So don’t worry, it’s quite natural to feel a little bit worried. I mean, everybody’s got a story and not everybody’s story is perfect. We come across all sorts of different ways that people have lived and different experiences they’ve had, and some of them have been negative and some of them have been positive, and some people have run into trouble because of their stories or … We come across such a diverse cross-section of experience. But that’s why we have an intermediary agency, so that we can mediate the story. And if people have got difficult aspects in their past, we will give that a lot of consideration.

We do ensure that people make informed decisions. So if there are massive problems, we will try to let you know about them so that you can make an informed decision about being in touch, and that’s on both sides. But our view is that even if people have got a difficult past, that there are many people [inaudible 00:03:32] from a difficult past. None of us are without some kind of story in the background that’s complex. So it’s a difficult one. Life doesn’t come in shiny packages off the shelf, really. And we can’t expect people to be absolutely perfect, but on the whole, what we find is that human beings with a bit of kindness and a bit of support will interact with us and tell us that …

We do find people being very open with us about their stories, and we mediate that and talk about that and make sure, first of all, we safeguard the story. We make sure there’s no safeguarding issues; we’re very careful on that front. So we do the best we can to make it safe for everyone, I think is what we can say. Do you think that’s right, Alison? I mean, you know we might like to speed a case through but sometimes we really hold it back, don’t we, with thinking about it?

Alison:

Yeah. And we regularly review cases that we think there may be safeguarding issues, to ensure that everybody is protected, not just out client but also the subjects that we need to contact.

Joanna North:

Yeah.

Dave Oates:

Yeah, your answer’s [inaudible 00:05:06].

Alison:

Next question is, “My family do not know I had a child who was adopted. I’m worried if they contact me, how can I stop this?”

Dave Oates:

Yeah. I mean, this is another common fear, and not many people know that there are things that you can do to stop being contacted as a birth parent, or certainly request; we call it a no-contact wish. So you can make it known that you don’t want to be contacted by an adopted person should they ever go looking for you. Now, most people who’ve been adopted, who want to find birth relatives, would start by contacting the agency that dealt with the adoption, or the local authority where the adoption occurred. And as a birth relative, you can also contact that agency and let them know that you would prefer not be contacted if somebody comes looking for you, which can be registered.

Likewise, there’s something called the Adoption Contact Register, which is held by the General Registrar for England for Wales, which we’ve mentioned before. That’s really used for people who want to have contact but you can also register on there with a wish for no contact as well.

As a birth parent, there’s nothing in theory still to stop the adopted person tracing you and still trying to contact you, but we find that most people who are aware that a birth parent has registered a wish not to be contacted, most people you would find would respect that because nobody wants to be in touch with somebody who perhaps doesn’t want to have contact with them.

But a lot of adopted people are often seeking information and understanding, so if you are going to register a no-contact wish, I think giving them an understanding and a reason for that will be really helpful to them in hopefully coming to terms with that, but also respecting that as well. Whereas if you don’t provide much information or help them understand why it might be, then I would say there’s a greater potential possibly to be contacted in the future. I don’t know if you’ve got anything to add to that, Jo, or something …

Joanna North:

Well, we work really hard at this aspect of our work. And I would say to people, so to birth parents who don’t want to be in touch, that don’t hesitate to let us know. It’s much easier if people could get in touch and just say, “I don’t want to be in touch,” because we can help them register a veto and we can help them think things through, see if there’s any little pieces of information. And we have to protect their data. We are an intermediary service; we have to mediate the process for everybody.

And I think people sometimes want to, literally and quite understandably, it can make them panic and feel quite fearful and they just want to shut it down. And we understand that more than anybody, but if you can just get in touch with us and say, “I want to shut this down, please help me,” we can help you make a better job of it. Absolutely. We really can make a strong job of closing it down with no fear of hurting the person that’s searching for you. We can absolutely keep your file completely confidential, and we’ll be in a strong position if you can contact us.

Some people fear being in touch with us because they think that we might give their name away. We would absolutely never ever do that. So I think that’s the important message that I would want to convey, is that we understand that that first contact might make people panic, but if they can get in touch with us, we can absolutely help make it safe and secure and all will be well.

Dave Oates:

Yeah, I think where we’ve contacted somebody, I would always encourage them to speak to us regardless of what they want to happen, because we can help them understand what the process is. Most people we help don’t know anything about the Adoption Contact Register, don’t know what the legal processes are that we have to follow as an intermediary, to do checks and things. So we can help them understand what’s gone on, what’s led to this point, but also try and help it to be resolved forever and permanently, rather than perhaps just putting it off for another day.

So just simply sending an email to us saying, “Don’t want contact,” it helps us, but actually it doesn’t help them an awful lot. So I would always encourage a conversation, not just a simple short letter back saying you don’t want contact because that won’t ultimately resolve it for you as the person we’ve contacted. Also might not resolve it for the person who’s probably thought long and hard about trying to go through that process. And so there are people at both ends of this process, and it’s important to try and understand and give a bit of respect to one another so that you hopefully get an outcome that closes it and gives a good ending to things, I suppose, rather than just stop it because it feels difficult.

Joanna North:

Yeah. And we’ve had a lot of practice doing that, between the three of us. We’re very mindful of what that takes. It takes a lot of courage for people to be in touch and we absolutely can do that one with you and for you.

Dave Oates:

I think we’ve got another question coming up which is more or less the same. I don’t know, is it the next question, Alison?

Alison:

“I don’t ever want contact with my birth family. How can I stop them finding me?”

Dave Oates:

So this is important to kind of differentiate between an adopted person looking for birth family, and birth family looking for an adopted person. There are more rights with an adopted person, so they can register what’s called a veto, which is an absolute, you cannot … there is no way you can contact them. There are also conditional vetoes where you can contact them with certain specifications, so people might want to know about medical history or might want contact with siblings, but not parents. There are the things that they can specify and it will be vetoed by them, what those are.

But a birth relative can only register a no-contact wish, which isn’t as strong a legal barrier to being contacted. So if it was deemed in the interests of an adopted person still trying to contact a birth relative, i.e. for some important medical history, there are some agencies that will, on the balance of it, look at the situation and make a decision about making contact. And bearing in mind, an adopted person may be able to find the information themselves through public record and trace birth family, which can’t happen the other way round typically. So if birth family cannot get the information to find an adopted person, then it’s better that an intermediary contact the birth relative rather than the adopted person trying to do that directly.

So you will find situations are different depending on who you are in this situation, but an adopted person effectively can register a veto which prevents them ever being contacted. So if you’re adamant that you don’t want to be contacted, contact your local authority, contact the adoption agency that dealt with your adoption, and also make sure that your wish of a veto is registered with the Adoption Contact Register. And that really should prevent anybody ever contacting you.

Joanna North:

Yeah.

Dave Oates:

I don’t think there’s much to add to that unless anyone’s got anything-

Joanna North:

No.

Dave Oates:

No.

Alison:

No. Very thorough. Next one is “How can I get my birth mother’s name?”

Dave Oates:

Okay, it’s probably another one for me, isn’t it? So if you are adopted and you don’t know your name at birth, you can … Sometimes adoptive parents may have documents which would usually have a court order, something like that, and usually our birth name would be there, but not everybody has those records or the parents haven’t kept them or shared that information. Anybody who’s been adopted in England and Wales can make an application to the General Registrar for a copy of their original birth certificate. But if you were born prior to 1975, you do have to receive counseling to get that document, and usually that’s given through your local authority or a registered adoption support agency. Or you can actually get it directly from the GRO, the General Register Office in Southport, but you would have to make an appointment with them and visit them.

They will release that information to you at that stage with some small amount of counseling, just to explain how adoption law works what’s changed since, so you understand a little bit more before you’re just handed that information across. And typically, you will get given a copy of your original birth certificate or the means to obtain a copy. You’re told what your name was at birth, and be told the names of parents who were given on the original birth certificate, which often is just a birth mum. But yeah, so contact your local authority or the General Registrar is the simple answer. I don’t know if [inaudible 00:14:33]. Yeah, I think next question then?

Joanna North:

Can I just add to that, Dave? It’s an interesting one, isn’t it, that this is where adopted people and adoptive families need extra special support because most of us just walk around and take it for granted that we will know our mother’s name; we don’t even think twice about it. But for adopted people, that’s quite a struggle. They have to go to a lot of effort to find that. And it’s also, it’s not just a name, it’s part of your identity and part of who you are and part of your story, so there’s so much in it-

Dave Oates:

Yeah, it’s [crosstalk 00:15:11]-

Joanna North:

It’s a really-

Dave Oates:

… simple piece of information but a massive deal [crosstalk 00:15:14]-

Joanna North:

… a massive, massive experience. And again, that’s why we support people because it’s not just a name. Yeah.

Dave Oates:

Some people can be put out that they have to have counseling because counseling sometimes is seen as this “Well, I don’t have to have counseling. I’m okay.” And actually, it’s just about helping you understand how adoption law worked back in pre-1975, because this process didn’t happen. You wouldn’t have been given that information; there wouldn’t have been a way to obtain that information before the law changed in 1975. So you need to understand what your birth parents would have been told as well, particularly if you’re going to embark on a journey to try and find out more information and ultimately try and get in touch with them. So it is the first step in that process really.

Joanna North:

Yeah. You don’t have to think of it as counseling if you don’t want to. I mean, it’s not a great big in-depth psychological process, but it’s a piece of … It’s a making sure you’re well-informed about the process you’re going through. We don’t mind how people think of it. It’s-

Dave Oates:

Absolutely, yeah. It’s an explanation and helps people understand more because it’s not just a document, as you say. It’s a really important piece of information.

Joanna North:

Yeah.

Alison:

Okay, brilliant. Thank you, guys. Next one is, “I know I was adopted, but that’s it. How do I find out more?”

Dave Oates:

Well, I guess the last question kind of is the first step that we mentioned in that. So contacting the GRO for a copy of original birth certificate, but then also contacting your local authority to access your adoption files. Even if you weren’t adopted in the area where you live, your local authority are obliged to help you access those records. One problem people will find is that there can often be quite a long wait for that service, and so it will depend on where you live and who your local authority are.

You can also get that same support from a registered adoption support agency, so such as ourselves, or anybody who provides access to records or intermediary services. Often there may be a lot of people doing it just in your area, but local authority’s a really good place to start, unless you know the name of an agency who dealt with your adoption and they are still in existence today, you can also contact them directly.

Joanna North:

Can be quite a frustrating process, all of that information gathering for people. Even when we’re working with people, we have to help them through these paperwork processes, and it’s a bit frustrating sometimes for people, especially when they have a right to it.

Dave Oates:

Yeah. But the records are out there. Records have to be kept for … originally, it was 75 years. It’s since been changed to 100 years. So in theory, and for most people who’ve been adopted, their records should still exist somewhere, although we find there’s an awful lot of records lost or destroyed prior to 1950; can be really hard to track things down or find any evidence of them.

Other records even more recent have gone missing. We had one recently from the late ’70s that just couldn’t be found, and the right agency … the agency kept all their files but could not find any record of adoption. So that can happen sometimes as well, which is particularly frustrating.

Joanna North:

Yeah. We’ve got a leaflet called Why Does This Take So Long? We’ve got a range of helpful information leaflets, so we can also send you that one if you’d … In fact, we’ll probably put it on the website, that it’s a process and we can support you through that too.

Dave Oates:

Absolutely. I think we’ve got quite a few more questions to go, but actually I think we’re probably running out of time for today’s video so we’ll probably continue with this next week and do a few more of those questions. But if anybody’s got any questions out there, please send them into us and we’re happy to keep answering them. Got anything else to add?

Alison:

Where do they send the questions, Dave, if they’ve got them?

Dave Oates:

Yeah, they can send them to our email address. So it’s adoption@joannanorth.co.uk.

Joanna North:

And Joanna North is spelled with two Ns, J-O-A-N-N-A N-O-R-T-H. So it’s two Ns in there. Don’t send it to the wrong address.

Dave Oates:

Okay. All right, guys. Well, thanks very much, and we’ll pick up again and do this again next week. Thanks very much.

Joanna North:

Thank you. Bye.

Alison:

Bye.

If you are looking for someone where adoption is involved and would like us to help you then CLICK HERE to fill in a form and speak to one of the team.

If you didn’t catch it then you can watch part 1 HERE