3. Two Key Issues - 3.1 Access to Information

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am ar 21 Tachwedd 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

3.1.1 Information—about the child's birth family, background and experiences prior to being placed for adoption—is absolutely essential to adoptive parents. Adopters need this information before a child is placed, in order to make the decision about the powerful lifelong commitment of adoption. They also need it after they have adopted in order to help their child with the healthy development of his identity.

3.1.2 The Bill as it is currently drafted only legislates for information to be made available to adopters after the Adoption Order has been made [Clause 57]. This is in complete contrast to the National Adoption Standards for England which state

[C2]: ``before a match is agreed, adopters will be given full written information to help them understand the needs and background of the child and an opportunity to discuss this and the implications for them and their family.''

3.1.3 The child's identity does not begin with the adoption order. Understanding and acceptance of the past is crucial to future mental health and development. Adoption must embrace the child's history even when ongoing contact is not possible, although, in many cases today, contact with birth families is appropriately maintained.

3.1.4 The new system for access to information outlined in the Bill [Clauses 53-62] allows birth parents to veto the disclosure of identifying information to birth children, even after those children reach the age of eighteen. This would prevent adoptees from obtaining their original birth certificate and deny them access to a fundamental cornerstone in the development of identity.

3.1.5 Whilst we can understand that some birth parents may not wish to be contacted by their children in adulthood and we would support their right to be protected against this, it is unreasonable to prevent those children from accessing this basic information.

3.1.6 The Government has asked whether it has achieved the right balance with regard to access to information about a person's adoption. We believe that the provisions in the Bill which restrict access to identifying information represent a retrograde step and one which must be amended.

3.1.7 This Bill rightly concerns itself with the child; the child's welfare is paramount ``throughout his life'' [Clause 1.2]. The possible denial of the right of access to birth certificates is not consistent with this principle. We would also question how this sits with Human Rights legislation.

3.1.8 We feel very strongly that the Government must seek an alternative form of words which would protect those few birth parents who need protection from contact by the adopted person, whilst ensuring access for that person to information which would enable them to obtain their original birth certificate.