Advice for birth relatives | Oxfordshire County Council

Advice for birth relatives

Support for birth parents or other relatives of a child who is being placed for adoption.

Birth Relative Support (BRS) is an independent support and counselling service, providing support for adults affected by the adoption of a child.

What is adoption?

Adoption is a way of providing a family for children if, for whatever reason, they cannot live with their birth parents or other birth family members. Adoption is a permanent legal arrangement and does not end at the age of 18.

Once a child has been adopted any rights and responsibilities are passed to the adoptive parents. The child's birth parents will no longer be the legal parents. In many cases, birth relatives will not be able to see the child face to face any more, although they may have other contact arrangements.

The rights of birth relatives

If a plan for adoption is being considered for a child, the birth relatives will be entitled to:

  • receive counselling and written information about adoption and what it means
  • have wishes and feelings about the plan for adoption listened to and taken into consideration for example, views on a child’s religion and culture
  • have access to an independent birth relative support worker who is not involved with the planning for the child but can offer support and answer questions

If adoption is being considered for a child

Before a child is adopted the child's social worker (sometimes called a key worker) will write a detailed report called the Child’s Permanence Report (CPR) giving reasons why the child should be adopted. Birth parents are given the opportunity to contribute to this report and to read what has been written about them.

This report is then read by the Agency Decision Maker who will make a decision as to whether they agree to the plan for adoption or not. The key worker will inform the birth parents of the Agency Decision Maker's decision in writing within five working days.

After the decision

If a birth parent disagrees with the plan for their child, they can seek legal advice from a child care solicitor in Oxfordshire (.pdf format, 17Kb).

If a plan for adoption is decided on but is not agreed by the birth parents, the social worker will need to apply to the court for a placement order. A placement order means the child can be placed with prospective adopters without the birth parents' agreement.

Adoptive parents

All prospective adopters have undertaken a home study and relevant training. They will have been approved as adopters by the Adoption and Permanence Panel.

The social worker and family finder will be looking for prospective adopters who can meet the child’s needs. When they have found a family who they believe can do this, they must write a report called the Adoption Placement Report (APR) and this goes back to the Adoption and Permanence Panel.

The panel will then make a recommendation on the match between a child and the prospective adopters, and the agency decision maker will be asked to make a final decision. Birth parents will be informed of this decision by the key worker in writing and they will also be provided with some non-identifying information about the prospective adopters.

If the match is agreed, a placement planning meeting will be held to decide how and when a child will be introduced to the prospective adopters and when they will move to their new home.

The prospective adopters will make an application to the court for an adoption order. Until this order is made, the key worker will continue to visit the child in their new home.

Birth parents will be told about the date of the adoption hearing so they have a chance to say what they think about this or they can choose not to be informed. Birth parents do not need to attend the court hearing (although they may like to be told of the result).

Independent support

For birth relatives who do not agree with their child being adopted, the idea of adoption can be extremely worrying and upsetting. The Birth Relative Support Service is not involved in the planning for the child and cannot change the plan. However, they can provide confidential and non-judgmental support and the opportunity to ask questions about what the plan will mean. The role of the Independent Birth Relative Support Worker is to provide:

  • An assessment of your support needs at any stage
  • Counselling, advice and information about adoption and its implications for you and your child
  • Emotional support with feelings of grief and loss
  • Help with the contact you have with your child, including your goodbye contact
  • Preparation for, and support at, a one-off meeting with the prospective adopters, if appropriate
  • Help with ongoing indirect (letterbox) contact
  • Information about other organisations you can contact for support/advice
  • Help with writing a letter to be held on file for your child in later life

Contacting a child after adoption

Children and their birth families can keep a connection when they are not living together anymore. In all cases, contact arrangements will be made according to the child’s best interests. There are several types of contact:

Meetings with prospective adopters

Shortly after the child has moved to live with the adoptive parents, many birth parents are given the opportunity to meet with the prospective adopters at an introductions meeting. A support worker will prepare and support the birth parent/s at this meeting.

This meeting provides an opportunity for the most important adults in the child’s life to meet and to gain some understanding of one another, as well as the sharing of information that can benefit the child in the future. Read more information about these meetings in guidelines for birth relatives on introductions meetings (.pdf format, 46Kb).

Direct contact

This is when the child and birth relatives meet face to face. During these meetings, adoptive parents will usually be there, because the child needs to settle and bond with their adoptive family. Direct contact is less common in adoption than letterbox contact and is more likely to be part of the plan for older children. This form of contact is sometimes initially supervised by a social worker.

Letterbox contact

This is when birth family and adoptive parents share news in writing letters and photos through our Letterbox Service. Most letterbox arrangements are voluntary and cannot be enforced. They usually take place once a year. The Letterbox Administrator will read all the letters to make sure that they are suitable to be sent on and will keep electronic copies so that replacements can be provided if letters get lost or damaged. All the information passed through the service is treated as confidential.

More details can be found in the letterbox guidelines leaflet (.pdf format, 2.7MB).

Providing information

As children grow older, they often ask more questions about their background. This is especially common for teenagers who may want to know more about their birth origins and why they were adopted. It is very important that adopted children have information about:

  • their birth and early life
  • their birth family background
  • the reasons why they could not remain with their birth family

Photos of birth parents and family, as well as other important people, can help a child to grow up knowing who they are and how they fit into the world. Birth relatives will be asked to consider providing information and photos which will be of benefit to a child in the future and which will be kept for them.

Relevant medical information can also inform the adoptive parents and help ensure that the child grows up in the best possible health.

When an adopted child reaches 18

Once an adopted child reaches 18 there is the possibility for birth relatives and adopted adults to contact each other.

Intermediary services for birth relatives

Under the Access to Information Regulations 2005, birth relatives can seek out information about their adopted relative. They can then find out information in order to try and trace and contact them.

There are tight regulations to make sure that no identifying information can be passed on without the consent of the adopted person. They can place a veto or partial veto on any contact. Birth relatives are also able to express informed consent about an adopted adult contacting them.

Adoption support and intermediary agencies, such as After Adoption and PACT are able to offer tracing and intermediary services for birth relatives of adopted adults. Both the applicant and the adopted person must be aged 18 or over, and the applicant will need to be able to prove their relationship to the adopted person.

There is also an adoption contact register in operation, which is run by the General Register Office.

Adoption contact register

An adoption contact register puts adopted adults and birth relatives who have lost, or never had, contact after adoption in touch with each other if that is what the adopted person wishes. The adopted person and birth relative must both be over 18 before they can register.

Last reviewed
09 June 2017
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