The adoption system should be restructured to allow affected children to maintain links to their birth families, social workers have suggested.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) made this radical suggestion on publication of a study it had commissioned highlighting the detrimental effects on adopted children of losing all contact with their relatives.
The BASW commissioned the study from Royal Holloway University in London and the University of Huddersfield. it concluded that isolation from their relatives can affect children’s sense of identity and damage their emotional wellbeing.
The resulting report is entitled The role of the social worker in adoption – ethics and human rights: An Enquiry. It declares:
“Adopted children denied contact can experience serious identity issues and when they are free to seek out their birth families at age 18, [and] adoptive parents can be ill-prepared for the emotional consequences.”
The BASW notes that near universal access to the internet now makes preventing contact between adopted children and their birth especially challenging and calls for a major rethink of adoption policy, “with a consideration of whether and in what circumstances a more open approach to maintaining kinship links should be promoted in legislation and policy”. Separating adopted children from their relatives may not be ethical it suggested.
Brid Featherstone, a professor of social work at the University of Huddersfield, led the review. She said:
“You should start from the assumption that direct contact with birth parents ought to be considered. Usually, adopted children go searching when they get to 18 and it can store up trouble if they haven’t had previous contact, enabling them to see their birth parents for good or ill.”
“They can stop having fantasies about these wonderful parents that they were stolen away from, or equally that they were absolutely terrible people. It’s about their identities. Adopted people told us that identity is a lifelong issue for them. Where do I come from? Who do I belong to?”