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United Kingdom: Children and grandchildren of adopted people could be allowed to contact their extended birth families under proposals unveiled today

August 15, 2014

Wales Online

The right of adopted children to seek their birth parents when they are older could be extended to their own offspring, under plans in a consultation being launched today.

Proposals unveiled today by Ministers would radically alter the rules surrounding the rights of adopted children, with their children and grandchildren handed the right to contact the family of their birth family.

It comes amid a wider, radical shake-up of the adoption system in Wales, with Ministers steering a move to a single, national agency and overhauling the rights of fostered children to stay with their foster families longer.

Welsh Ministers will consult on using new powers to extend access to such services to other categories of people such as the children and grandchildren of adopted people, and to members of the adopted person’s wider family, such as the spouses of their descendants.

The Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, said the proposals could be introduced for scenarios where the family an adopted person would want to contact their birth family for health reasons, such as investigating a hereditory condition.

The proposals would see the right extended to the family of children adopted before December 2005, before rules were changed to allow family to contact their birth families.

Intermediary services, which may be managed by a local authority, voluntary adoption agency or adoption support agency, were set up to facilitate contact between adopted people and their birth relatives and to provide counselling, support and advice.

Currently, the services can only be used by adopted people and their birth relatives.

Under the proposals, adopted people may register, in writing, a veto to prevent an intermediary agency from making contact or to say that they only want to be contacted in certain circumstances.

The Welsh Government plans to bring regulations into force for Wales by summer 2015.

Ms Thomas said the government was “committed to extended access to extending access to intermediary services to the children and grandchildren of adults adopted in Wales” before 2005.

Ms Thomas said: “I believe that there are good reasons why access to intermediary services should be extended to the descendants and relatives of adopted persons. For example, there may be health reasons such as finding out about a hereditary medical condition or other health issue which could affect the health of a person’s children.

“So as a minimum I believe that access should be extended to the children and grandchildren of an adopted person – including those who are themselves adopted.

“We also believe that there should be adequate safeguards in place to protect the family and private life of adopted adults, and to balance the sometimes competing rights of adopted people, ‘prescribed persons’ and birth relatives.”

The move comes ahead of the establishment of the National Adoption Agency in November, which will amalgamate various adoption agencies into a single organisation in a bid to streamline the notoriously lengthy process.

Ministers say the move will lead to better collaboration and joint commissioning of adoption services, resulting in the eradication of children drifting in care and more efficient uses of resources.

Ms Thomas already launched a secure online register to allow adoption agencies in Wales free access to a Wales-wide register of children waiting to be adopted and of approved prospective adopters.

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