Involving and Supporting Birth Families in the Adoption Process


This chapter was developed/entirely revised in September 2012 and should be read in full.

This chapter is currently under review.

1. Informing Birth Families about decisions of Adoption Panel and Agency Decision Maker

See Placement for Adoption Procedure, Obtaining Agency Approval to Adoption Plan.

2. Counselling and Support for Birth Parents

See: Placement for Adoption Procedure, Counselling and Support for Parents.

3. Guidelines on Enabling Birth Parents to Share in the Choice of Adopters for their Child

Prior to the Selection Meeting, the birth parents should be given the anonymous profiles written by the adopters about themselves for all the adopters being considered for their child.

Depending upon the maturity and discretion of the birth parents, the social worker may leave the profiles with them for 24 hours to read and discuss in their own time. In any case, the social worker should meet with the birth parents to discuss their views on the potential adopters and to help them list them in order of preference.

Their views are summarised in writing by the social worker, signed by the birth parent, and distributed to members of the Selection Meeting.

Birth parents should be informed of the decision of the Selection meeting as soon as possible.

The views of the birth parents should be recorded in the Selection Meeting minutes which are sent to the Matching Panel.

4. Guidelines of One-Off Meetings Between Birth Parents and Adopters

More and more often in recent years it has been possible, and appropriate as part of good practice in adoption, to set up a joint meeting between birth parents and adopters, either before the placement or at an early stage of an adoptive placement.

Every adoption is different but there are general concerns which are worth mentioning.

The possibility of a joint meeting needs to be brought up as a subject during the course of an adoption assessment, so that it does not come as a surprise to those being considered as a match for a child/ren.

As a realistic possibility, it needs to be discussed with the social worker for the child/ren at the Permanence Planning Meeting. If a meeting seems appropriate, it is one of the issues that needs to be discussed the prospective adopters and considered at the Selection Meeting, and the Matching Panel.

There should then be a Planning Meeting between the social worker for the child and the social worker for the adopters. This meeting needs to consider following points.

This will usually be a one-off meeting and there will probably be considerable anxiety and high emotions on both sides. Therefore, detailed planning of the event is very important.

Reason for the meeting, which can be given to those taking part, may be as follows:

  • It is regarded as good practice by the Adoption Team and Area Team;
  • It will be of long-term benefit to the child/ children because it will dispel the fantasies the birth parents and adopters may have about each other;
  • The adopters will be able to talk realistically to the child/children about their birth parents, i.e. "when I met your birth mother she said..." or they may be able to make comparisons in looks between the child and the birth parents;
  • The fact of the meeting allows the birth parent an opportunity to acknowledge the adoption, by being there, and to give permission to the child to attach to his/ her new parents;
  • Any future contact between the child and their birth parents may not hold so much of a threat to the adopters, if they are able to visualise the birth parents as real people;
  • Out previous experiences with joint meetings has been that although it can be an emotional experience, nearly all those who have taken part have said that they are glad they did.

Preparation of both sides:

  • A time limit for the meeting should be set;
  • The social worker for each participant should be shared with each participant before the meeting;
  • Timing is important, e.g. morning? So the participants don't spend all day worrying about the meeting;
  • Venue is also important - a room with a relaxed atmosphere in a neutral setting is the ideal venue;
  • Confidentiality - care must be taken not to inadvertently give away confidential information and adopters should be well prepared to avoid this;
  • Consideration should be given as to whether the child should be present - usually it is not appropriate - but it been known for a young baby to be present and an important part of the meeting.

The meeting:

  • Care should be taken with timing of arrival to the meeting. We suggest that the birth parent, who is the more vulnerable party in this meeting, should arrive first, possible having been collected by his/ her social worker, at least 10 minutes before the potential adopters. At the end of the meeting the adopters and their social worker should leave first;
  • The meeting should, if possible, be managed by a social worker who has met both the birth parents and the adopters before, and is aware of all the issues. The chair should have careful control of the meeting, and be prepared to end it prematurely if necessary. Conversation may well be stilted at first and some prompting may be necessary to get things going;
  • At the beginning of the meeting the chair should state clearly the reason for the meeting, its agenda and duration. If tea or coffee is to be used as a social lubricant. Arrangements for this (i.e. who takes what) should be organised beforehand;
  • It is sometimes useful for each party to bring and then exchange photographs - the birth parent - photos of themselves and the child in the past, the adopters an up-to-date one of the child;
  • If there is to be a post adoption agreement, this should already have been prepared in some detail, but it could be discussed at the meeting;
  • It may be possible in some cases to have a photograph taken for posterity, but this needs careful thought and permission from both parties beforehand, with the implications discussed.

5. Information and Support for Birth Parents, and from Birth Parents

Birth parents should be encouraged and supported in providing information for their child. They should be provided with the 'birth parents pack' at the stage adoption is a parallel plan seeking their comments on the Child's Permanence Report. An information pack on contact within adoption should also be provided. They should be asked if they might agree to have their identity shared with the child on his or her maturity CSF4334 Advanced Consent to Disclosure of Identifying Information

CSF4031 Assessment of support for birth parents must inform the Post Adoption Support Plan

A worker can be available from the adoption support team or a referral may be made to an independent voluntary body, Lonks. Please contact the adoption support team for further details.

Birth parents' wishes are to be included in the Child's Permanence Report and are to be offered the opportunity to comment on the report.

Birth parent's views must be checked pre placement.