Information for relatives of adopted children


This information is for birth parents and other birth relatives whose children have been adopted and where the child is now 18 years or over.  If the child placed for adoption is still under 18 years of age then you are advised to contact our Adoption Support line on 01889 256400 and ask to speak to the duty Social Worker for further advice. 

The nature of adoption has changed considerably over the years from a closed and secretive matter to an open and supportive one today.  Many adopted adults have traced and been reunited with members of their birth family whilst keeping their close relationship with their adopted family.  

Until recently birth family members were not enabled to make contact with adopted adults who had been placed for adoption many years before although over the years more and more birth families have been given opportunities to learn about the adopted child’s progress and development through receiving regular letters from the adoptive parents.

Why do birth parents get in contact?

Having a child placed for adoption has a deep emotional impact on birth family members, especially birth parents, and that the pain and grief they experience never goes away.

Birth parents and other relatives have often thought about making contact long before they actually do.  There are many reasons that may prompt a birth parent or relative to contact us:

  • They may wish to know that the adopted person is safe and well
  • They may wish the adopted person to know that he/she has never been forgotten
  • They may have found out about an illness in the birth family that has implications for the adopted child/person
  • They may wish to remember the adopted child/person in their will
  • They may wish to trace the adopted person and meet them
  • The adopted person may have traced and contacted them and they need help and support with the consequences of this
  • They may need help and support in dealing with the variety of emotions that birth relatives face when a member of their family has been adopted

We welcome your contact whatever the reason and we will try to help and support you.

How can we help you?

You can have a meeting with a social worker who has experience of adoption work and who understands the lifelong impact that adoption has on the lives of all those involved.  Through the discussion the social worker will advise how you can be helped and supported.  Some of the different ways which may be suggested are:

  • You may be encouraged to write a letter to go on the adopted persons adoption record; this would then be passed on to them if and when they request access to their adoption records.
  • You may wish to talk through the adoption process and need help understanding events that you have buried deeply and ‘forgotten’ but now feel ready to face.
  • It may be possible to share ‘non-identifying information’ from the adoption records about the child’s adoptive family to help you gain a picture of their family circumstances. (Non-identifying information means no names, addresses or other information that would help you to locate the family).
  • You may be told that the adopted person has already requested access to their adoption records and we would then be able to give you some more recent information about them and put you in touch with each other if this is what the adopted person wanted to do.
  • You could be given advice as to how medical information can be passed on to adopted persons through either ourselves or the NHS. 
  • You may be encouraged to add your name to the Adoption Contact Register. (See relevant addresses at the end of this leaflet/information sheet).
  • You may be given information about Adoption Support Agencies who can provide an intermediary service for you if you wish to trace and make contact with the adopted person. (You will be charged for this service).
  • You may be advised to contact other agencies who are more able to give you the help and support you need in your particular circumstances.

How can I make contact with a child who has been adopted?

The child that was placed for adoption must be 18 years or over for you to make use of services that will enable contact to be made with them – these are called intermediary services.  If the child is under 18 years of age we may still be able to help you so please contact 01889 256400 and ask to speak to the Duty Social Worker for further advice.   

When an adoption order is made the child is given the surname of their adoptive family and in some circumstances the child’s first name may also have been changed.  Birth parents are not usually aware of the child’s new surname and are not able to be told this new surname as it remains confidential.  This means you need to make use of an intermediary to enable them to be traced and contacted.

What are intermediary services for birth parents/relatives?

An intermediary is a person who acts as a ‘go-between’ for yourself and the adopted person and ensures you both receive help and support.  An intermediary is given the information, i.e. the adopted surname, which will enable them to trace the adopted person and make contact with them on your behalf.  Before they do this they will need to explore with you your feelings and motivation in trying to make contact and give you appropriate advice and support.

At present we regret that Staffordshire is unable to provide an intermediary service to birth parents and other relatives and therefore we will provide you with information about Adoption Support Agencies who are able to offer you this service.  Adoption Support Agencies will usually charge for providing an intermediary service to you.  If Staffordshire hold the child’s adoption records we will co-operate with the intermediary in providing them with the relevant information they need to help you.

Only registered Adoption Support Agencies can offer an intermediary service so you cannot ask a friend, family member or other people to act as an intermediary on your behalf.

What happens if the adopted person traces me?

Usually an adopted person will have spoken with a social worker or counsellor and been given opportunities to discuss and think about the implications of making contact with their birth families.  They will have been advised to use an intermediary to make the first contact with their birth family and part of the intermediary’s role is to ensure the birth relative is given help and support to deal with the many varying emotions that can arise when an adopted person makes contact with their birth family.

If you have been approached directly by the adopted person but still want an opportunity to talk through and discuss the implications of this contact then you would be offered a discussion with a social worker.

As a result of the secrecy with which adoption was surrounded in the past, birth family members, especially birth parents, may not have told their partners or subsequent children of the child that was placed for adoption.  You may need help deciding to tell others and the social worker can help you think about how to do this and what to say.  You may be reassured to know that most families show understanding and support although there may be an initial period of shock whilst they get used to the news.

What if I don’t want contact?

It may be hard for an adopted person to understand why you feel like this and they may feel they are being rejected; it would therefore be helpful if you could try to explain to the social worker your reasons for not wanting to have contact.  You may just not feel ready for contact at this point in time or you may be unsure about ever being ready to have some contact.  You may be willing to answer some questions about yourself and to pass information to the adopted person about your family circumstances.  Whatever your reasons the social worker would help to talk these through and ensure your views are shared with the adopted person.

You can also register your wish to have no contact on the Adoption Contact Register and you can write to the Adoption Agency that arranged the adoption to let them know that you do not want to be contacted by the adopted person.

However, whilst we can share with the adopted person your views about contact with  them we cannot guarantee that they would not then try to contact you directly themselves, although we would not share with them personal information which would assist them in tracing you. 

We would also ask you to remember that your views and feelings about contact with an adopted person may change over time so we would ask you to let us know if you did change your mind and decide that you would welcome some contact with the adopted person.  It is also possible that we would write to you on behalf of the adopted person in the future to clarify that you still felt the same way.

What do I do now?

If you live in Staffordshire and would like to speak to a social worker then please call 01889 256400 and ask to speak to the Duty Social Worker, who will be able to answer any further questions you may have about the enclosed information.

If you live outside of Staffordshire then you are advised to contact you own local Adoption Support team or to contact one of the agencies below.

Relevant Agencies

After Adoption                    
Unit 5                            
5 Blantyre Street                    
M15 4JJ
Helpline:  0800 0568 578

After Adoption
Suite A, 6th Floor
Albany House
Hurst Street
B5 4BD
Telephone: 0121 666 6334

After Adoption (Yorkshire)     
31 Moor Road
LS6 4BG   
Helpline: 0113 230 2100               

After Adoption (Wales)
1 The Kingsway
Telephone: 01792 461 720

South West Adoption Network
(based in Bristol)    
Helpline: 0117 373 0265