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June 10, 2022
Last month we introduced you to Sue, who supports birth parents whose children have been adopted or are in the adoption process.
Birth parents are just one of the three parties involved in the adoption triangle, with the adoptive parents and child being the other two.
So what happens when the child, or birth parent/family member, would like to learn more about their story or perhaps reach out to their birth family?
We sat down with Kate to find out…
“I’m a consultant social worker at SFCS and I deliver all of our Access to Records and intermediary services.
“Our adoption records go back to about 1946, so we have an archive full of recorded adoptions that we did.
“I help people access those records, and then they can go on to reconnect them with family members if they wish to. It begins with the tracing and searching, and then we reconnect people.
“We try and be the middleman, if you like… facilitating it all.”
“Yes. I’ve always done it at SFCS, since 2007, and I’d done it at previous jobs in other agencies. I have quite a long history of doing this work!”
“We would always suggest people access their records first, because that gives them context to their story.
“My job is to get all those documents together and collate them. We will compile a narrative to the story because often there are random documents and, if you don’t work in this industry, it can be quite tough to make sense of them.
“We will always provide as many documents as we can and we present them in a nicely bound folder, like ‘this is your life’.
“If after reading their records they’d like to try and trace their family, we’ll support them with that. I’m the only person at SFCS that does this work and I use various search engines; I might just Google a name, as plenty can come up, use something like Ancestry, or use a private system that isn’t available to the general public.
“We keep the client up to date at every stage, and once we’ve traced down their family member we would then write to them – it’s our policy to always write, not phone or email them.
“Writing seems an old-fashioned approach, but we feel it gives people time to think about their response because it’s a huge step for them. I also often think about the timing of that letter, and I usually write to them on a Friday so they’re not rushing to work with that letter in their hands, they’re at home and have got time to reflect on what I say.
“The initial letters are usually fairly bland. In the first instance, you’d say something like ‘I’m contacting you because I’m working for somebody who lost contact with a birth relative many years ago’. The letters are on headed paper so it’s clear it’s from an adoption agency.”
“Sometimes people respond, sometimes they don’t, sometimes they can take a very long time.
“We have a policy of writing three letters, then we will stop writing as it verges on harrassment.
“Sometimes things don’t work out; people may not respond or they’ll respond and say ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t feel I can go there’.
“I may find out someone’s died, and then I have to let the client know that sadly the person they’re looking for is no longer with us.
“Other times, things just don’t work out. Sadly people can have different expectations or perhaps they don’t have much in common.
“No matter what, we always support people through every case.”
“Before anything else, we verify everyone’s identity so we know we’re talking to the right people. Then, I would talk to my client and get them to begin thinking about that first meeting.
“I’d then have an interview with the person in question, too, and review what the implications of this meeting may be for them.
“After that, if everyone’s happy, we’ll go forward with the reunification.
“It’s heart-wrenching and rewarding at the same time. People often thank me, but it’s a real privilege to be able to do this and be part of such an important process. Even if things don’t quite end the way people wanted them to, they’ve often now got closure as they know their story and understand why it happened.”