What rights do adopted children have?

The law applying to adopted children depends, to a certain degree, on when they were adopted. For children adopted before 30th December 2005, The Adoption Act 1976 applies, whereas those adopted after that date, The Adoption and Children Act 2002 is relevant. That said, many of the rules contained within the two pieces of legislation are very similar and overlap. Here, we take a look at the rights of adopted children.

What can adopted children do?

Interestingly, people adopted before 12th November 1975 are required to receive counselling before being allowed access to their adoption information. Those adopted after that date, are not legally required to seek counselling. Adopted children have the right to:

  • Inherit their adoptive parents’ estate. And if they died without making a will (intestate), they have the same right to inherit the estate, or a share of it, as any biological child. This right depends on the child being validly adopted in line with UK law. Adopted children lose the automatic right to inherit from their biological parents.
  • Gain access to their their full birth certificate for those who have reached the age of 18 (16 in Scotland). This may reveal whether they are adopted and provide them with the name of their biological parents. A record of all children who have been adopted is kept on the Adopted Children Register.
  • Use the Adopted Children Register to find their biological relatives. By adding their details to the Register, an adopted child indicates to their biological relatives that they wish to be contacted, and vice versa. However, for this to be effective, the biological relatives must also have registered their details on the system.

What steps can adopted children take to find their birth parents?

Any adopted person who decides to find their birth parents should be prepared for a lengthy and frustrating process. The law entitles individuals to the information contained in their original birth certificate, and to know which court or agency dealt with the adoption.

The following suggestions may be useful in your search:

  • The first step is to contact the relevant Register Office and obtain your original birth certificate. The information on it may enable you to use the electoral register and search the internet for any names and addresses given.
  • Using social media: for many people trying to locate birth family, using sites such as Facebook, has helped them to reunite with a birth relative. Timothy Welch, a teacher from London, was brought up by his adoptive parents, Eunice and Bill. When both of his parents died, it re-ignited his curiosity about his heritage. Timothy began his search by joining a closed Facebook group for families, mothers, and children who were born in his birthplace of Yateley Haven in Hampshire. On the site, he met an enthusiastic amateur historian who offered to help him trace his birth parents.
  • Contact the Adoption Contact Register – you can add your name to the register by completing form CR part 1. There is a small fee for registering, and you need to be over the age of 18. Relatives of adopted children can also add their names by completing form CR part 2 and paying a small fee.
  • You can use an intermediary agency to help you find a birth relative if you were adopted before 30th December 2005. There will be a fee for this service, which depends on each individual agency. If an intermediary agency finds a person, you will only be able to contact them if they agree to it. If they don’t agree, then the agency cannot reveal their name or address, but may disclose information such as their domestic or family circumstances and their general health and wellbeing.

Finding relatives in later life

It is common for adopted individuals to wait until they are much older to find their birth family. Perhaps their adoptive parents have died, or some other life changing event has occurred which has precipitated a move towards finding out more about their personal history. For example, Penny Green, a former charity worker from Bedfordshire, created a Facebook group for people who were born or have a link to The Haven which is a mother and baby home run by the Baptist Church, after finding out she was born there. Penny, now at retirement age, stayed with her birth mother after her mother refused to give her up, but Penny felt a connection to The Haven and wanted to help reunite adoptees, now later in life, with their birth families.


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