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Rethinking adoption and birth family contact: is there a role for the law?

Date:30 AUG 2018
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Lord Justice Andrew McFarlane has suggested that contact between adopted children and their birth relatives needs further consideration and that the law may have an important role to play in shaping contact plans. Elsbeth Neil's article in the September issue of Family Law ([2018] Fam Law 1178) draws on twenty years of research and makes practical suggestions for lawyers and social workers. This research has found that letterbox contact is the usual plan and only a minority of children have any face-to-face contact with birth family members, typically with siblings. Whilst letterbox contact is widely used, it is frequently not sustained over time or does not result in rewarding and meaningful exchanges of information. In contrast, families with experience of face-to-face contact are generally quite positive about these, particularly contact with grandparents and siblings. Suggestions for practice include questioning and resisting formulaic contact plans and pushing for more individualised solutions that address the specific needs of children. These plans should take account of the capacities of all involved to sustain purposeful, safe and rewarding means of staying in touch. It is suggested that courts have a key role to play in setting expectations at the placement order stage as to the contact children may need after their adoption.
The full version of this article appears in the September 2018 issue of Family Law

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