Whether you're just seeking more information or are actively searching for your records or your birth family, VAAs can help.
Where to start
Wanting to know more about your birth family and your life before you were adopted is understandable, and depending on when you were adopted there will be certain information that you have a legal right to access. However, this can be a challenging experience, and it is important to think carefully about your reasons for wanting to do so and to be clear about the potential risks involved. It is worth contacting your appropriate adoption agency (AAA) or a support service such as PAC-UK who can provide support and information to help you consider the impact of finding out about your life before adoption.
Your Appropriate Adoption Agency (AAA) is the organisation that arranged your adoption. This is usually the local authority where you lived at the time you entered care, but may be a VAA depending on when you were adopted.
In April 2020, Family Action launched FamilyConnect, a website that helps adults who have been adopted or in care find answers to questions about their origins. Developed with the insight and leadership of experts David Holmes CBE, Julia Feast OBE, University College London’s MIRRA project, and the Care Leavers’ Association, FamilyConnect provides information, guidance, support, and signposting to help people explore their legal rights when accessing their birth and care records, what they can expect to receive, and how to go about searching for information in the first place.
The Adoption Search and Reunion website was launched in 2006 to provide information for adopted people, birth relatives and adoptive parents, and for agencies, professionals and volunteers who provide services for adopted people and their birth and adoptive relatives. The information available on the website applies to adoptions that were made before 30 December 2005, but may also be of use to people adopted on or after 30 December 2005. Please note that the ASR website is no longer regularly updated.
Searching for your birth records
When you were adopted, your adoptive parent(s) will have been given copies of documents giving information about your life before you were adopted. This includes information about your birth family and background, as well as the reasons for your adoption.
At the age of 18 years (16 years in Scotland) you have the right to ask for:
- information given to your adoptive parents at the time of your adoption
- information to help you get a copy of your original birth certificate
- court documents about your adoption (except information about other people who don’t want to be identified).
On turning 18 years old (or 16 years old in Scotland), you have a right to the information that was given to your adoptive parent(s) at the time of your adoption. If your adoptive parent(s) haven’t given you this information and you don’t feel you can ask them for it, you can get this information from your Appropriate Adoption Agency (AAA).
If you know your birth name, you can get a copy of your original birth certificate from the General Register Office (the government office that holds records of peoples’ official documents). If you don’t know your birth name, you can ask your AAA for this information.
At the age of 18 (16 in Scotland), you have the right to a copy of the following information from the court which made your adoption order. (An adoption order is the agreement made by the court for you to be adopted):
- the application form from the local authority or adoption agency for your adoption order
- the adoption order itself and any other decisions by the court about your adoption
- the court’s decisions about who had contact with you after the adoption order was made
You can also have:
- any written record of the court’s decision
- any reports given to the court by your Cafcass guardian and local authority
If you know the court that made your adoption order, you can contact with them directly to request documents relating to your adoption. Your AAA will know which court issued your adoption order if you don’t have that information.
If your adoption agency has closed
You may find that your adoption was arranged by an agency that has now closed. If this is the case, the best first step will be to contact your Local Authority, who should be able to point you in the right direction. Additionally, CVAA may have some information about where to go if the VAA through which you were adopted has recently closed – please email email@example.com to inquire.
Locating your birth family
Before you start a search for your birth family, do consider seeking support from the agency that arranged your adoption (Appropriate Adoption Agency, or AAA) or an adoption support agency (ASA). It is important to be clear about why you want to make contact with your birth relatives, as well as the impact of doing so on others. It’s also worth reading about other people’s experiences of contacting their birth relatives.
If you were adopted on or after 30 December 2005
- You can search the Adoption Contact Register (run by the General Register Office). This is a website where you can find out if someone wants to be contacted or not. Both adults adopted as children and birth relatives can sign-up to the register. Only people who have signed-up will appear on the register, so there is a chance that your birth relatives may not be on it.
- You can use public records to search for birth relatives via the General Register Office (the government office that holds records of peoples’ official documents).
- You can search the birth, marriage and death indexes to see whether or not your birth relative married, had children, and is still alive.
If you were adopted before 30 December 2005
You can use an intermediary agency to help you trace a birth relative if you were adopted or you’re related to someone who has been adopted. The fee for the service depends on the agency. Your AAA can give you more information on intermediary agencies.