The Daily Mail features an article today about the respective ties that an adopted child has towards their biological parents, and the parents who raise them.
The article features the case of ‘Kayleigh’ who was taken into care at 5 as a result of social services intervention and subsequently adopted. The article reports Kayleigh of speaking highly about her childhood and accepting that she had a stable and happy upbringing, but explains that later in life she struggled with the way her adoptive parents dealt with her increasing independence. It is reported that she found her birth mother via Facebook, and after re-establishing her relationship “left” her adoptive parents to live near her biological mother and is now estranged from the couple who raised her.
The case is relevant to the current debate about the differing nature of parenthood as the make-up of families differ with the increase of scientific techniques and high numbers of children needing adoptive homes. Increasingly, the Courts are recognising that there are different ways in which a person can be a parent to a child – whether it be legally, biologically or psychologically, and each case will be fact specific in respect of which of those factors is likely to carry the most weight as against the final arrangements for who cares for the child, and on what legal basis.
The case is also relevant to the growing complications that social media can have for children who have been removed from their families on either an interim or permanent basis. Increasingly, this is something which the Court needs to address when finalising the terms of any order for a child in care. Many adoption specialists report that research suggests that keeping a child totally separate from the truth about their birth family can often lead to idealisation and an increased (and often unrealistic) desire to be reunited, however too many links or too much contact can risk destabilising the placement and ultimately leading to the breakdown of the arrangements.
Alternative family structures often raise issues about what and when a child should be told about the circumstances of their birth and if relevant, adoption, as well as issues about the extent to which the various adults involved, in one way or another, should have a day-to-day role in the child’s upbringing. These can be difficult and complicated decisions and people involved in such circumstances should be aware that there are specialists out there who can provide expert advice, and help those involved work through the various options.
Good and experienced family lawyers know that a legal approach is not always the best answer to such issues, and will be able to point clients in the direction of appropriate agencies, such as After Adoption, a group we work with closely here at Slater and Gordon, who can assist.
These issues can be extremely concerning and emotional for all involved, but people should be reassured that they are common issues to surface and that there is help and support out there to assist people in dealing with them, when they arise.
Cara Nuttall is a Family Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.