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Adoption - hypothetical question

(5 Posts)
leonardthelemming Mon 11-Apr-16 14:16:07

I'm putting this in teens because it's to do with a (hypothetical) 16-year-old. It's a bit of an essay, so don't feel obliged to read it if it doesn't interest you - but just perhaps there may be someone who can relate to this. My interest stems from the fact that I was adopted at a time when the received wisdom was to keep everything totally secret. As a result my (adoptive) parents grew old and died without telling me. I had guessed, but didn't mention it to them, and by the time I found out who my birth mother was she had also died. Although I fully understand that she may not have wanted to know me, I still resent not being given the chance to find out. And I haven't a clue about my biological father. I never really got on with my adoptive parents, either. I lived with them until I went to uni but hardly ever saw them after that. My fault? Maybe. Too late to change anything, either way.

But things are (a bit) different now. Once a person reaches 18 they have a legal right to find out who their birth parents are (as I understand it). It doesn't work the other way though - birth parents have no rights to contact their adopted child (although I think some communication may sometimes be allowed, via a third party, from any age. But now there is social media, and I read an article in the Guardian about how people are finding and contacting their birth parents/adopted children, before they are 18. And presumably this is illegal (and was never anticipated when the legislation was drafted).

I also read somewhere that a child over the age of 11 cannot be adopted against their wishes, but I can't find that reference again and what I'm reading now suggests that anyone under 18 can be adopted if a court decrees it and, although their wishes should be taken into account, they can be ignored. Whether this actually happens, I don't know.

I'm hoping that somewhere in the wealth of experience that MNers have, someone will actually know the answers to my hypothetical scenario - because if I can imagine it, sooner or later it's going to happen. And I have had no success in my research so far.

So here's the scenario:

16-year-old girl, living with her adoptive parents. She knows she's adopted and she's not happy living with them - hasn't been for as long as she can remember, in fact.
Using social media, she tracks down and contacts her birth parents. It transpires that they had her when they were very young (15) and they were advised/encouraged to put her up for adoption. Unusually (but it does happen) they are still together, responsible members of society, married (to each other), have two other children, and really regret agreeing to the adoption. In fact, they feel they were coerced.
But adoption is absolute. She can't be unadopted - they can't have her back, even though they very much want her. They don't have parental responsibility for her - that was passed to her adoptive parents.
But she's 16. She can legally leave home (her adoptive parents' home). Technically she needs their permission, but in practice not. The police wouldn't force her to return against her will, and the courts would only intervene if she was in danger. Suppose she went, voluntarily, to live with her birth parents. Presumably they would be breaking the law. So might she be. Yet, also presumably, she could live with someone else who doesn't have parental responsibility - her boyfriend's parents, for example - no questions asked. And presumably her birth parents could have an unrelated 16-year-old living with them - someone who also chose not to live with their own parents.

To me this seems like a legal minefield. Have I just got an overactive imagination? I did wonder if Human Rights legislation might be relevant but can't find anything.

Furthermore, her adoptive parents' parental responsibility ends if she gets married. Unlikely that she would - not many 16-year-olds want to enter into that sort of commitment - but just suppose. She needs their permission to get married, of course - in England or Wales. But people have been eloping to Scotland for generations and my understanding is that it is still possible - no residence requirement - and that such a marriage would then be recognised in England (or Wales). Would that make a difference? Nobody would have parental responsibility for her (as I understand it) but, unlike in the US where she could apply to the courts for emancipation, she would still be a minor.

Does anyone know? And if you don't, but have read this far, I hope you find the idea thought-provoking.

TeenAndTween Wed 13-Apr-16 11:54:00

I'm an adopter.

Most adoptions these days would have at least letterbox contact unless clearly not in the best interests of the child. So a relinquished child (your hypothetical situation, not taken in to care because of neglect/abuse but encouraged to give up due to age of parents) would I think be quite likely to have some form of letter contact via social services already.

As the 16yo has made contact first, I don't think that if she decided to live with the BPs this would be illegal in any way.

The whole 'parental responsibility' bit and getting married for a 16yo is the same whether adopted or non-adopted, and I don't know about that.

I think your scenario of an adopted child having the 'option' of moving in with BPs when having arguments/teens/tough times with adoptive parents is very similar (but potentially more devastating and disruptive) to what can happen with divorced parents. The teen/child has an 'option' to move in with another adult who will take them on. So there is less incentive for them to try to work through what can be just normal teen-parent issues. The parents being moved away from can often be one setting boundaries, expecting school work to be done etc, whereas the parent being moved to is more lax/permissive.

A more likely scenario is a child removed as a toddler due to neglect/abuse, who has attachment problems and almost a 'draw' back to the chaos of earlier life. Who hitting teen years then has the 'option' of another household to move to.

leonardthelemming Thu 14-Apr-16 17:22:38

Thank you, TeenAndTween this is quite helpful. I got started on this by watching the ITV documentary "Love Child" (2005) about what used to happen in the 1950s and found it quite emotional since I was adopted at that time - but was never told.

There is a more recent documentary "Please don't take my child" (2014) which is about the sort of situation you describe. I found it on YouTube. Quite thought-provoking.

TeenAndTween Thu 14-Apr-16 18:13:37

Have you come across the Adopters board (under Becoming a Parent)? Although mainly adopters on there, there are also some amazing birth parents and some older adoptees.

Adoption is a fraught situation - my eldest was 8 when she came to us. It is certainly very different nowadays from 50/60 years ago. I do think the openness these days is much better, as there is never a 'big reveal' as an adult or by accident.

leonardthelemming Thu 14-Apr-16 18:16:10

Thanks - I'll have a look at that.

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