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Human Rights and Adopted Children

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 24 Nov 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Adoption Human Rights Child Adopted

Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“the ECHR”) upholds the right to start a family. The 1998 Human Rights Act enshrines this right in UK law. The right to start a family includes the right to adopt a child. The ECHR does not oblige governments to provide adoption facilities; it does require governments to ensure that any systems for adoption which operate do not interfere with this right.

Article 14 of the ECHR states that the other rights contained in it should be applied without discrimination on any basis including sex, race, birth or “other status”. In broad terms the ECHR protects both the right to adopt a child and to enjoy the other rights contained within it without discrimination - regardless of whether one is adopted or adopts.

Equality Laws and Adoption

Recent UK equality laws restricted the ability of organisations to discriminate in the provision of services. The laws have meant that some religious, charitable organisations which previously provided adoption services may be prevented from doing so because they did not provide adoption services on an equal basis to all members of society. For example, some Catholic adoption charities - which only provided adoption services to heterosexual, married couples - breached the new equality laws.

UK equality laws do give some leeway to religious organisations which discriminate in accordance with the doctrine of their religion. However, anti-discrimination laws will be more strictly applied to publicly-funded adoption services operating in the wider community than to a religious organisation which operates on a more private level.

Rights of an Adopted Child

The laws which apply to adopted children depend, to some extent, on when they were adopted. The Adoption Act 1976 applies to children adopted before 30th December 2005 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002 applies to children adopted from 30th December 2005 onwards. However, many of the rules contained in the two Acts are similar.

When a child is adopted in accordance with UK law, the child generally acquires all the rights and entitlements of a biological child. In legal terms it is as if the adopted child was born to their adoptive parent or parents. A child who is legally adopted by British citizens will usually be treated as a British citizen regardless of the country of its birth.

Children adopted in accordance with UK law will also have the same rights to inherit their adoptive parents’ estates as would biological children. If a person dies intestate, (ie. without having made a will,) their adopted child has the same right to inherit their estate, or a share of it, as any biological children. This right is dependent on the child having been validly adopted in accordance with UK law and the entitlement may not exist if a child is adopted abroad and the foreign adoption was not formalised under UK law. Adopted children lose the automatic right to inherit from their biological parents.

In most of the UK, children who have reached the age of 18 have the right to see their full birth certificate, which may reveal that the child is adopted and give the name of their biological parents. In Scotland children have the right to see their birth certificate from the age of 16. A record of all children who have been adopted is now kept on the Adopted Children Register.

Adopted children who have reached the age of 18 may use another register, the Adopted Contact 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 contact them. However, the biological relatives must also have registered their details for this system of contact to be effective.

Rights of Adoptive Parents

Technically anyone over the age of 21 is eligible, and “has the right”, to be an adoptive parent. However, according to the Adoption and Children Act 2002, the welfare of the child must be the “paramount consideration” of both adoption agencies and of any court asked to make an adoption order. Therefore, a wide range of eligibility criteria can, and will, be applied to prospective parents.

These criteria should only relate to factors likely to influence an applicant’s ability to be a good parent and may vary according to the individual child. The line between discriminating against a prospective parent and protecting the child’s best interests may sometimes be blurred. For example, opinion is divided on whether children should only be adopted by those who share the child's ethnic background. Prospective parents who are rejected because they are from a different ethnic background could claim that they have been discriminated against and had their human rights curtailed. However, if this decision is deemed to be in the child's best interests the prospective parents' rights may have to take second place to the child's welfare.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi I'm 17 and want to be adpoted by my stepdad.Do I need my biological fathers permission to do this? Also what will that do to his rights if I do do this.And if he doesn't consent am I able to get adopted when I turn 18? Thank you.
EffieWright - 24-Nov-17 @ 1:48 PM
Sambo - Your Question:
My children were adopted as babies. One of them has been in contact for a short period via social media but has since stopped contact with no explanation as to why. Do I have any rights regarding this?

Our Response:
You don't really have any rights until your children turn 18 unfortunately.
AboutHumanRights - 17-Nov-17 @ 3:09 PM
My children were adopted as babies. One of them has been in contact for a short period via social media but has since stopped contact with no explanation as to why. Do I have any rights regarding this?
Sambo - 16-Nov-17 @ 6:15 PM
Dunk - Your Question:
I’m a 22year old single male, and I want to adopt a 16 year old as I don’t think I can have children and as his dad is really struggling keeping him, as he has 2 other dependent children, would I be able to adopt him with his fathers consent or would it be better to become his legal guardian??

Our Response:
You could apply to become his legal guardian. It doesn't sounds as though his dad really wants to give him up for adoption from what you say.
AboutHumanRights - 14-Nov-17 @ 2:27 PM
I’m a 22year old single male, and I want to adopt a 16 year old as I don’t think I can have children and as his dad is really struggling keeping him, as he has 2 other dependent children, would I be able to adopt him with his fathers consent or would it be better to become his legal guardian??
Dunk - 12-Nov-17 @ 11:16 PM
Trez - Your Question:
I have kinship of my 2 grandchildren aged 1 & 3 ive had them nearly a year but they will be getting adopted as I cant look after them long term cause of mental health problems I want to but know I can't this will happen before Christmas & it's destroying me I cant find peace with it at all the thought of never seeing them again is killing me!! Do I have rights to still see them if ive brought them up for a while ive got an incredible bond with them

Our Response:
You can talk to the adoption agency about this, it's possible that they will talk to the prospective adoptive parents and ask if some level of contact can continue.
AboutHumanRights - 27-Oct-17 @ 3:36 PM
I have kinship of my 2 grandchildren aged 1 & 3 ive had them nearly a year but they will be getting adopted as i cant look after them long term cause of mental health problems I want to but know I can't this will happen before Christmas & it's destroying me i cant find peace with it at all the thought of never seeing them again is killing me!! Do i have rights to still see them if ive brought them up for a while ive got an incredible bond with them
Trez - 26-Oct-17 @ 1:49 AM
Happychild - Your Question:
We are English , lived in mainland Europe for a while and adopted a girl who is an EU national.Then moved back to England with her. She has additional needs. What are her rights to things like : pupil premium and assess to other things adopted children get in the UK?

Our Response:
Have you made an application for your daughter to acquire British citizenship? You need to do this in order to access the help that she needs. Here's where to find more information and the relevant forms to complete
AboutHumanRights - 24-Oct-17 @ 11:34 AM
We are English , lived in mainland Europe for a while and adopted a girl who is an EU national .Then moved back to England with her . She has additional needs . What are her rights to things like : pupil premium and assess to other things adopted children get in the UK?
Happychild - 21-Oct-17 @ 5:12 PM
Im woundering if anybody could help me,tl theres a 16 year old in care i am currently trying to get to live with me.. she has a younger brother who is 4 and they have allways been in each others lives untill bout 6 moths ago as there parents are unfit to look after them they have been recently split as social dont want the 16 year old to play mother to her little brother anymore like she is used to but now social services are slowly reduceing the contact and are trying to get her little brother adopted out so she cant contact him untill he is 18!! Surely theyre not allowed to do that ? Theyve grew a bond. there brother and sister and its not their fault on the cirmcumstances its theire parents. Why should they suffer??
ashley - 15-Oct-17 @ 9:22 PM
As an adopted child, now having connected with my biological mother for the last 11 years - do I have any influence in her wellbeing - particularly in relation to her health. She is in the early stages of dementia and I have grave concerns for her wellbeing - however my cousin refuses to acknowledge or engage with me about these concerns. Am I able to 'take control' of my birth mother's health needs? If I am how do I go about this?
Nellie - 10-Sep-17 @ 10:30 AM
Jamie - Your Question:
My daughter was adopted at the age of 3 and she is nearly 13 now and me and her have contact the adopted parents don't no and we have also meet, and she begs me to let her live with me I want her with me can she come home? I don't no what to do social services haven't really give me any advice? Can someone help

Our Response:
It isillegal under UK law to try and make contact with an adopted child, at least until they turn 18 years of age. If your child is having problems with her adoptive family, she should contact social services, NSPCC or Childline etc. If she does not have problems but simply wants to meet up with you, she should discuss this with her adoptive parents.
AboutHumanRights - 6-Sep-17 @ 2:32 PM
My daughter was adopted at the age of 3 and she is nearly 13 now and me and her have contact the adopted parents don't no and we have also meet, and she begs me to let her live with me I want her with me can she come home? I don't no what to do social services haven't really give me any advice? Can someone help
Jamie - 5-Sep-17 @ 12:59 AM
Meg - Your Question:
I was adopted when I was a baby and I had a sister but she left the home I was in before I could get to meet her. How do I find her?

Our Response:
If she is over 18 now, you could start by asking around local adoption agencies. Start with the local council of the area in which you were living at the time.
AboutHumanRights - 18-Aug-17 @ 2:06 PM
I was adopted when I was a baby and I had a sister but she left the home I was in before I could get to meet her. How do I find her?
Meg - 16-Aug-17 @ 10:29 PM
Rob - Your Question:
Hi me and my wife have 3 kids together 4th child not to me, I was wondering if I could adopt the child I've been beside his side sin e he was born 9 years ago he knows me as his dad. What rights do I have

Our Response:
If the biological father is not around, or if he is, he consents to it, you should be able to to apply to do this.
AboutHumanRights - 8-Aug-17 @ 2:39 PM
Hi me and my wife have 3 kids together 4th child not to me, I was wondering if I could adopt the child I've been beside his side sin e he was born 9 years ago he knows me as his dad.... What rights do I have
Rob - 7-Aug-17 @ 8:24 AM
What are my rights as biological mom- who child was adopted thenabandon by adopted mother at the age of 15 and is now my biological daughter is living with me.
Vicky - 30-Jul-17 @ 4:48 AM
Jude - Your Question:
Hi.I was born in Australia to a English mother and adopted out to Australian parents who are both deceased.I have known my biological mother and my siblings since I was 18. I'm now in my 50s.I would live to know if I can claim dual citizenship or does being adopted rule this out? I have relatives in England and would like the same rights as my natural siblings.Thanks for any advice re this.

Our Response:
Ordinarily, you lose any rights associated with your biological parents if you are adopted. You could try talking to an immigration adviser to see there are other options available to you.
AboutHumanRights - 28-Jul-17 @ 12:29 PM
Hi. I was born in Australia to a English mother and adopted out to Australian parents who are both deceased. I have known my biological mother and my siblings since I was 18. I'm now in my 50s. I would live to know if I can claim dual citizenship or does being adopted rule this out? I have relatives in England and would like the same rights as my natural siblings. Thanks for any advice re this.
Jude - 26-Jul-17 @ 7:59 AM
Heartbroken- Your Question:
My daughters are being adopted through the courts as they say I'm clincly depressed and my 2 yr old and 3 yr old can't wait in foster care until I come out of my depression. As I was physically mentally sexually abused by there dad. When can my children ask to find me? What is the legal age? Can I appeal please help me

Our Response:
Once a child is adopted, they cannot be contacted (except by agreement/letter box contact) until the age of 18.
AboutHumanRights - 24-Jul-17 @ 12:16 PM
My daughters are being adopted through the courts as they say I'm clincly depressed and my 2 yr old and 3 yr old can't wait in foster care until I come out of my depression. As I was physically mentally sexually abused by there dad. When can my children ask to find me? What is the legal age? Can I appeal please help me
Heartbroken - 17-Jul-17 @ 5:47 PM
Jess - Your Question:
My 3 year old daughter has just been adopted and I have been told I can no longer display photographs of her in my home,is this true?

Our Response:
No this is not true. You may need to be careful about posting them on social media though. Talk to your social worker or adoption agency worker for more information.
AboutHumanRights - 30-Jun-17 @ 12:21 PM
My 3 year old daughter has just been adopted and i have been told i can no longer display photographs of her in my home,is this true?
Jess - 29-Jun-17 @ 2:01 PM
Donkey1973 - Your Question:
HiI'm 44 years of age. I was adopted at birth as my Irish Catholic parents couldn't handle the shame of having a child out of wedlock, their words not mine. My adopted parents were vile and ignored me being abused for a number of years. The culprit eventually confessed and served four years. i have not seen my adopted parents for over 21 years and have no intention of ever seeing them again. This has suited me as I've done very well for myself. After my daughter was born I reconnected with my biological parents who I really get on well with. I mentioned to my biological parents that I was going to enquire as to whether I could legally eliminate my adopted parents from my life and the joy in their faces was huge. I know we are a family now no matter what a bit of paper says but I know they would love for me to be deemed their child in the eyes of the law. Basically I'm asking is there any way I can divorce these losers from my life ?

Our Response:
There is no facility to "divorce" or "annul"your relationship with adoptive parents in this country at the moment.
AboutHumanRights - 22-Jun-17 @ 10:44 AM
Hi I'm 44 years of age. I was adopted at birth as my Irish Catholic parents couldn't handle the shame of having a child out of wedlock, their words not mine. My adopted parents were vile and ignored me being abused for a number of years. The culprit eventually confessed and served four years. i have not seen my adopted parents for over 21 years and have no intention of ever seeing them again. This has suited me as I've done very well for myself. After my daughter was born I reconnected with my biological parents who I really get on well with. I mentioned to my biological parents that I was going to enquire as to whether I could legally eliminate my adopted parents from my life and the joy in their faces was huge. I know we are a family now no matter what a bit of paper says but I know they would love for me to be deemed their child in the eyes of the law. Basically I'm asking is there any way I can divorce these losers from my life ?
Donkey1973 - 19-Jun-17 @ 10:32 PM
To learn more on human right.
Baloshi - 17-Jun-17 @ 7:42 PM
Shelly - Your Question:
Hi just a little advice please just found out by a family member they seen my father has passed away I wasn't informed I haven't seen my father since I was 14 he re married I think he will of made a will would I be untitled to any of his estate thank you

Our Response:
If he re-married and didn't make a Will, his property and most of his assets will go to his spouse. If he made a Will, you will have to see what was written in it, to see whether he left anything to you.
AboutHumanRights - 16-Jun-17 @ 12:50 PM
Hi just a little advice please just found out by a family member they seen my father has passed away I wasn't informed I haven't seen my father since I was 14 he re married I think he will of made a will would I be untitled to any of his estatethank you
Shelly - 13-Jun-17 @ 11:43 PM
Koala - Your Question:
Does a child who was born abroad, but adopted in the UK by British parents retain his/her first nationality, as well as gaining British citizenship by being adopted?

Our Response:
This is not always straightforward. There is some more informatin on the governement inter country adoption pagehere and on Child law advice page here
AboutHumanRights - 13-Jun-17 @ 10:58 AM
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