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Human Rights and Adopted Children

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 10 Sep 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]
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
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?
Koala - 10-Jun-17 @ 10:18 AM
As an adoptee I understand that adoption in and of itself is a violation of a number of rights of the child. Especially I fell that the disinheritance of adoptees is a gross violation and punishment. Why should we have ALL our legal rights to our own families completely removed? We have done nothing wrong. As an adoptee I do not even have access to Family Provision legislation which would allow me to claim on my biological parents estate, whom I have had reunion with for now over 20 years, if I am left destitute. To argue that my inheritance rights have simple been "swapped" to my adoptive family is false: children under the care of non-biolgocally related adults already have a right to be provided for form the estate if they are in need. This right has merely been "enhanced" to become the "automatic" right to inherit of a child. This enhancement is NOT the same rights to inherit that have been absolutely taken from me - my full right to inherit off my own mother and father's estate. The only other class of persons disinherited by the State are murdered of their parents who aren't allowed to inherit and profit from their crime. It shocks me to hear that the "right to found a family" includes a "right to adopt." Is this REALLY true? How can you have a human right OVER ME - over another human being? That creates an obligation for a child somewhere to be severed from their family so they can provide themselves as fulfilment of your right to adopt. There is "access to adoption" but I don't see how you can have a right to adopt - that is tantamount to slavery as it is almost impossible for us to exit our own adoptions despite NEVER CONSENTING TO THEM. Adoption in and of itself is discriminatory and is a leftover form of servitude that must be reformed out of existence. We can give consistent loving care to children with disinheriting them, severing all their rights to their own families, trapping them in adoptions without their consent, and not providing welfare checks on their progress in the homes on non-biolgocally related strangers. Open records and open adoptions are merely the first step to making us equal citizens. Then there is the rest.
CML - 19-May-17 @ 9:25 AM
I was adopted in 1972 by two English people. My biological father was Spanish and my biological mother was English. Do I still have the right to claim Spanish citizenship? Spain confer the right to citizenship if one of your parents was Spanish, even if you were born abroad. Does this still apply to adopted people?
David - 18-May-17 @ 7:58 PM
Emily - Your Question:
Hi there, I am 20 years old and my parents split up just after I was born. My father remarried 5 years ago to a woman that he has now been with for 17 years. I no longer get along with my mother and wanted to ask my stepmother to adopt me. As she is a brilliant mother figure to me and always has been, I have done some research and found that legally she can't. What else can I do?

Our Response:
There isn't anything else you can do really except to treat her as your natural mother...a "label" shouldn't make much difference to your relationship.
AboutHumanRights - 17-May-17 @ 11:59 AM
Hi there, I am 20 years old and my parents split up just after I was born. My father remarried 5 years ago to a woman that he has now been with for 17 years. I no longer get along with my mother and wanted to ask my stepmother to adopt me. As she is a brilliant mother figure to me and always has been, I have done some research and found that legally she can't. What else can I do?
Emily - 16-May-17 @ 12:41 AM
hi i had my son adopted by social services two years ago i was never charged with anything nore have i heard. anything from social services in almost a year and half my partner wants to try for another child my question is if we had another child together would social services be able to intervene and take the child away from us again
liam - 13-May-17 @ 4:32 PM
Jenny - Your Question:
My mum had a son whom she put up for adoption in the 1960's. Do I have the right to look for him?

Our Response:
Yes, there is nothing stopping you from looking, but your brother/half brother doesn't have to agree to contact with you etc.
AboutHumanRights - 11-May-17 @ 11:44 AM
Karen - Your Question:
I have a grandchild he is going to be adopted his mum died but I can never see him till he is old enough I am heart broken I can't afford to take it to court is there anything I can do.

Our Response:
Many adoption agencies will involve families if they are willing and if the adoptive families agree? Have you been in touch with them?
AboutHumanRights - 10-May-17 @ 12:35 PM
My mum had a son whom she put up for adoption in the 1960's. Do I have the right to look for him?
Jenny - 9-May-17 @ 9:38 PM
I have a grandchild he is going to be adopted his mum died but I can never see him till he is old enough I am heart broken I can't afford to take it to court is there anything I can do.
Karen - 9-May-17 @ 2:22 PM
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