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Human Rights and Adopted Children

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 17 Jul 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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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
Hi I had my three children adopted on 2015 I get letter boxing now I've had a other baby and she got tooling away at birth I'm still trying to get her home but I was wondering if I fell pregnant again and I moved somewhere else could they still take that baby away from me my kids only got rooming away because I was in a bad abusive realiship and I was depressed
Marie - 24-Apr-17 @ 7:49 PM
Hi I had 2 children adopted but I have only just found out I wasn't able to contact them due to the foster carers not giving me an address is this legal
Steve - 21-Apr-17 @ 7:57 AM
Cpee3 - Your Question:
HiI was adopted in the early 80's.I was put in care due to police finding me with bruises all over my body(aged 2 or 3). I went to children's homes and foster care.I was eventually adopted at the age of about 9 or 10, due to my birth mother wanting me back. (She was and still is a heroin addict, prostitution was also a part of the equation)I was finally adopted by a lady , no husband but older children, who was abusive and disaplined me with slippers and belts.I was once sexually (not once) abused by a friend of her family. Luckily , but not lucky for me , he was caught in the act. The unlucky part for me is that my "mother" took me home and beat me terribly with the belt! I was no older than 10! My adopted mother then followed to kick me out of her house at 17!So, to the point.I have received my adoption records and after reviewing them.They state that there was a white family (mother & father) that wanted to adopt me. I was moved to a black mother (single) that physically and emotionally abused me.Should I have had support from social services when she kicked me out until 18 ?Was it down to me to advise social services of this ?Have I been let down by social services ?Ps , im nearly 40 and starting to fight my alcohol dependencey since the age of 17.Thanks crew!

Our Response:
Nowadays social services would support you until the age of 18 but we don't know what the policies were in the 80s. You can still report historical sexual abuse to the police. There are organisations that can help adult victims of child abuse, try NAPAC to start with.
AboutHumanRights - 12-Apr-17 @ 2:26 PM
Mouse - Your Question:
I had 2 children adopted 14 yes ago !Y son is 17 my daughter is 15 I had a break down and I was very vulnerable and I was in a bad place and bad people coming into my home I have 3 older children 2 of them was fostered and my oldest was getting into alot of trouble with police which didn't help I miss my 2 youngest I have letter box intact but I want to see them I have got rights as a birth parent I think or don't i

Our Response:
No, you cannot apply to make actual contact with them until they have turned 18.
AboutHumanRights - 12-Apr-17 @ 12:52 PM
Hi I was adopted in the early 80's. I was put in care due to police finding me with bruises all over my body(aged 2 or 3). I went to children's homes and foster care. I was eventually adopted at the age of about 9 or 10, due to my birth mother wanting me back. (She was and still is a heroin addict, prostitution was also a part of the equation) I was finally adopted by a lady , no husband but older children, who was abusive and disaplined me with slippers and belts. I was once sexually (not once) abused by a friend of her family. Luckily , but not lucky for me , he was caught in the act. The unlucky part for me is that my "mother" took me home and beat me terribly with the belt! I was no older than 10! My adopted mother then followed to kick me out of her house at 17! So, to the point. I have received my adoption records and after reviewing them. They state that there was a white family (mother & father) that wanted to adopt me. I was moved to a black mother (single) that physically and emotionally abused me. Should I have had support from social services when she kicked me out until 18 ?. Was it down to me to advise social services of this ? Have I been let down by social services ? Ps , im nearly 40 and starting to fight my alcohol dependencey since the age of 17. Thanks crew!
Cpee3 - 11-Apr-17 @ 12:07 PM
I had 2 children adopted14 yes ago !Y son is 17 my daughter is 15 i had a break down and i was very vulnerable and i was in a bad place and bad people coming into my home i have 3 older children 2 of them was fostered and my oldest was getting into alot of trouble with police which didn't help i miss my 2 youngest i have letter box intact but i want to see them i have got rights as a birth parent i think or don't i
Mouse - 11-Apr-17 @ 10:00 AM
I have a friend who had a little girl and they took her away at birth, she named her Joanne and would be around 36 now. She wants to find her but has no contacts, she had her in mill road Liverpool hospital but her mum has died so can not tell her anything, has anyone any information to how to find her?
Jay - 5-Apr-17 @ 11:42 PM
Peter - Your Question:
Hello. I have a friend who was adopted and is being abused physically in his home and he wants to go live with another relative. He wants to know how that can be done.

Our Response:
The best thing to do first is to tell an adult that he trusts such as a teacher. He can also call Childline number on 0800 1111
AboutHumanRights - 30-Mar-17 @ 10:56 AM
Milly - Your Question:
I had 3 children adopted when I was about 16/17 a child really myself, now 13 years on my life's changed for the better, always had letter box never missed a year, also never did they untill they stopped 3 years ago, only to find out a few months ago my son of 15 now was on a life support machine for 3 months and wasn't told he nearly died from an explosion, my 14 year girl cutting herself and is unhappy. And also my children are on child protection for mental abuse. My kids keep messaging me to wanna come live with me or at least have some contact which social services and adoptive parents won't allow. My son crys to me saying please mum I need u. Now ive been given a order by the police not to contact them can someone help me b3st way forward thank u

Our Response:
This is a really difficult situation but we can't really offer any constructive advice. In generalthe natural parents lose all rights once they've given up their children for adoption. Can you call the NSPCC or Childline about this? Just to be sure the children are safe? Once the children are 16 social services or the relevant adoption agency may be able to facilitate contact and at 18 of course they can do as they like.
AboutHumanRights - 30-Mar-17 @ 10:16 AM
Hello. I have a friend who was adopted and is being abused physically in his home and he wants to go live with another relative. He wants to know how that can be done.
Peter - 29-Mar-17 @ 12:43 AM
I had 3 children adopted when I was about 16/17 a child really myself, now 13 years on my life's changed for the better, always had letter box never missed a year, also never did they untill they stopped 3 years ago, only to find out a few months ago my son of 15 now was on a life support machine for 3 months and wasn't told he nearly died from an explosion, my 14 year girl cutting herself and is unhappy. And also my children are on child protection for mental abuse. My kids keep messaging me to wanna come live with me or at least have some contact which social services and adoptive parents won't allow. My son crys to me saying please mum i need u. Now ive been given a order by the police not to contact them can someone help me b3st way forward thank u
Milly - 29-Mar-17 @ 12:38 AM
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