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Group to fight council on adoption policies.

A council could face a legal challenge after refusing to allow the birth mothers of adopted children any information on their sons or daughters.

London's Westminster City Council has so enraged adoptive lobby groups that one is now planning to challenge its decision to implement a no-contact policy and refusing to act as an intermediary between mothers and children.

Westminster holds 25,000 files on adopted adults after inheriting them following the closure of the National Child Adoption Association in 1978.

Many files date back to the Forties and Fifties, a time when single mothers were under extreme pressure to offer their children up for adoption.

Councils across the country have adopted policies of acting as intermediaries between birth mothers and their children, offering counselling and arranging contact between both parties or at least giving "essential" information to let mothers know their children are safe and well.

But social services chiefs at Westminster, one of the few London councils which have failed to adopt such a strategy, will not even let mothers know if their children are alive.

It is estimated that there are around one million adopted adults in the UK, but in recent years the number of adoptions has been declining, with 5,797 children adopted in 1995.

Ms Sheila Egan, of the North London Natural Parents Group, which is taking legal advice on the matter, said: "It is absurd that the physical location of the files can have such a devastating effect on how much information you can have."

But Ms Leigh Chambers, from the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, which offers advice to councils on adoption, warned that in some cases contact between the birth mother and the child she gave up for adoption could be harmful.

Though she added: "These mothers don't just forget. They tell us that whenever they see a disaster such as Hillsborough on the television it hurts because there is no way of knowing if their child was involved."

Mr Jonathan Djanogly, chairman of Westminster's social services committee, said: "Of course if birth parents contact us they are very welcome to log their details on the adoption files. The adoptee can then follow up and make contact if they wish - the key point being that the privacy of the adopted person remains paramount.

"We are dealing with a period in history when adoptive parents made their decision on the basis of confidentiality."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 2, 1998
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