Information for natural parents
Seeking information and making contact
Adoption is now seen as a lifelong process during which adopted persons, natural parents and relatives may want information about, and contact with, one another.
The Adoption Act 1984 gave Victorians impacted by adoption easier access to this kind of information. The introduction of the Act challenged old ideas about permanent separation, confidentiality and privacy. For many, access to information provides answers to questions and is viewed as a positive experience.
Natural parents, like others involved, are not always prepared for the implications of access to information. Family Information Networks and Discovery (formerly Adoption and Family Records Service) can assist natural parents with information and support if needed.
What are my rights?
Following the Amendment in 2013 to the Victorian Adoption Act, natural parents are entitled to receive identifying information about their adult adopted child including a copy of the adoption order and information from the records of adoption. As part of the Amendment an adopted person is able to regulate contact by lodging a contact statement outlining the type of contact they wish to have with their natural parent.
Natural parents can make an application to FIND or relevant authority on the prescribed form. FIND or the approved adoption information service will advise if there has been a contact statement lodged by their adult adopted child expressing wishes about contact. Where an adopted person has expressed a wish for no contact, penalties apply where the natural parent does not respect the wish for no contact. (See Contact Statements and Frequently Asked Questions).
You are entitled to leave information about yourself, with a note saying you would like contact if your child is willing.
If you do not want to be contacted, you can register your wishes with the FIND Register. You can include a letter providing some personal details, such as your health, education, occupation, and the reasons for not wanting contact.
This helps your adult child understand your need for privacy, and not misinterpret this as a rejection. This does not guarantee that they will not contact you, but it makes them aware of your feelings.
You may wish to leave information explaining the circumstances of the birth and adoption.
If you used a false name when you had the child, or you were in difficult circumstances, you may wish to leave information explaining this. FIND counsellors are aware of the difficulties faced by many natural parents and the era of forced adoption practices highlighted by the 2012 Senate Inquiry.
How to apply for information
FIND is an approved adoption information service that can release adoption records to eligible applicants. There are also three non-government adoption information services in Victoria - Anglicare, Connections and CatholicCare.
If you know the name of the non-government adoption agency you believe arranged the adoption, you may apply there for information. Contact details can be obtained from FIND.
FIND is the best place to start if you are not sure which agency was involved, or the agency has since closed down.
All applicants attend one interview with an approved counsellor before receiving information.
During the interview you will receive identifying information relating to your adult child taken from the adoption records. You will also be informed whether your adult child has previously made an enquiry about their adoption including if there had been a contact statement lodged by them.
The interview is not a personal assessment. It is a discussion and information session explaining the services available to you through FIND. It will prepare you for possible outcomes and provide you with information about support and self-help groups in the community.
What information can they receive about you?
Adopted persons over the age of 18 years can find out the following information:
- The name of the natural mother shown on records.
- The age of the natural mother at the time of the birth.
- The place of birth of the natural mother.
- The natural father's name and occupation, if recorded.
- Notes about natural parents recorded on agency files.
- Your wishes about information exchange and contact, if you have registered with FIND.
To receive the above information, the adopted person must first attend an interview. At this interview, they are provided with advice about how to make contact with their natural parent in a sensitive manner that respects their privacy.
Natural relatives and adoptive parents may also apply for information about the adoption, but they are not given identifying information without the consent of the adopted person.
If you are contacted
Natural parents who are contacted by their child experience a range of feelings:
- Shock is a normal first reaction.
- Excitement - it's a dream come true.
- Uncertainty - there's so much to consider.
- Fear - no-one knows... I can't let them find out now.
- Anger - the law should never have changed. We were told this could never happen.
Handling these feelings on your own can be difficult. Sharing them can help the adjustment process. Counsellors at FIND and other adoption information services understand adoption issues and can help you deal with any concerns.
VANISH is a community organisation based on the self-help model, offers a support service to all parties involved in adoption. They are happy to discuss your concerns over the telephone or in person. You do not need to give your name or commit yourself to further action. In the support groups, there are people whose lives have been touched by adoption. Other natural parents have had similar experiences and can appreciate your feelings.
Family Information Network and Discovery (FIND)
570 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 8608 5700 or
Local call: 1300 769 926