Advice for 17 year olds
Normally the contact service comes to an end when you are 18 years old, although in special circumstances this can be extended until your 21st birthday. For example, if you live with a younger brother or sister and they are also exchanging letters or emails, or having direct contact with your birth family, the Connecting Adoptive Families Independent Service (CAFIS) will continue their contact service until they are 18.
When the contact service ends, it's up to you what happens next. You may want to continue contact, or you may want contact to stop. Whatever you decide, CAFIS can support you and will help explain your decision to your birth relatives.
Continuing indirect contact
If you'd like to continue indirect contact with your birth family and your contact agreement has come to an end, you'll need to make your own arrangements for how it will work. You may have a member of your extended family or close friends who would allow their address to be used by birth relatives. You might consider opening a Post Office Box (PO Box) or a separate email account as an alternative and safe means of maintaining contact.
Changing your contact arrangements
If you want to change your contact arrangements once you're 18, the intermediary service must take into account the safety and wellbeing of anybody who will be affected by your decisions. This includes members of your birth and adoptive families. By law the needs of the children always take precedent. This means that if you have a younger brother or sister living with you who was adopted, CAFIS will need to consider the impact that any change in arrangements to the contact with your birth family, will have upon them. This may involve consulting with your adoptive parents.
If you're considering meeting your birth relatives, please call CAFIS on 01795 532081 so that they can give you help and advice to ensure that you manage this in a safe and successful way.
Confirming your contact preferences
For a charge of £15, you can use the Adoption Contact Register to confirm whether you'd like to be contacted or not. You can also set conditions for contact, for example if you'd be happy to be contacted by a birth sibling but don't want to be contacted by a birth parent.
Contacting other members of your birth family
Once you reach the age of 18, you have the right to request the support of an intermediary service such as CAFIS. You will be allocated an experienced project worker, who will contact members of your family on your behalf to request contact with you. Your identity is kept confidential until you feel confident in the situation and that it is safe to disclose personal information.
Accessing your adoption records
Once you are 18, you are entitled to see the information that is held about you on your adoption records. You may already have a lot of information about the circumstance of your adoption but seeing your adoption records may help you gain a fuller understanding of what happened and the reasons why. However, CAFIS do not share the in-care files, you will need to contact social services for this.
Your adoptive parents don't have to be involved as the law considers you to be old enough to make your own decisions. However, in most cases the support of your adoptive parents is essential and really important in helping you through what can be a difficult journey. There may be information on your file that you are not anticipating.
To access your adoption records you need to contact CAFIS, email email@example.com or call 01795 532081. We'll then arrange for you to meet with a social worker who will support you through this process. We may not be able to contact you straight away as we're already helping a lot of other people, but we'll contact you as soon as we can.
Help deciding what to do
There is no time limit on your choice and what you decide to do today may differ from what you will think in 5 or 10 years’ time. Your options to access your records and renew contact with your birth family remain open to you throughout your adulthood. Research indicated the average age for an adopted adult to ask to see their adoption records is in their mid-30s. It is usually prompted by a major life event of your own, for example getting married, having a baby or experiencing a loss.
It is important that you feel prepared and feel secure in your life if you decide to.