Wanting to know more about your birth family and your life before you were adopted is understandable, and depending on when you were adopted there will be certain information that you have a legal right to access. However, this can be a challenging experience, and it is important to think carefully about your reasons for wanting to do so and to be clear about the potential risks involved. It is worth contacting your appropriate adoption agency (AAA) or a support service such as PAC-UK who can provide support and information to help you consider the impact of finding out about your life before adoption.

Your Appropriate Adoption Agency (AAA) is the organisation that arranged your adoption. This is usually the local authority where you lived at the time you entered care, but may be a VAA depending on when you were adopted.

In April 2020, Family Action launched FamilyConnects, a website which helps adults who have been adopted or in care find answers to questions about their origins. Developed with the insight and leadership of experts David Holmes CBE, Julia Feast OBE, University College London’s MIRRA project, and the Care Leavers’ Association, FamilyConnects provides information, guidance, support, and signposting to help people explore their legal rights when accessing their birth and care records, what they can expect to receive, and how to go about searching for information in the first place.

The Adoption Search and Reunion website was launched in 2006 to provide information for adopted people, birth relatives and adoptive parents, and for agencies, professionals and volunteers who provide services for adopted people and their birth and adoptive relatives. The information available on the website applies to adoptions that were made before 30 December 2005, but may also be of use to people adopted on or after 30 December 2005. Please note that the ASR website is no longer regularly updated.

Searching for your birth records

When you were adopted, your adoptive parent(s) will have been given copies of documents giving information about your life before you were adopted. This includes information about your birth family and background, as well as the reasons for your adoption.

At the age of 18 years (16 years in Scotland) you have the right to ask for:

  • information given to your adoptive parents at the time of your adoption
  • information to help you get a copy of your original birth certificate
  • court documents about your adoption (except information about other people who don’t want to be identified).

On turning 18 years old (or 16 years old in Scotland), you have a right to the information that was given to your adoptive parent(s) at the time of your adoption. If your adoptive parent(s) haven’t given you this information and you don’t feel you can ask them for it, you can get this information from your Appropriate Adoption Agency (AAA).

If you know your birth name, you can get a copy of your original birth certificate from the General Register Office (the government office that holds records of peoples’ official documents).  If you don’t know your birth name, you can ask your AAA for this information. 

Court documents

At the age of 18 (16 in Scotland), you have the right to a copy of the following information from the court which made your adoption order.  (An adoption order is the agreement made by the court for you to be adopted):

(a) the application form from the local authority or adoption agency for your adoption order;

(b) the adoption order itself and any other decisions by the court about your adoption; and

(c) the court’s decisions about who had contact with you after the adoption order was made.

You can also have:

(a) any written record of the court's decision; and

(b) any reports given to the court by your Cafcass guardian and local authority.

If you know the court that made your adoption order, you can contact with them directly to request documents relating to your adoption.  Your AAA will know which court issued your adoption order if you don’t have that information.

Closure of adoption agencies

You may find that your adoption was arranged by an agency that has now closed. If this is the case, the best first step will be to contact your Local Authority, who should be able to point you in the right direction. Additionally, CVAA has some information, below, about where to go if the VAA through which you were adopted has recently closed.

TACT: The files will continue to be the responsibility of TACT and kept for 100 years in line with legal requirements. We have notified all Local Authorities who have placed children with TACT adopters about the closure. Any future request for access to TACT, IAS, FFC, PFC Family Ties & PHRAS files should be made by approaching the local authority the enquirer lives in. Local Authorities and Regional Adoption Agencies will then be able to request files from TACT.