The Adoption Contact Register
You can add yourself to the Adoption Contact Register at the General Register Office to:
- find a birth relative or an adopted person
- say you don’t want to be contacted
This is not a tracing service – for a connection to be made between people, you must both be on the Adoption Contact Register.
For more information see: https://www.gov.uk/adoption-records/the-adoption-contact-register
Adoption Contact Register and Vetos
The adoption contact register is held by the general register officer for England and Wales. It is where adults affected by adoption can record a wish about contact with birth relatives or adoptees.
The register was started in 1991 and you can add your details to Part 1. of the register if you are an adopted person or to Part 2. if you are a birth relative of an adopted person. There is a charge of £15 to place details on part 1. And £30 for part 2.
The contact register is not a tracing service and will only produce a find if the person you would like contact with has done the same.
Scotland and Northern Ireland operate their own adoption contact registers, separate to England & Wales.
NORCAP also previously held a contact register of around 58,000 names prior to its closure in 2013*
You can watch this video about the Adoption Contact Register:
How does it work? –For contact
Adults affected through adoption apply to the General Register Office to add their details to the register. The Adoptions Team at the General Register Office will then check the details, ensure they hold records of such and adoption and add the entry. They will inform you of a match for your relative/s as and when they register any wish for contact.
If when you register there is a match they will inform you soon after. However it is likely there will not be a match immediately, but quite possible one will appear in the future. It is therefore important to keep your details on the contact register updated, so if you move house, let them know.
This is important, particularly if you are an adopted person, as the General Register Office will only share information with adoptees about birth relatives when a match occurs. They do this by contacting the adopted person using the information held, they do not share information directly with a birth relative.
If you are an adopted person the details will be passed to you about the birth relative/s and it is then up to you to make contact. If you are a birth relative then you will be notified about the match, but will not be given the details.
How does it work? – For no contact
Adoptees and birth relatives can place a no contact wish on the adoption contact register. If this happens and you are already on the register the General Register Office will not inform you about this. If you are an adoptee and register a no contact wish, you will be notified even when a birth relative registers a wish for contact (and confirm how they relate to you). The birth relatives though will not be told of your no contact wish.
Information about a wish for no contact can only be shared with an intermediary/Adoption Support Agency who has applied to the General Register Office for this information.
What is the difference between a Veto and No contact Wish?
A no contact wish is just that. It is a note to say at that point in time you have expressed a wish not to be contacted. If you register a no contact wish, you might still be contacted. If an adoption support/Intermediary agency is aware of a previous no contact wish they may still approach you to ask about your current wishes if some time has elapsed.
If you are the birth relative of an adoptee then it is possible for you to be traced by the adoptee or someone acting on their behalf and for them to contact you. They are unlikely to know of any no contact wish in advance.
If you are an adoptee then it is usually not possible for you to be traced (without a registered Intermediary/ASA). This is because your identity (after adoption) is not known by your birth family, though there are some exceptions to this.
A veto is a block against any contact that can be registered by an adoptee only and does not apply to birth relatives. Veto’s cannot be placed on the adoption contact register, but must be held by the agency that holds the adoption files of the adoptee, known as the Appropriate Adoption Agency.
A veto can be “Absolute” or “Qualified”. An absolute veto is a complete block against any further contact from birth family, via an adoption support/intermediary agency. A qualified veto is where you can detail specifics about the veto. For instance you may be open to contact from siblings, but not birth parents. You may also be open to contact from an intermediary/adoption support agency to receive important medical information, but not wish for direct contact.
In our experience Veto’s are incredibly rare to find as are no contact wishes. However the lack of any pre-registered wish like these, does not indicate anything about how an adoptee or birth relative might feel about contact. This will only be know for certain when and if contact can be established.
Potential benefits and disadvantages of registering a veto
If you think you would like to register a veto, it is advised to consider this at length and also with the help of an adoption counsellor.
If you register an absolute veto, it will prevent any agency contacting you on behalf of a birth relative. If you think being contacted would be detrimental to you or your family then registering a veto can ensure you are not contacted before any attempts are made.
You can remove a veto at any time should your feelings change on the matter.
If you have been contacted more than once and do not wish for contact to be attempted again.
Most adoptees cannot be traced by birth family as their adopted name is not known. Therefore only a registered intermediary may contact them. An intermediary’s role is to help understand your circumstances and relay any information from the birth relative about the contact. This means you can decide what to do about having any contact at the time an approach is made.
If a birth relative does know your identity after adoption they may trace you directly and try and make contact. However we find most people would prefer to use an intermediary to make a sensitive approach. By registering a veto an intermediary may not be able to contact you. But this may mean a birth relative would bypass the process and make contact directly or through a third party, not registered as an intermediary.
It is possible you could be contacted for things that you might deem as positive or with useful information. This could be important medical history that may affect you or your own children if you have them. It could also be as the beneficiary of a deceased person’s estate.
An intermediary will be able to support you and provide information to allow an informed decision to be made. The intermediary will support you and respect any decisions made and provide counselling and support.
We have copied some useful links below, if you would like to learn more about the England and Wales Adoption Contact Register. We have also provided links to the adoption registers for Scotland and Northern Ireland, who operate their own registers. These work in a similar way, but legislation around adoption is different in Northern Ireland and in Scotland.
*NORCAP Contact Register – NORCAP ran a very successful contact register from the early 1980s so predating the General Register Office register. Unfortunately NORCAP went in to administration in 2013 and their register was closed to new entries. However the register was kept by Adoption Services for Adults, who have also now closed, before being passed to Family Action PAC-UK.