Why does the process take so long?

why does the finding birth relatives process take so long

This leaflet has been written from our experience and expertise. In this leaflet we discuss why this process takes so long, and why it’s different for every case and what we are doing about it!!

If you have difficulties with language or reading, please let us know and we will read this information over the phone or to someone who can support you.  Should you need any further information or support about this matter you can phone or email us via the details on our website.

We know it is frustrating to wait to hear whether or not we can proceed to write to your relatives.  Some people must think ‘I could just get on-line and do this’.  So, these notes are just to give the details as to why it takes so long, and to let you know that we are always working behind the scenes to push your case forward.   The most important thing to know is that we are obligated by the Adoption Act to go through a legal process, and we do have to do this without exception.  We are Ofsted registered and they will inspect our processes to see that we are keeping to the appropriate actions in order to keep you safe.

Firstly, we write to the General Records Office to establish whether or not we can access your file, and where it is placed.  This is a relatively reliable process and we usually have our requests returned in less than six weeks.  They will tell us the name of the agency involved in your adoption. 

Once this task is complete, we then write to the Adoption Agency that managed your adoption.  We have to ask them if any veto has been placed on the file, i.e. if people have already said they don’t want to be in touch.  We gather information from that file that may help us trace your relative.  Sometimes the Adoption Agency don’t have a file and we will have to go to the relevant court for the papers relating to the adoption.  The adoption agencies at present take somewhere between one month to six months to respond.  This is generally, they say, due to volume of work and pressure.  For example, the General Election caused delay late last year to many of our files.    In our view this is not appropriate, and below we tell you what we are doing about this.  Sometimes they will write to us and say that they cannot find the file, although this is an exception.  If it is going to take a long time we will write regular letters to them to push the process along. 

By law we are required to take ‘reasonable steps’ to establish the position regarding the file and the information on there.  If we do not get that information after some time has elapsed, we will evaluate the situation and make what we deem to be an ethical decision based on what we have done so far.  We always take reasonable steps and keep to the legal process, and so if you are being kept waiting long enough we will often make a decision to move forward based on the information that we have.  We do, however, have to be seen to have waited for a reasonable length of time before we can do this, and this decision cannot be made lightly or without careful consideration as to the implications.    When we make this decision, we do it with you in mind, but we also have to think of the subject of the search.    It is highly likely that at some stage we will have to explain the reasoning for our decision to Ofsted, and so we need to be absolutely scrupulous about what we are doing.  If we do move forward, and we have not heard from an Adoption Agency, we will be extra careful in contacting your relative, advising them of their right to place a veto if they wish.    

So…..with you in mind….we will move forward, but the wait is necessary.  In our view a six month wait is unreasonable.

Here is what we are doing about this complex process. 

Rest assured that we are as concerned as you are about what happens here with regard to public authorities who are supposed to find your files.  We have busied ourselves with the following actions on behalf of all our clients who have had to wait.  

– Taken legal advice from a Queens Counsellor as to what is deemed to be ‘reasonable steps’ and to check if we are doing the right thing by moving forward when Adoption Agencies don’t write to us.

–  Notified the Government Inspection body Ofsted that we are questioning the length of time this process is taking on behalf of our clients.  They have said they will be looking at this and get back to us.

  • Notified our M.P and the Minister for Education of our concerns. 

–  Written an article for the Parliamentary Review so that it comes to the attention of the Prime Minister and other ministers.    Dave Oates will be meeting with Boris Johnson in March and hopes to raise the issue.

– Raised the issue with the Consortium of Adoption Support Agencies – no conclusion as yet.  We will be attending a meeting with them in March at the Department of Education. 

And we are considering the possibility, as advised by our Barrister,  of opening a Judicial Review into the matter so that we can force the hand of the government to make sure all Adoption Agencies throughout England act within a reasonable amount of time. 

Rest assured that on behalf of all our clients, and the subject of our searches, we are grinding away to get a good result on this and free up the search process.  Please talk to us if you are wondering what is happening and we will give you the latest update on your file. 

From the Adoption Team at

Joanna North Associates Ltd.