Give adopted people the right to dissolve their adoption.

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My partner, Joseph Duncalf, was adopted as a young baby into a family with three older 'natural' children. Throughout his upbringing he was compared unfavourably to his adoptive siblings, and suffered considerable emotional and, at times, physical abuse. As a young teenager, he began questioning his sexuality, which led to his parents (who were staunch Catholics) becoming totally incensed and putting him into an adolescent psychiatric unit, where he suffered repeated sexual abuse at the hands of two staff members (one of whom was recently convicted of 9 offences against Joseph). His parents made no bones of saying they wished they had never adopted him and could not accept a gay child in their family - in the course of the recent trial, a letter emerged stating bluntly that they did not want Joseph in their home, because of his sexuality, and wanted him to be taken back into care. In the event, this did not happen, and Joseph was tolerated within the family until he left home at the age of 17.

In the last three years, Joseph has tracked down one of his birth family - an older sister - with whom he has formed a strong bond, and who was instrumental in him going to the police about the sexual abuse he suffered as a teenager. Having been forced to face up to the events of the past, including the past and more recent behaviour of his adopted family, Joseph now feels strongly that he would wish to sever all ties to them. As the law stands, for example, his adoptive siblings would have a claim over his estate which his natural sister does not have - he has made a will to ensure that this cannot happen, but his solicitors cannot guarantee that the adoptive family could not contest this will. Some time ago, Joseph changed his name by Deed Poll back to his birth parents' family name, but still feels that only a dissolution of the adoption would fully satisfy his need to be completely free of the family who have plagued his life in many ways over the years.

Having looked into the matter, it seems that currently, although there are precedents for adoptive parents dissolving an adoption, there is no mechanism for someone who has been adopted to sever the relationship with their adopted parents - certainly not once they have reached adulthood.

We are quite sure that Joseph's case is not unique. There must be a good number of adopted persons who have suffered significant hurt and rejection at the hands of their adoptive parents, and gone on to re-establish relationships with their birth family who would wish for a legal means of breaking the ties to the adoptive family and affirming their renewed relationship with their natural family. We would call upon the government to consider the needs and rights of the adopted person in this area and to introduce legislation which would enable them to gain legal recognition for the de facto change in their circumstances.