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How confidential is the HomeStudy process?

The whole concept of adoption is geared around secrecy and confidentiality. And yet in practice this does not actually exist.


I want to just highlight an aspect about adoption which is not really mentioned and that is Confidentiality.  There is a general assumption that what you say to your social worker remains between you and the social worker and may be shared with the adoption team.  However, this is not the case. EVERYTHING that you say is written down and will be put on the records somewhere or other.  Information about you and your family, your past, your hopes, your dreams, your past relationships, your present relationships, your religious feelings etc. will be seen by hundreds of people. 

Adoption Agencies are required by Regulation to adhere to strict rules concerning confidentiality and security of information received from and about users of their services. Although agencies insist that information about you received in connection with an adoption application will be treated in the strictest confidence and stored securely in your individual case file this does not mean that it is confidential.

Once something is committed to paper then it never disappears. It is written in the report, which is copied and passed onto the team, and then copied and passed onto all the members of the panel, and then it is copied and moved to the Ministry of Education, who then copy it and send it to the notary who then copies and files each, and every, page of your additional documents. Your dossier then is sent in-country and filed and copied and sent to different departments and then to the Ministry and then to the Courts and I think that you probably get the picture by now!

Although adoption agencies promise not to disclose any identifying information about you to third parties without your permission (unless such disclosure is required by Regulation) the whole adoption process forms a footprint about you and your child.  And with computers and the internet there is no end to what may happen with it.

And this footprint is from people who are all ‘working on your behalf for the best interest of the child’, and with everything running smoothly.

Beware though. A London-based domestic adoption attorney writes:

“The whole concept of adoption is geared around secrecy and confidentiality. The adopters' identity is hidden from the birth family from the outset and the court proceedings are usually given a 'serial number' so the parties are unaware of each other. Do not be deceived by this: mistakes and cock-ups are common in the world of social work; the court procedure is muddled and information 'leaks through' without difficulty” (Fisher Jones)

In my own case, when I expressed concern about the public nature of my son’s history to the Family Court Judge, she put back her head and laughed. She looked me right in the eye and said, “Everyone here has access to your documents, every court clerk can have a look at them, what is the problem with that?” (She also said that ‘we don’t want a truck to come and take your child back to Russia, do we?’)

I don’t know what to suggest here. I don't think there is a way around this. It does not sit comfortably with me.  My son’s history is personal and to know that it has been photocopied and filed everywhere makes me feel very uneasy.  I am one who does not have blind faith in the good of official bodies. I just have to have a leap of faith that the information that ‘leaks through’ will not be too damaging in the future. And I do regret saying some of those things which quite frankly did not take my adoption forward and should have remained confidential to myself.

 This, though, is all ironic when YOU are not privy to the Homestudy!  The information held within the Homestudy becomes ‘Confidential’ as soon as information is received from the referees.  Unless you apply through the Data Protection Act, and the consent is given by the referee, you are not given access to the Homestudy report.  This becomes quite amusing with the notary, who fusses around and ensures that you can’t peep at the report, which is all about you, and which you have actually rewritten yourself as the social workers report was completely illegible.


There is another specific area in the Homestudy where ‘confidentiality’ comes in and that is on you or your partners health.

According to the guidelines where a couple are applying to adopt, they may be unaware of their partners health history.  ‘Such information remains confidential to the person it is about and should not be shared with their partner unless the prospective adopter gives their written permission’.

When significant health related information is not shared between the couple, the social worker will discuss this on a one-to-one basis to explore the reasons.

The social worker should then offer support and encourage the prospective adopter to share such information with their partner. ‘If they still remain reluctant to do so, this raises questions about the degree of openness in their relationship.’

I ask you to bear in mind the information footprint, when you are going through your Homestudy. Do not be fooled into believing that something is just between you and the social worker and spoken confidentially between the four walls of your home.

A point to note: The Homestudy, although paid for by you, remains the property of your adoption authority and they are able to do with it what they see fit.



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