Student Blog

Birthlink Student Corner Blog

Before coming to Birthlink for our observational placement, neither of us knew very much about adoption. The prospect of going somewhere new was exciting and was going to provide us with a completely new experience. This placement has opened our eyes to the world of adoption and made us recognise that the knowledge we have gained is relevant to every area of social work practice

From the very first day when we arrived at Birthlink, all the staff were open and honest with us, and happy to share all their knowledge and information about the organisation and what they do. We were provided with various meeting minutes and  reports and with information about the specific services. We were also encouraged to talk to all the staff about their own personal experiences, both of working in the field and in some cases having a personal adoption connection themselves. During  our first few days we had to opportunity to learn a lot about Birthlink itself, and how the service helps people who are affected by adoption. We heard stories about different people who had come to Birthlink looking for support, and how they were helped.

We spent a significant amount of time looking through records from the past, some of which dated back to the 1930’s when Birthlink was an adoption placing agency. We were able to look at old handwritten records, as well as some from later years which are held on microfiche and microfilm. We were struck by the differences in not only the language which was used, but also the changes in the style of information recording. The earliest records were very short and to the point, and contained very judgemental language, some of which we imagine could be very distressing or upsetting to an adopted person looking for information about their past. As time progressed the information recorded slowly became more detailed, and the language changed. We also saw the influence of a variety of different theories coming into the written files, in particular the influence of Attachment Theory and psychodynamic practice. In the early years there was little consideration for the impact of the adoption on the child, but from the 1960’s onwards we saw a significant change in this area where more thought was given to the needs of the child and how they could best be supported.

Birthlink also gave us the opportunity to meet with other agencies involved in adoption work, both in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Some of these agencies are currently working as placing agencies for children being adopted, but some are also involved in after adoption support. These visits helped us see that there are a lot of grey areas in this field of work, and dilemmas which are being experienced in many individual cases across the different agencies. What we saw however was that all the agencies were keen to help support each other and work in partnership. Birthlink hosts  a biannual practitioners support  forum, where after adoption professionals have an opportunity to meet up and share best practice and seek support from peers.

Towards the end of our first week there was a new link made on the Adoption Contact Register for Scotland.  We really saw that every new link made is celebrated by the staff and that they then look forward to supporting adopted people to reunite with their birth family members. We had the chance to look at some of the linked files over our 2 week placement, and saw that in some cases there had been links made between several different family members. We also saw that sometimes people were registered for a long time before a link was made, and sadly in a few cases the link was made too late for a birth parent. We heard many stories about different links and reunions, and whilst some did not turn out as hoped, there were many positive stories about adopted people finding their birth families and reuniting with them.

Adoption has in the past been a taboo subject that was brushed under the carpet, but what we have found in our 2 weeks at Birthlink is that it affects more people than we initially thought. Adoption remains a very difficult area of discussion for a lot of people, but the importance of finding out about your biological background and heritage can motivate people to talk about it.

Birthlink provides a safe space to explore any issues surrounding adoption as adoption is a lifelong process which  affects people differently and at different times throughout their lives.

December 2017