In this month's PAC-UK guest blog Tanya Killick shares her personal experience of accessing her adoption records. Tanya also offers tips and advice for young people who are thinking about accessing their files or making contact. A huge thank you from all at PAC-UK to Tanya for sharing her story and experience.

Tanya Killick - PAC-UK Child & Family Therapist & Adopteens Project Lead

My name is Tanya Killick, I am a Child & Family Therapist and Adopteens Project Lead at PAC-UK. I have a story about my own adoption which I wanted to share with you as I hope some of my experiences will be helpful for you.

I often reflect on the notion of turning 18 and legally becoming an adult and the extra layer of complexity that adds for someone who is adopted. For most people turning 18 their thoughts might be focused on passing their diving test, finding a job, going on holiday on their own, going to university or college, or having their first legal alcoholic drink.

As an adopted person you have all that still, but the more burning questions for many are the huge life altering decisions such as being able to access your adoption file, or whether or not you want to continue with letterbox contact or whether or not you want to think about face to face contact with birth family.

It feels like a lot to be pinned on the shoulders of an 18 year old and I hear lots of comments such as ‘when I’m 18 I can see my birth parents’ or ‘when I’m 18 I can access my file’. To me it feels like 18 has become a golden number, but one that I am cautious of and that my 18 year old self was also cautious of.

I didn’t come to think about my files or searching for my birth family until I was 23. I am not too sure of the reasons why, but maybe intuitively I knew that at 18 was not in the right place to do it. I was too busy getting through the day to focus on such a large and important part of my life. I started at 23 because I had found some independence in life, had settled into a job, had some stability and felt in a good place to start asking questions.

I had Facebook, but I didn’t even think to use it to search. I knew my birth mothers name, but I knew I needed proper support. I had questions about my files I wanted someone with experience of adoption to help me answer. I struggled talking to my family about it, because although they said they were supportive, I felt incredibly guilty (as so many adoptees do) and I knew they had never had any support about how this might feel for them.

I also couldn’t really speak to my friends about it because it was all fantasy for them and again I wanted someone ‘in the know’, someone who would really listen and understand my feelings. I am so pleased I did this as I was so used to putting everybody else’s feelings before my own and my social worker gave me the space to be heard and explained that my feelings were just as important as everybody else’s, if not more important as I was powerless in the decisions made about me as a baby.

When things didn’t work out they helped me put boundaries up and they also helped my birth parents get their own support. Without that I might have taken on the emotional weight of both my adoptive family and birth family which would have been very hard.

So I contacted the local authority and was supported by a very experienced social worker. Their support throughout the entire process (which took years) was invaluable. They gave me the freedom to explore things and express how I felt about it all which felt very safe. I could talk things through before writing a letter and when it came to meeting them they supported me with that.  

Despite all the support, my birth family and I don’t see each other because it is complex, emotional and each family member has a different view on my adoption. I have, with the support from my social worker and a group of very good friends been able to process that and can talk about it now without becoming upset by it. I know if I had done this via Facebook or any other social media I would probably be in a very different place with it all.

So when I talk to young people about accessing their files or making contact these are the questions I like to get them to think about first and feel they are really valuable in helping make decisions.

File access
  • What is driving your motivation? 
    • Have you been triggered by someone else?
    • Have you been triggered by something you have seen on TV or a conversation you have had?
    • Is accessing your file something you have been thinking about for a long period of time (months - years)

  • What support do you have around you?
    • Do you have supportive parents, friends or social worker who you can turn to and talk openly to about this? Support is essential!

  • What else is going on in your life?
    • Are you in a stable place? If you are doing exams, moving house, finished a relationship or started a new job, then now is probably not the best time.

  • Have you explored the information you already have? For example your life story book or any paperwork you have?
    • Have you talked to your adoptive parents recently about this, maybe you could broach the subject by text if your feel face to face might be hard?

  • Are you wanting a specific piece of information from your files?
    • If so can you request that specific information at the moment and come back to your file and further information later?

Contact with birth family
  • Have you accessed your adoption file? We always recommend this as a starting point where possible.

  • What is your motivation?
    • Have you been triggered by a loss? A recent change in friendship/ relationship? If so you may want to wait a few months – 1 year to see if you still feel the same towards contact.

  • Have you thought about what type of relationship you want with the person you want to contact? And how often do you might want contact?
    • How would you feel if a first family member started contacting you every day or alternatively they didn’t respond?

  • Who in the family would you like to build relationship with and are there people you don’t want a relationship with?

  • What support do you have around you? Who can you talk to freely about the situation? Good support is vital!

  • How would you manage unwanted contact from a first family member who you didn’t seek contact with but the person you are in contact with has shared your details with them?

  • Have you thought about what position your first family might be in, do you feel prepared for the fact they may not be in the best place, their life may be similar to when you were adopted. Or you may find that their life has changed significantly.
    • Have you considered how either of these might make you feel?

Tanya Killick | July 2021

Many adopted adults want to find out more about the reasons for their adoption which can lead to them searching for and sometimes contacting their birth family. Via our PAC-UK Access to Adoption Records, Searching and Intermediary Service we can access adoption records and work through them with you and discuss whether you want to look for your birth family. Our experienced researchers can usually trace birth family members and we can make intermediary contact with them on your behalf giving a better chance of a good outcome and giving you support through this emotional process. This service offers preparation for possible contact and/or reunion with birth relatives, as well as initiation of contact with birth relatives, in accordance with relevant legislation.

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Please note, all content published on this page is provided by our guest blogger/s, based on their real-life experiences. We invite you to discuss this blog via PAC-UK's Twitter profile and ask you to tag @PACUKadoption in to your posts and use the hashtag #PacukBlog

This blog is the fourteenth of our regular 'guest blogger' platform which we started in 2019. We would love to hear from adoptees, birth parents (and relatives), adoptive parents/carers, special guardians and professionals who are interested in taking part in future blogs. If this interests you please email