Intermediary services

If you have been separated from a relative through adoption and would like to receive an intermediary service, please complete our expression of interest form, which will help Family Action to identify which services you can access through our PAC-UK service and other providers.

This page explains all about intermediary services for people who were adopted before 30 December 2005 and are 18 years and over– what they are, how they can help and how to find them.

What is an intermediary service?

Help with searching

Who is responsible for providing intermediary services?


Do I have to pay for intermediary services?

Intermediary services for birth relatives

What is an intermediary service?

This is a specialist service that’s provided by a registered Adoption Agency who can make an approach to a birth relative to let them know of your interest in making contact. Intermediary services can be provided for adoptions that took place before 30th December 2005. For adoptions that took place after date then there is a different system.

It is often advised that using an intermediary to contact birth relatives on your behalf is the preferred option due to the provision of practical and emotional support. Speaking to an intermediary may also help your relative give a considered response, rather than an emotional one, when approached regarding contact.

However, as an adopted person you are also in a position to make direct contact if you have the current address for the person you are looking for.

For example, if you know your birth parents’ names and dates of birth you may well be able to use information in the public domain and internet search tools to find out their current address with reasonable certainty. If your relative has a common name such as ‘John Smith’, however, it is possible that you may have identified the wrong person. Be careful as an approach can cause great disruption to this person whether your information is accurate or not.

They may have longed to hear from you and have a reunion and respond positively, but other relatives may respond differently. Some birth parents may feel unsure and upset for many reasons – for example, they may have kept your birth and adoption secret from partners and family members or they may be at a time in their lives when any contact with you would be difficult.

Difficult feelings of loss felt at the time of your adoption may resurface and your relative may need time and support to manage these or they may have significant other difficulties which affect their ability to have contact with you and or build any kind of adult relationship with you.

Remember that making an approach can be a complex process for both you and your birth relative so it’s important to get it “as right’ as you can.  A professional intermediary will understand the range of feelings, issues and outcomes you and your birth relative may encounter and using one to make the approach can have lots of benefits, including helping you maintain privacy and distance until you and your relative feel you can be in direct contact.  An intermediary can also support you if contact is not possible.

Help with searching

Your adoption advisor may be able to provide information, advice and help to enable you to begin the search for your birth relatives. Alternatively they may signpost you to an agency – such as a registered adoption support agency – that can provide a tracing service and then an intermediary service to make contact with the birth relative you have found.

Who is responsible for providing intermediary services?

Intermediary services are provided by registered adoption agencies, including local authorities, regional adoption agencies and voluntary adoption agencies, and also by registered adoption support agencies.

You should check when you approach an agency if it provides Intermediary Services as not all Adoption Agencies do so. They may also subcontract this service to another agency. Even if an agency doesn’t provide this service themselves, however, they should be able to tell you about where you can find an agency that will provide an intermediary service for you.


All adoption support agencies must register with Ofsted before providing ANY services to children and adults. This means that they will be regularly inspected, and these reports will be available in the public domain. You can search for the inspection report of any agency using their name here.

They must also have a registered manager, a statement of purpose that sets out the overall aims and objectives for the agency, a user’s guide and a complaints procedure. These are set out by government regulations to make sure you know what to expect, and that you can complain in the event of a dispute.

They should also have an equal opportunities policy in place to assist those who need additional support due to speaking a different language or having a disability.

Do I have to pay for intermediary services?

The law says that agencies providing intermediary services can charge to do so, so it’s important to find out what the agency will charge to provide this service. Some local authorities who continue to provide intermediary services or contract their work to another agency don’t charge, but they may require you to cover the cost for any certificates that need to be purchased and any of the checks undertaken with the General Registrar’s Office.

Intermediary services for birth relatives

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 gave birth relatives of a person aged 18 years and over, and adopted before 30 December 2005, the right to apply for an intermediary service so that they may let their adopted relative know they wished to make contact. The Act specifies that all relatives can use these services – including grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles. For more information see our Historical Context Section

In practice, however, many local authorities and adoption agencies in England and Wales had provided intermediary services to birth parents for years before the law changed.

The birth relative has to apply to a registered Adoption Agency to ask for an intermediary service. This could be the local authority’s adoption team where they live, the agency/LA that arranged the adoption, or an Adoption Support Agency.  However, due to lack of resources, some local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies are no longer able to provide intermediary services. They should, however, signpost the birth relative to an agency that can provide an intermediary service. Usually, a fee is charged and this can vary from agency to agency.

While birth relatives have a right to request an intermediary service, they don’t have an automatic right to receive one, particularly if there are real concerns with regards to the impact the contact may have on the adopted person or their family.

Birth relatives are also not allowed to have any identifying information about the adopted person they are trying to find without the adopted person’s expressed permission, unless the adopted person has died. This is very different from adopted people who are able to receive identifying information about their birth family to enable them to conduct their own search if they want to do this.

Intermediary services for birth relatives for adoptions after 2005

For birth relatives of a person who was adopted on or after 30 December 2005, then there are different regulations in place for them and adopted people to make contact with one another. After this date, an adopted person, a birth relative and connected persons, can make an application under Section 61 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, to receive identifying information about the person they would like to contact. However, the person being sought still has to give permission for information about them to be disclosed, unless there is an exceptional reason why their permission should be overruled. In such situations a decision cannot be acted on unless the case has gone before a special panel known as the Independent Review Mechanism.

Where do I find Intermediary Services?

Visit our support pages to find out more.

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