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Case Studies: Accessing My Records Print E-mail

A case about accessing my records
I accessed the In Care Survivors Service Scotland for counselling at the start of the project. I was really scared. I only had to wait a week to be given my first appointment with (development worker).

The 1st meeting was really about meeting her, finding out what I needed, although I knew it would be counselling. The worker explained other parts of the service – up until that point I didn’t know what advocacy was. She put it in plain terms with some examples and my ears pricked up when she said accessing my records.

I was abused by my adoptive parents, both of them, not just my dad. We all were. I didn’t know why I was adopted although I speak to my biological mother. She wouldn’t tell me why I went into care because she is still feeling guilty. My adoptive parents had a photograph book that Social Work had made up for me before I went into foster care and I only recently got to see that. I think the photographs are really really important, and they should be kept because they are about me. I was just a wee girl.

The worker told me what I would have to do and what she would do for me. I signed a consent form and she wrote to the Scottish Adoption Agency. The worker there called to say the records were ready. This took 3 weeks just. I was scared about what was in it, but I was hoping there would be proof of my abuse.

Whilst we waited for my records my worker spent alot of time with me preparing me. She had experience and knew that the records may be incomplete and it was hard to hear her say that there probably wouldn’t  be anything about the abuse. She also prepared me by telling me that the language used by workers back in the day would not be what we would use today, and she was right. When I did read my records I was called “dillusional, and badly behaved with low intelligence”. I was able to take a deep breath when I read them though because I now expected it.
We also talked about how I would get the records, if I would keep them, if my worker would keep them, if I would read them myself or if I would read them with my worker.

First off, we both met the Scottish Adoption Agency to receive the first set of records. There was only about 20 pages, but both ICSSS and the Adoption Agency were really patient with me. It helped that they both said the same things about how difficult it could be to read the information about me, and how hard it might be to realise there would be gaps. This is a powerless bit, gaps in my life when I don’t know what happened or why.

My worker took the records at my request and told me she would lock them in a cabinet until I was ready. After 3 months I read through them with her. It was upsetting, my biological parents let me down and there was no full screening of my adoptive parents. Too much was missing so I asked my worker to get records from Social Work. We did the consent form again and waited a month.

The records arrived to my counsellor and I wanted her to keep them for me. Then I asked her to read them with me. I liked the fact that the envelope was still sealed, she obviously hadn’t read them until I said it was OK.
Social Work wanted £10 for the records, the Adoption Agency didn’t charge me. Then i wanted my medical records as I was ill alot. My GP charged me £50.

I now have my records to keep. The copies are easy to read, except the GP ones, can anyone read a GP’s writing! There are gaps that leave me with questions, such as how did I do at school, or how did they class me as low intelligence, and why was I delinquent? I have no pictures of each of the years as I grew up before going to be adopted. I don’t really know what I looked like so I cant tell if my own child looked like me as a child.
I thought I would just read my records myself, but I am glad that I had my worker to prepare me for the content, the words, the language, and to read things about myself that don’t fit with my memories. I feel distrusting that some of my social work records are missing, and it makes me wonder what was in that.

I needed my counsellor to be the same person that got and went through my records so she understood. I needed her afterwards too, especially then, because of what it brought up for me. I thought the Scottish Adoption Agency did the best they could, but there are better records needing to be kept.