WILDCAT UK Baby adoption practices of past demand inquiry, say law firms

UK Baby adoption practices of past demand inquiry, say law firms

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Britain’s Adoption Scandal: Breaking the Silence will be broadcast on ITV at 9pm on Wed 9th Nov


Baby adoption practices of past demand inquiry, say law firms  Friday 4 Nov 2016

Call for public inquiry over church-led adoptions that coerced young single mothers into giving up their babies

 
About
half a million babies in Britain, most with unmarried mothers, were
adopted from the 50s to the 70s via church-run agencies
Pressure is mounting for a public
inquiry into the adoption of hundreds of thousands of babies born to
unmarried women over a 30-year period amid claims from some mothers who
say they were coerced into handing over their children.

A letter will be sent to the home
secretary, Amber Rudd, next week from solicitors at two eminent law
firms calling on her to convene a public inquiry into historical
adoption practices in the UK. The solicitors say an inquiry would
uncover the truth about the practices – stretching over three decades
after the end of the second world war – and hold agencies to account.

Meanwhile more women have come forward to tell their stories of being pressured into having their babies adopted.

The call for an inquiry will be sent to
Rudd on Thursday, the day after the broadcast of a television
documentary relating the stories of several women. That film has
prompted an apology from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic church in England and Wales,
and a statement expressing regret from the Church of England. Religious
institutions and agencies handled most adoptions until 1976, after
which the process became the responsibility of local authorities.

“It is the only way to get a proper
understanding of what happened and identify any systemic issues which
amounted to coercion, whether there were policies – formal or informal –
which discouraged young women from keeping their babies,” said Gallwey.

About half a million babies, most born
to unmarried women, were adopted in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when the
Catholic church, Church of England and the Salvation Army ran
“mother and baby homes” and adoption agencies in the UK. Adoption
reached a peak in 1968, when more than 16,000 babies born to unmarried
mothers were handed over to new families.

In recent years, some women have
publicly said they feel they were effectively forced to hand over their
babies. Now mostly in their 60s and 70s, they say that as vulnerable
young women they were made to feel shame and guilt, and were told that
adoption was in the best interests of themselves and their babies.

“There is a very compelling set of facts
from a recent period of our history which is still having an impact
now,” said Gallwey. An inquiry, she added, could “correct the myth that
these women gave away their babies voluntarily”.

She added: “All the women I’ve spoken to
say that [the women acted voluntarily] could not be further from the
truth. The saddest thing is the number of women who say, ‘no one told me
there was another way’. It’s still very raw even after so long.”

The call for a public inquiry was backed
by Graham Allen, Labour MP for Nottingham North, who sponsored a
parliamentary motion last year calling on the government to apologise
for “unacceptable adoption and care practices of the past”.

He said an inquiry “would draw a line
for everyone”, adding: “No monetary amount could compensate for what
these people have been through, but it could be cathartic and
cleansing.”

Veronica Smith, co-founder of the Movement for an Adoption Apology,
also backed the call. “We’ve been trying to get something done for
years. We want acknowledgement of bad practice – the coercion of often
teenage girls into losing their children,” she said.

Members of the Leeds Birth Families Group, which supports women who had infants adopted in the 30 years after the second world war.Members
of the Leeds Birth Families Group, which supports women who had infants
adopted in the 30 years after the second world war. 

Now 75, Smith gave birth to a daughter
in 1964 who was, she says, taken from her for adoption. “It has coloured
the whole of my life,” she said.

She would be willing to testify to an
inquiry. “But there are lots of women who can’t even verbalise what
happened to them. They are screwed up with pain and shame and guilt.
There are thousands who have never come forward, but every time there is
publicity on this people make contact wanting to tell their story,
often for the first time.”

Among the mothers and adopted children who responded to a Guardian appeal on
Thursday was “Linda”, who became pregnant aged 15 in the early 1970s.
“It was the ultimate sin. I was so scared that I didn’t tell my parents
until it was too late to ‘do’ anything about it, by which time I was
about seven months. I had been wearing girdles and starving myself so it
wouldn’t show,” she said.

Linda’s parents arranged through a
Catholic adoption agency for her to go to a mother and baby home. She
said: “A nun came and told me she was just taking my baby [aged about
three weeks] to weigh him. That was the last time I saw him. I was
absolutely devastated. Within the family we agreed not to ever talk
about it and to pretend it never happened … Every baby I saw on the
streets made me want to steal it. I was seriously angry all the time but
couldn’t talk about it.”

She added: “It’s my dirty little secret
and I admit it has probably poisoned me a bit over the years. I think of
it as the punishment that keeps on giving for doing what I did.”

Another woman, “Sandra”, lost her baby
to adoption when she was 15, in the early 1970s. She said: “Physical and
emotional consequences led me to be sterilised at age 25. I was far too
traumatised to face another pregnancy and did not receive adequate
health care after the birth, leading to a great deal of pain. I still
suffer from PTSD. I grieve for my lost child every day and will do so
until I die.”

“Janet” said that her husband had been
adopted in 1963 through a Church of England agency. “He was subject to
the most awful neglect and abuse mainly at [the adoptive mother’s]
hands. There is a lot of emphasis put on the way the [birth] mothers
were treated but little said about the fate of those babies that the
church felt justified in giving to so-called Christian families,” she
said.

Duncan Roy said he had been born in a
Catholic mother and baby home in Kent when his mother was 16. “To do
penance for the sin of getting pregnant out of wedlock she had to scrub
floors every day she was there until I was born. She was verbally and
physically abused by the nuns in the home,” the 56-year-old said. “When I
was born I was taken away from her, but because I was half-Iranian and a
dark baby they couldn’t find anyone to adopt me. Eventually my
grandmother decided to take me back and raise me as hers. The whole
experience had a huge effect on my mother’s life. She was very badly
traumatised by her experiences at the home.”  SOURCE

Britain’s Adoption Scandal: Breaking the Silence will be broadcast on ITV at 9pm on Wednesday 9 November

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