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Human Rights Committee examines historic treatment of unmarried mothers in adoption inquiry

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has held the opening session of its new inquiry into the adoption of children of unmarried women between 1949 and 1976 when it took evidence from academics specialising in issues related to historic adoption.

Between 1949 and 1976, a range of historic practices led to unmarried mothers feeling forced to give their children up for adoption. While parental consent was a legal requirement for an adoption to take place, there may have been other factors that led to women feeling they had little choice. This could include societal stigma around single mothers with an illegitimate child, inadequate levels of welfare support and a lack of information about where to get help. Direct pressure from family, peer groups, medical practitioners, and other social or religious institutions may also have unduly influenced decisions on adoption.

In this opening session of the inquiry, the Committee examined the adoption practices, and wider societal or familial influences, that led to unmarried mothers putting their child up for adoption. It also investigated what support is available to those affected by historic adoptions.

The witnesses appearing before the Committee were:

• Professor Gordon Harold, Professor of the Psychology of Education and Mental Health at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Rudd Programme for Adoption Research and Practice

• Dr Michael Lambert, Fellow in Social Inequalities, Lancaster University

• Dr Jatinder Sandhu, author of PhD thesis The birth mother and the evolution of adoption policy and practice in England since 1926.

For more information about the inquiry, click here. To watch the session, click here.