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Official apology sought for lasting suffering caused by adoption practices in 1950s-1970s

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has called on the Government to issue a formal apology to unmarried mothers who had their babies taken for adoption in the 50s, 60s and 70s. In its latest report, the Joint Committee finds that the Government bears ultimate responsibility for the pain and suffering caused by public institutions and state employees that railroaded mothers into unwanted adoptions. It further calls for more to be done to support those dealing with the life-long consequences of these adoptions, urging the Government to improve access to counselling and remove barriers to accessing adoption documents.

The report details the fear that unmarried women and girls felt when they discovered they were pregnant and the difficulty in seeking help. Families and institutions – including schools, churches, social and healthcare workers – prioritised hiding what was regarded as a shameful situation rather than providing emotional and medical support, in many cases sending unmarried mothers far away from where they lived so their pregnancy could remain a secret from their family and community.

Mothers and adoptees spoke to the Committee of the life-long suffering and impact on their mental health and challenges in forming future relationships. The report calls for better access to adoption-specific counselling for those affected by the legacy of adoption practices during this time and in these circumstances. It urges the Government to take urgent steps to remove barriers resulting in the lack of counsellors trained in post-adoption support.

The Committee has found that there remain challenges for those trying to trace their mother or child. Despite having a legal entitlement to adoption records, some applicants have to wait months or years to receive them. Birth and adoption certificates contain different names making it difficult to link the two. Adopted people face serious difficulties from not knowing their parents' medical history, unable to take preventative care for inheritable diseases. The report calls for on the Government to remove bureaucratic barriers that are exacerbating the trauma of these adoptions. Guidelines should be set for local authorities to improve access to records and their performance monitored. Birth and adoption certificates, should be linked and there should be improved sharing of medical information, while respecting data protection and privacy laws.

For the report, click here. For a summary, click here. For the response of CoramBAAF, click here.

22/7/22