In February 2013 Australia witnessed a long fought for apology to the women, children, families and communities which were impacted by an era of forced adoptions. Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke openly and eloquently to the lasting trauma such separations caused, apologizing on behalf of the Australian government, and dedicated 11.5 million Australian dollars towards assisting families separated by adoption in reunification, mental health services, and accurate records archiving. Australia’s apology began with a grassroots movement, building in momentum until it reached the apex of its upswelling and a resulting Parliamentary investigation and apology. This success has inspired an English organization to form for the same purpose, the Movement for Adoption Apology (MAA) and which is activily trying to build awareness and support.
According to its published mission statement, the Movement for Adoption Apology in England seeks:
‘Recognition and acknowledgement of the pain and grief suffered by many birth parents and their children because of the unethical adoption practices of the past. They believe that this can only be achieved by a full Parliamentary apology with cross-party support.
The Movement feels that the young women who found themselves unmarried and pregnant were given little choice but to give in to the strong pressures which were exerted on them by the authorities to have their babies adopted. They were not given information about the welfare services, including housing and financial help, which were available at the time. There was no question of these women being found to be unfit mothers; they were simply prevented from becoming mothers at all.
This experience so traumatised many of these women that they have suffered years of mental and/or physical ill health ever since, and many were unable to have more children. In some cases, fathers also, even when wishing to help, were refused a say in their child’s future, because the child was classified as illegitimate, and thus these fathers also became unwilling parties to these adoptions.
It is possible that a government enquiry will be needed to reveal the full extent of the unethical practices and the damage suffered by these birth parents. However we recognise that such an enquiry would take time to set up and therefore we ask for a start to be made now, with a parliamentary statement of intention to examine all the facts.’
Within the interview process of this project women were asked their thoughts on an apology from the English government for the adoptions of their children. Opinion was divided on whether they felt a personal need for an apology, however all agreed that whether or not they needed it there could be some great benefit to other women, children, and families who have been affected. Some suggested that what could be of greatest help through the call for a Parliamentary investigation and apology would be the allocation of resources to families divided by adoption who are seeking reunification but do not have the financial resources to do so.
If you are interested in learning more about MAA, getting involved or writing a letter to your MP to support an early day motion, please visit their website: www.movementforanadoptionapology.org
Julia Gillard, MP in Australia who formally apologized on behalf of the Australian government for the forced adoptions that took place in that country. This movement and apology has inspired a movement in England with the Movement for Adoption Apology.