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Natural Parents Network:

Is a self-help organisation offering non-judgemental, confidential and independent support to people who share similar experiences. The organization provides a listening ear for those living with the memories and feelings that surround the adoption of their children, the resulting separation, and for some, the emotions around contact and reunion. NPN also supports those wishing to consider tracing an adopted adult, circulates a regular newsletter, works with Social Service Departments and Adoption Agencies, and makes its views known to those involved in adoption policy and practice.

Movement for an Adoption Apology

The Movement for an Adoption Apology 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.



Adoption Services for Adults

Adoption Services for Adults is a relatively new service but it involves people with many years of experience and expertise in searching and in working with adults affected by adoption. The service offers search, tracing and intermediary services as well as workshops for individuals affected by adoption and training and advisory courses for professionals.


Adoption Search Reunion

This website provides information for adopted people, birth relatives and also adoptive parents in England and Wales.It also provides information for agencies, professionals and volunteers who provide services for adopted people and their birth and adoptive relatives. The information available on this website applies to adoptions that were made before the 30th December 2005. This website includes a comprehensive listing of Mother and Baby Homes in England, including dates in which they provided services and location of archives.


After Adoption

​After Adoption is a voluntary adoption agency working throughout England and Wales to help all those affected by adoption. From placing children with adoptive parents to supporting birth families and reuniting families separated through adoption, they can work with all groups of people affected by adoption.



The British Association for Adopting and Fostering actively places children into adoptive homes, however it also provides a wealth of resources on statistics, legislation, and the Adoption Search Reunion database (listed below) which provides information to support search and reunification between birth families and adopted adults.​

Birth Link

​Birthlink is a registered charity offering a range of services for people separated by adoption with a Scottish connection. Birthlink provides an After Adoption Information Line for anyone with questions about after adoption issues. Service users include adopted adults, birth parents of people adopted as children and their family members, adoptive family members, local authority social workers, voluntary adoption agencies and other professionals.



Gingerbread provides expert advice, practical support and campaigns for single parents. What is now Gingerbread was once The National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child (est. 1918), changing its name in 1970 to the National Council for One Parent Families, then merging with Gingerbread in 2007. Gingerbread provides the kind of support today, from a wealth of useful information to trainings and campaigns for single parent families, which the women participating in this study sought out but did not exist during their pregnancies in the 1960s. 


Linda Cherry, Family Tracing & Locating Services

​ Linda has over 10 years experience locating families separated by adoption and was one of the specialist researchers working with NORCAP, researching to help find adopted children and birth parents, and aiding with the intermediary and reunification process. She has continued her work and can be contacted directly via email or by telephone at (+44) 01843 223646.



​ NORCAP, once holding the UK’s longest established contact register, providing specialist researchers and intermediaries for the reunification process, has ceased trading and is no longer available as a resource. However, because many are aware of its services but not of where to turn in NORCAPs absence I wanted to include it here. NORCAP recommends that both old and new NORCAP Contact Register Users now apply to the government contact register (England and Wales) at The website is still online (though I don’t know how long that will continue) and can be accessed for informational purposes. For those seeking assistance with the search process you can contact other organizations listed here for guidance.


Origins International

Origins International is a non-profit international organization focused on helping and supporting people separated from children, parents, or other family members by adoption with branches in America, Australia, Canada, Scotland and New Zealand. Origins International provides Support and Peer Counseling, Research and Education, Resource Centres, Search, First Contact, and Reunion Services, Policy Analysis and Legislative Reform.

Post Adoption Centre

PAC’s mission is to provide high quality, innovative services that support and make a difference to all affected by adoption and permanency: children and families, adults who were adopted/placed as children, birth family members and professions. This organization was mentioned by a number of women involved in this project as being an extraordinary helpful resource in connecting with other birth mothers, receiving counseling, and support during the search and reunification process.


The Me Inside: The Social Network for Adults Affected by Adoption

This site offers adult adoptees and those affected by adoption, an opportunity to share their experiences in a safe and supportive community. It's a place where we can explore our adoption journey's in a way that is meaningful to each of us. 

It is a place where you will find others who can empathise with how you feel, they've been there too. It is a place where your opinions, your views and values will be respected. Above all it is a place where 'adoption' is not a dirty word, a word to feel ashamed or scared of but a word which adds a broader dimension to our lives that only those of us who are involved with adoption understand. 


Love Child

Sue Elliott

Adoption is one of the great, untold stories of our recent past. It is a truly epic tale of loss, guilt, identity, family feuds, reunion and redemption. It is a subject, until very recently, surrounded by secrecy and taboos. In this enthralling memoir, Sue Elliot tells her own story of growing up as an adopted child. She details her emotional search for and meeting with her birth mother, Marjorie, the heartbreaking tale of how Marjorie came to give up Sue for adoption in 1950s England, and the shock of finding that she, Sue, wasn't the only child given away by Marjorie.Weaved throughout is the vivid, emotional history of adoption in the UK. Drawing on a wide range of intimate personal experiences, it outlines the forces that shaped 20th century adoption practice, from baby-farming, the stigma of illegitimacy, incest and the bastardy laws, to children taken by force, the Magdalene laundries, mass emigration schemes without parental consent, to modern day adoption practices, buying babies from abroad, sperm donor fathers and tearful reunions. (2005, Random House)


The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade

Ann Fessler

In this deeply moving and myth-shattering work, Ann Fessler brings out into the open for the first time the astonishing untold history of the million and a half women in America who surrendered children for adoption due to enormous family and social pressure in the decades before Roe v. Wade. An adoptee who was herself surrendered during those years and recently made contact with her mother, Ann Fessler brilliantly brings to life the voices of more than a hundred women, as well as the spirit of those times, allowing the women to tell their stories in gripping and intimate detail. (2007, Penguin Books)


Birth Control, Sex and Marriage in Britain 1918-1960

Kate Fisher

This book offers a radical new understanding of the gender relations, sexual attitudes, and contraceptive practices that lay behind the dramatic changes in contraceptive behaviour in the twentieth century. Drawing upon an extensive range of primary sources, including vivid oral history accounts, Kate Fisher places men – rather than their wives – behind the drive for smaller families. Fisher shows why couples remained attached to older practices such as abortion and withdrawal, and explains how family size was reduced in a culture of widespread sexual ignorance and marital sexual silence. (2006, Oxford University Press)


The Light in the Window

June Goulding

This nonfiction novel takes place in Ireland in 1951, where the young June Goulding took up a position as midwife in a home for unmarried mothers run by the Sacred Heart nuns. What she witnessed there was to haunt her for the next fifty years. It was a place of secrets, lies and cruelty. A place where women picked grass by hand and tarred roads whilst heavily pregnant. Where they were denied any contact with the outside world; denied basic medical treatment and abused for their 'sins'; where, after the birth, they were forced into hard labour in the convent for three years. But worst of all was that the young women were expected to raise their babies during these three years so that they could then be sold - given up for adoption in exchange for a donation to the nuns. (2005, Ebury Press)

Half a Million Women: Mothers who lose their children by adoption

David Howe, Phillida Sawbridge, and Diana Hinines

Published by the Post-Adoption Centre, this book examines all aspects of the experience of giving up a child for adoption on the part of the birth mother: the social stigma of being an unmarried mother; the heartbreaking dilemma of deciding whether or not to relinquish the child; the isolation from parents, society and the child’s father; the years of grieving and wondering about the child, and finally the hope and fear of being traced by that child. (1992, Penguin Books) 


A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-1945

Jenny Keating

This book considers the background to the growth in popularity of adoption in Britain in the early twentieth century and analyzes the campaign for adoption legislation. It discusses the wholesale growth of unregulated adoption after the first law was passed and the gradual pressure for safeguards and secrecy in adoption. (2009, Palgrave Macmillan)


Lone Motherhood in Twentieth Century Britain: From Footnote to Front Page

Kathleen Kiernan

Over the course of the 1990s, lone motherhood has become a major political issue in Britain--but what is the problem actually about and to what extent is it new? This timely study, written by three leading experts in the field, examines the changes that have befallen the pathways leading to lone motherhood--changes in ideas about marriage, divorce, and never-married motherhood. The evolutionary policy histories relevant to lone mothers in housing, social security, and employment are also studied. The findings detailed in these pages illustrate both the complexity of the issues and the extent to which policies have reflected society's changing definitions of this phenomenon.


Mother and Baby Homes: A Survey of Homes for Unmarried Mothers

Jill Nicholson

This report published in 1968 addresses the much discussed plight of the unmarried mother and her child. The book documents Mother and Baby Homes which catered to 11,000-12,000 unmarried mothers each year, out of a total of 70,000. This ‘careful and sensitive study’ is unique in putting on record for the first time the views of unmarried mothers themselves about the care they received. The book was published as part of the National Institute for Social Work Training Series and sponsored by the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her child. (1968, George Allen and Unwin Ltd)

The Baby Laundry for Unmarried Mothers

Angela Patrick

This autobiography takes us to 1963, London when Angela Patrick was 19 years old, enjoying her first job working in the City when her life turned upside down. A brief fling with a charismatic charmer left her pregnant, unmarried and facing a stark future. Being under 21, she was still under the governance of her parents, strict Catholics who insisted she have the baby in secret and then put it up for adoption. Shunned by her family and forced to leave her job, Angela was sent to an imposing-looking convent for unmarried mothers in north-east London. Angela gave birth to a beautiful son, Paul, and at eight weeks he was taken from her and forcibly put up for adoption, leaving Angela bereft and heartbroken. Not a day went by without Angela thinking about him. Then, thirty years later, she received a letter. It was from Paul, and a reunion was arranged. (2012, Simon & Schuster)

Adoption Separation: Then and Now

Evelyn Robinson

​Evelyn’s fourth book discussing adoption, Adoption Separation includes works of forty-five parents who have lost children to adoption in seven different countries. Their stories make poignant and, at times, harrowing reading. Evelyn’s other books include: Adoption and Loss – The Hidden Grief; Adoption Reunion – Ecstasy or Agony?; and Adoption and Recovery – Solving the Mystery of Reunion. All are available on Amazon or to learn more visit  (2010, Clova Publications)


Sex Before the Sexual Revolution: Intimate Life in England 1918-1963

Simon Szreter and Kate Fisher

​This book provides the first rounded, first-hand account of sexuality in marriage in the early and mid-twentieth century. These award winning authors look beyond the conventions of silence among the respectable majority to challenge stereotypes of ignorance and inhibition. Based on vivid, compelling and frank testimonies from a socially and geographically diverse range of individuals, the book explores a spectrum of sexual experiences, from learning about sex and sexual practices in courtship to attitudes to the body, marital ideals and birth control. (2010, Cambridge University Press)


​Sinners? Scroungers? Saints?

Pat Thane and  Tanya Evans

This is the first book to describe the real lives of unmarried mothers, and attitudes towards them, in England from the First World War to the present day. The focus is on England because the legal positions, and other circumstances, of unmarried mothers were often very different elsewhere in Britain. The authors use biographies and memoirs, as well as archives and official sources, to challenge stereotypes of the mothers as desolate women, rejected by society and by their families, until social attitudes were transformed in the 'permissive' 1960s. They demonstrate the diversity of their lives, their social backgrounds, and how often they were supported by their families, neighbours, and the fathers of their children before the 1960s, and the continuing hostility by some sections of society since then. They challenge stereotypes, too, about the impact of war on sexual behaviour, and about the stability of family life before the 1960s. (2012, Oxford University Press)


​The Unmarried Mother

Sheila Tofield

A moving true story about being a single mother in 1950s Britain. Sheila grew up in Rotherham, daughter of an uncaring mother who made her believe she was useless, stupid and - most painfully of all - unlovable. Her worst childhood fears where confirmed when, as a young woman, her fiancee left her without an explanation. Heartbroken and vulnerable, she was easy prey to the worst type of man. Someone who walked out when she told him she carried his child. In Fifties Britain, an unmarried, pregnant girl received not sympathy but contempt. When Sheila told her family they turned their backs on her. She ended up in a Church of England home for unmarried mothers, about to give up her child for adoption. But when she saw her daughter's sparkling eyes she knew she had to do the unthinkable: to bring up the baby on her own in a world which would condemn her for it. (2013, Penguin)


Films, Television & Plays:

A Girl Like Her: a film

Ann Fessler

This film reveals the hidden history of over a million young women in America who became pregnant in the 1950s and 60s and were banished to maternity homes to give birth, surrender their children, and return home alone. They were told to keep their secret, move on and forget. But, does a woman forget her child?

The film combines footage from educational films and newsreels of the time period about dating, sex, “illegitimate” pregnancy, and adoption—that both reflected and shaped the public’s understanding of single pregnancy during that time—with the voices of these mothers as they speak today, with hindsight, about the long-term impact of surrender and silence on their lives.



Starring Judi Dench

Falling pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena Lee was sent to the convent of Roscrea to be looked after as a “fallen woman”.  When her baby was only a toddler, he was whisked away by the nuns to America for adoption. Philomena spent the next fifty years searching for him in vain.

Then she met Martin Sixsmith, a world-weary journalist as cynical as Philomena was trusting. Together they set off for America on a journey that would not only reveal the extraordinary story of Philomena’s son, but also the powerful bond that grew up between Philomena and Martin – a surprising relationship that was both profoundly moving and very funny. Premieres in London 16 October.


Be My Baby: a stageplay

Amanda Whittington

Set in 1964, Be My Baby follows the fortunes of Mary Adams, aged 19 and seven months pregnant. Sent to a mother and baby home, Mary and her fellow inmates have to cope with the shame of their pregnancy and the dawning realisation they must give up their baby for adoption. Yet despite the daily battles with a no-nonsense Matron, the girl’s effervescence shines through. As they escape into the girl-groups songs they love, a touching and funny piece of work unfolds, which is not only punctuated but defined by the songs of the day.

Magdalene Sisters: a film

Directed and Written by Peter Mullan

Three young Irish women struggle to maintain their spirits while they endure dehumanizing abuse as inmates of a Magdalene Sisters Asylum.


​Adopted or Abducted: an expose

Dan Rather and Nightline Television

This investigative journalism report by Dan Rather has just been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism in a News Magazine. In an exhaustive six month investigation that spanned from Australia to the US, the report found a widespread and shocking practice, even at the height of the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s of babies being born out of wedlock being forcefully put up for adoption. To watch a preview visit: The full episode is also available for download from iTunes.

Long Lost Family: tv series 

Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell

for Wall to Wall Productions

An award-winning series on ITV traces and reunites family members, delivering extraordinary stories of people desperate to find missing family. To apply to be part of Long Lost Family you can visit


Love Child

Steve Humphries, Testimony Films

The heart rending story of adoption in Britain in the past sixty years. The book Love Child by Sue Elliott was written alongside the series - part autobiography and part social history of adoption in Britain in the 20th century. ITV1, 2005.


Who Do You Think You Are: Lesley Sharp

Wall to Wall Productions

Celebrity genealogy series. Actress Lesley Sharp was adopted in 1960 when she was five weeks old after her mother spent time in a Mother and Baby home in Manchester. She discovers that her great-great-grandfather fostered Barnardo's children.

Recent News:


Adoption Apology in Australia

The Guardian


The Huffington Post


Magdalene Laundry Apology in Ireland


Irish Examiner

Justice for Magdalenes

MPs Call for Government Apology UK

Movement for Adoption Apology

BBC Radio 4

BBC News Manchester

Journal Articles

Secondary Infertility and Birth Mothers 

Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 30:80-93, (2010)

Andrews, Isabel


The Role of Mother and Baby Homes in the Adoption of Children Born Outside Marriage in Twentieth-Century England and Wales 

Family & Community History, Vol. II/I, May 2008.

Clark, Gillian


‘A Place of Our Own’? Teenage Mothers’ Views on Housing Needs and Support Models

Children & Society volume 21 (2007) pp.56-68

Cooke, Jo and Owen, Jenny


Lone Mothers

Women’s History Review, (2011) 20:1, 3-9

Evans, Tanya & Pat Thane


 “They Prefer Withdrawal”: the choice of Birth Control in Britain, 1918-1950

The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, (2003) Vol. 34, No. 2. Pp. 263-291

Fisher, Kate and Simon Szreter


On the concept of moral panic.

Crime Media Culture, (2008) 4:9

Garland, David


“Not Worse Than Other Girls”: The Convent-Based Rehabilitation of Fallen Women in Victorian Britain.

Journal of Social History, (Spring 1996). pp.527-546

Mumm, Susan


Population Trends: Adoptees and relatives who wish to contact one another using the Adoption Contact Register: trends, relationships and proportions of records matched

Health Statistics Quarterly and Population Trends. Winter, 2001. p.15-24

Office for National Statistics


Sexual attitudes to problems of illegitimacy

British Journal of Sociology, no. 5 (1954)

Pinchbeck, Ivy


Babies for Sale.

The Saturday Evening Post. December 22, 1951.

Pringle, Henry F. and  Pringle, Katharine.


Fertility and Contraception during the Demographic Transition: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches.

The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 34, No. 2. Pp.141-154 (2003)

Szreter, Simon, Robert A. Nye and Frans van Poppel.


Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth-Century England

Women’s History Review, 20:1, pp.11-29 (2011)

Thane, Pat  


Social Study of Illegitimate Maternities

British Journal of Preventative Social Medicine, 10, pp.75-87 (1956)

Thompson, Barbara


Other Websites:

Adoption Contact Register for England and Wales

UK Government


Adoption Contact Register for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Direct Government Services


Adoption Contact Register for Scotland (via BirthLink)



Brief History of Ivy House

The Hackney Society


Justice for Magdalenes

Magdalene Laundries


Virtue, Vice and Contraband: A History of Contraception in America

Case Western Reserve University


London Lives, 1690-1800: Crime, Poverty and Social Policy in the Metropolis

London Lives Project






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