In recommending that a particular child is fit for adoption, we tend to err on the side of overcautiousness. It is somewhat ironic that earlier research in this same field (e.g., Bowlby, 1969) was used to justify the practices of the time (i.e., not allowing the child to bond with the birth mother so as to provide a “clean break” that encourages bonding with the new adoptive parents). There is a limited body of research on reunion experiences, and the evidence appears mixed as to the degree to which this process is uniformly beneficial for all those involved (NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues, 2000). These issues include: These kinds of traumatising experiences were recounted by a number of women in submissions to two different state parliamentary inquiries (NSW Legislative Council Standing Committee on Social Issues, 2000; Parliament of Tasmania Joint Select Committee, 1999). Adoption information services: Myths and realities. The Australian Institute of Family Studies acknowledges the traditional country throughout Australia on which we gather, live, work and stand. availability of ongoing counselling with highly skilled psychologists; provision of trauma counselling services pertaining to mothers and children traumatised by adoption separation; establishment of advertising campaigns encouraging mothers to speak out; provision of education programs for GPs and other health services providers; and. (p. 78). Ley (1992) argued that “it was believed that by obliterating a child’s birth identity it was possible to create for an adopted child a new identity which would ensure the genealogical history of the adoptive parents was now that of the adopted child” (p. 101). A search of the literature on adoptions that addresses historical perspectives provides the closest alignment to this issue. Note: National data were not collected between 1985–86 and 1986–87. (1988). From then, there was a rapid decline through to the early 1990s, since when it has remained relatively stable at around 400 to 600 children per year—around 5% of the annual number of adoptions in the early 1970s (see Figure 1). Based on an analysis of historical documents from NSW, Jones (2000) argued: It was thought that removal of illegitimate children, children at risk of neglect or moral contamination and children from hard-core problem families would give the family a second chance to heal itself just as single mothers would be able “to live happy and useful lives” after relinquishment, for in those days before grief counselling, mothers were expected to “get on with life” instead of confronting their grief and loss. Marshall and McDonald (2001) argued that long-term pain for relinquishing mothers could have been relieved if they had had help in dealing with the relinquishment, accompanied by support and the opportunity to know something about the child (p. 73). How do I register and manage my law firm on the Portal? The term "unfit mother" arises out of the now-outdated child custody doctrine that custody of children should be awarded to the mother unless the mother was "unfit." broader societal attitudes in areas such as the role of women, sex and illegitimacy, poverty and the capacity of single women to effectively parent and raise good citizens, the silence that descended on pregnancy outside of marriage, and the “closed” nature of adoption prior to the 1970s. This study will complement the work of the History of Adoption Project at Monash University, which is focused on “explaining the historical factors driving the changing place, meaning and significance of adoption”, particularly through its collection of oral histories. Another common motivation is that birth mothers want their child to know that they belonged and were loved/wanted. 4 It is important to note that during the decades when great numbers of women were surrendering children for adoption (including the 1970s), the major social institutions of government, church and the law were governed almost entirely by men (Marshall & McDonald, 2001, p. 80). Loss, adoption and desire. Mothers weren’t wanted because they were unmarried” (cited in Higgins, 2010, p. 13). For mothers, the ongoing silence means knowing that her child is out there, wondering how they are, and knowing that there is a possibility of reunion—not the “severed bond” as promised by the clean break theory that shrouded the event in silence (Iwanek, 1997). The Commonwealth Government introduced the Supporting Mother’s Benefit in 1973, coinciding with a rapid decline in adoptions from the peak of 1971–72. (AIHW, 2009, p. 20). In, Farrar, P. D. (1998). In attempting to explain the ongoing detrimental effects of adoption that their study uncovered, Winkler and van Keppel (1984) argued that the silence that surrounded “relinquishment” significantly contributed to the harmful effects experienced by many of the women involved. One issue of particular importance is the trauma of the separation of mother and child. Condon, J. T. (1986). Winkler, R., Brown, D. W., van Keppel, M., & Blanchard, A. parents who relinquished a child to adoption; mothers affected by past adoption practices; mothers of the “stolen white generation” (analogous to the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children removed from their parents, which occurred at roughly the same time period); reunited mother of child/ren lost to adoption; “rapid adoption”—the practice of telling a single mother her baby was stillborn, and the baby then being adopted by a married couple. Some of the key social factors that have played a role in developing and maintaining adoption practices included: Common themes relating to the dominant social views, and the consequent treatment of single pregnant women include: According to Harkness (1991), both the adoptive mother and the “relinquishing” mother can be seen as products—or victims—of “a punitive and patronizing society anxious to graft newborn babies on to ‘good’ (married) mothers as quickly as possible” (p. 2). How do I register and manage my law firm on the Portal? Witnesses and respondents [to the Inquiry], who include some adopted children, would not therefore be experiencing the pain and suffering which continues to influence their lives. “What we did to those poor girls!” The hospital culture that promoted adoption. A. van der Kolk, A. C. McFarlen & L. Weisaeth (Eds.). Until the early 1970s in Australia, unwed (single) women who were pregnant were encouraged—or forced—to “relinquish” their babies for adoption. Beginning with NSW (in 1976), registers were established for those wishing to make contact (both for parents and adopted children). Winkler et al. Also, if there is abuse, neglect, or substance abuse issues, that parent will be deemed unfit. Durey, J. Society saw “adoption of ex nuptial children as a means of protecting children from their single mothers, who were often thought to be unfit parents, and also as a means of punishing their mothers” (Jones, 2000, p. 51). Apart from these issues relating to reunion, there are other ongoing issues for mothers affected by past adoption practices, including problems with: The focus of the current literature review has been on the young women who relinquished babies to adoption and the effect of this on their lives, and to a lesser extent, the adopted children (particularly in relation to reunions). There are also a number of organisational contributors, including: From the 1940s, it was seen as desirable for unwed mothers to relinquish their children as early as possible—straight after birth.