Campaigners say UK ‘forced adoption’ scandal far from over

(Photo: AFP)

LONDON — Activists have welcomed a call for the UK government to apologies for making unmarried mothers give up their babies decades ago, but warn that “forced adoption” is still rife today.اضافة اعلان

A parliamentary committee has said some 185,000 children were taken away for adoption between 1949 and 1976 in England and Wales, and urged an official apology.

Anne Neale, from the campaign group Legal Action for Women, welcomed any such admission as “long overdue”.

But she said the committee had “refused” to examine cases of mothers being forced to give up their children today despite having done nothing wrong.

Activists say the law’s singular focus on the well-being of the child has led to thousands of children being taken away from parents, even without evidence of any abuse.

Often it is because their mothers have suffered from mental health issues or domestic violence.

Becca, 29, said her two young children were taken away from her after she fled a violent relationship.

“It’s crucifying me. It’s a life sentence,” she said.

‘Punished for being abused’

Sarah, 32, from Fife, north of Edinburgh, also lost her children after leaving a violent relationship. She attempted suicide three times.

“I’m grieving. It’s that craving to hold them, and be a mum, and you can’t. It’s the worst feeling ever,” she said.

“They took everything off me: books, birth certificates. I’ve got loads of photos, that’s all I’ve got left,” she added.

“It’s like I’m being punished for being abused.”

Over the last four years, between 1,210 and 1,840 children have been adopted each year without consent in the UK, government statistics show.

Many other European countries do not record the proportion of adoptions that occur without parental agreement, but figures do show that adoption rates are higher in the UK than in other similar countries.

Twice as many children have been adopted in the UK than in Germany over the last 20 years, according to official statistics.

During that same period, seven times more children found new parents in the UK than in France.

No chance to grieve

The law states that a judge only needs to believe in a risk of future harm to approve a child’s removal, rather than be presented with evidence of abuse or neglect.

Activists say this so-called “crystal ball” method gives authorities huge scope to remove children.

At worst, it discourages struggling mothers from seeking help for fear of having their babies taken away.

“Lots of people say that this can’t be right, it’s Orwellian,” said Maggie Mellon, a former vice-chair of the British Association of Social Workers.

“It’s like a death” for mothers, she said.

“But they don’t have the possibility of grieving. They have lost them forever, but they’ve got no grave.”

Mothers who have already lost children have a high chance of having future children taken away, and figures show newborn adoptions are on the rise.

Since 2008, more than 24,000 children in England alone have been taken into care within their first week of life.

Around half of those go on to be adopted, research from the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Huddersfield shows.

After losing her two eldest children following a violent relationship, Becca says she was forced to give up another two. She is now fighting against their adoption.

She says she fled to Germany when she became pregnant with her fifth child, but British social services contacted the German authorities and her daughter was removed too.

“I dream about them,” the young mother, who spent much of her own childhood in the care system.

“It’s too hard to have photographs around, but I’ve got clothes, a blanket and a dummy.”

Psychiatric assessments

Mothers say the judicial system is loaded against them, and they are often ill-equipped to fight for their offspring, being at a low ebb in their lives or having just given birth.

Sue O’Callaghan, who detailed her fight to keep her children in her book “Taken”, said the authorities gave too much weight to psychiatric assessments.

Sarah, the mother from Fife, said her eldest son became hysterical during one supervised meeting.

“I started crying. And that was it, they said ‘Sarah is an emotional wreck’,” she said. She was no longer allowed contact.

Social worker Rob Tyrell said decision makers like him struggled to strike a balance between legal obligations and keeping families together.

“When there are factors influencing parenting like drugs, domestic abuse, mental health or learning disability — within that, we have to consider the impacts of the current and future risks on the child,” he said.


Kellie, another mother, had three children removed but was able to keep her youngest two.

She warned that “forced adoptions” were a huge grievance, especially in poorer areas.

“The community saved me from putting myself under a bus,” she said.

“Everybody is so frustrated. We’re all walking time bombs.”

Rights campaigner Neale said dirty clothes or lack of food were often equated with neglect, instead of a sign of growing poverty.

She called for resources to help struggling mothers to better provide for their children.

Mellon, the social worker, called for action now instead of future apologies.

“I’m fed up of shouting about things at the time and then having to wait 30 years” for justice.

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