The Child Welfare Act 1939 No.17 and
The Adoption of Children Act 1965
does not come into play unless/until a parent or
guardian of the
child has already willingly signed a consent to adoption
parental rights to the state, whereupon the state
becoming the guardian
of the surrendered child is then responsible for
the child's best interest.
The control of
a mothers pregnancy, birth, and post confinement period
was outside the
jurisdiction of the meaning of the Act. ie., childbirth
and adoption were
entirely unrelated issues.
Legal Interpretation of
'The Best Interest of the Child'
The original intention
of adoption was to provide alternative care for a
child derived of his
own family. It was not meant to set about depriving
the child of his own
Nowhere in the Adoption
Act or its accompanying regulations does it
state that a child's
best interest is best served by being removed from
his own mother at birth
- or thereafter, to be made available for
Except in cases of abandonment,
abuse, or neglect, authorities had no
jurisdiction to interfere
in the primary relationship between a
mother/parent and her child.
Rather, it was considered to be in the
child's best interest to remain
within his or her own family and provisions
were to be made available
to enable a mother to care for her child.
Adoption and fostering, in
that order, were considered a second best option,
and only if remaining with his or
her own mother was not a
Adoption was only considered
to be in a child's best interest as the
preferred option to that of
becoming a state ward, and only if a mother
had surrendered her child
to the state.
The legislature made it clear that the legislation is
to promote the welfare of infants, but it deals with
the matter on the basis that their welfare will be best
served if they are brought up with their own parents in
their own homes, and that adoption is only second best
when, from the nature of things, the
best interest for
some reason is not available (R.v.B., V.R.407)
Misrepresentation of the law
"Adoption is in the best interest of the
By now my constant companion
Lies dormant - waiting for
at the pit of my belly.
Suppressed only by my fear
of its ferocity.
Oh how I wish I had not been
Had I perhaps been a bear,
a mother bear
whose infant cub had been
I might not still feel this
For it would have been acceptable
to follow my natural primal
to go after, and rip the throats out of the
predators who ran off with my cub.
It would have been seen as
a very natural
instinctive reaction, as
is aware of the dangers in
entering the lair
of the wild animal in the
It would have served themselves
Unfortunately I am not one
Because I happen to be human,
I am crippled by oppression,
which forces me to suppress
my natural instinct
to go after those who ran off with my child,
to retrieve my cub.
My power of reason tells
me it is not allowed.
It is against the law.
And would be socially, quite
My primitive, underdeveloped basic instinct
Tells me it is a mothers
very natural response.
Instead -I turn it upon myself.
Where it all Began
Responsibility towards the Unwed Mother
Without going as far back in time to 1923,
when the Child Welfare Act was first introduced, and the unmarried mother received a benefit of ten shillings a week to enable
her to care for her child for the first three to four years of it's life: and without lingering on the League of Nations recommendation
in 1938 that:
therefore be regarded as an axiomatic principle of child
care that no child should
be removed from the care of an otherwise
competent parent when
the granting of material aid would make such
As this inquiry is concentrating on adoption
practices between the period 1950 to 1998, this submission will begin from the time adoption professionals were introduced
to take over the control of unmarried mothers, putting themselves above the law - and damned us all to hell.
As the unmarried mother was so insignificant
to the adoption industry, other than to be used as merely the provider of a commodity that allowed the adoption industry to
remain a viable service to the community, perhaps the best way to begin this submission is by doing what the adoption experts
never bothered to do for over 40 years - and that is to actually read the Child Welfare 17 regulations regarding the treatment
of unwed and unsupported mothers - which had been introduced in the early 1950's to protect her and her child from exploitation.
These regulations were put into place to ensure the unmarried mother was able to make a free and informed decision about her
babies fate - one that she could live with for the rest of her life without regret and without redress.
The legal responsibilities in the treatment
of unwed mothers began as a consequence of the famous legal case of Mace v Murray in 1952, where an unwed mother tried unsuccessfully to reclaim her child from its foster parents
who had refused to return the child to
its rightful mother. This case resulted in a sensational legal battle which split the nation.
As a consequence of that legal case: to
prevent the cluttering of courts with similar cases, and in order to protect adopters from the disappointment of having to
return the child, new regulations were introduced to ensure that in future any mother forced to consider adoption was to be
made fully aware of the consequences of her actions. Simultaneously The New South Wales Government endorsed recommendations
made by the World Health Organisation
in Geneva Switzerland in 1952, to offer provisions to care for homeless and maternally deprived children languishing in institutions.
World Health Organisation
According to a report by John Bowlby,
M.A., M.D. on behalf of the World Health Organization as a contribution to the United Nations program for the welfare of maternally
deprived and homeless children, in 1951:
a community is to remove this source of deprived children, it
have to be more realistic in its handling of the problem, both
economic and psychological assistance to the unmarried
to enable her to keep her child, and by providing skilled services
for the adoption of those children who cannot be so cared for.”
Children In Need
Prefaced and endorsed by the Honorable
R J Heffron, Deputy Premier and Minister for Education in NSW
“To avoid any misunderstanding
or any suggestion that the mother was misled or uninformed, District Officers are instructed to explain to the mother, before
taking the consent, the facilities
Which are available to help her keep the child. These include homes licensed under the Child Welfare Act for the private care
of children apart from natural parents, financial assistance to unmarried mothers
under section 27 of the Child Welfare Act, admission to State control until the
mother is in a position to care for the child, and , assistance to affiliate the child and obtain a maintenance order against the putative father.
When all these aids have been rejected,
the officer is expected to explain to the mother the full implications of the Act of surrendering her child. Only when the
mother has considered these, and still wishes to proceed with the surrender for adoption, should the consent be accepted.
"The vast majority of adopting parents prefer to take a child from birth.
When professional agencies have strictly adhered to later placements, in
parts of America, a black-market in newly born babies has sometimes
developed. Placement from birth was forced on many American agencies
under war-time stress, and the departure from the former practice was
A Panel Discussion
Committee on Adoption Academy
"The mother of a child born out of wedlock is, of course, young,
frightened, and very much alone when she is forced to make the
momentous decision about her future life and that of her child. The
provision of proper medical care, casework service, a plan for her
child, full and honest disclosure as to her legal rights and the
consequences of surrendering her child for adoption are essential if
the substance rather than the mere form of her legal rights is to be
secured. It is when this is not done, when she is not helped to work
through to the right decision, that decisions made under duress may
and often do lead to unresolved conflicts that may shadow her life
and also the lives of the adoptive parents."
Child Welfare of NSW 1958
Social Work Training Manual
By 1958 the Child Welfare of New South
Wales social work training manual (meant to be followed during the 1960's) - explains that:
Most of the babies come from large public hospitals where the
mother has indicated that she does not desire to keep her child.
In these cases the mother is visited in hospital by a specialist
Lady District officer who explains to the mother the facilities
(assistance) which the Department can offer to affiliate
1. To assist with monetary allowance (section 27 aid. Child Welfare Act).
2. Or by admission to State control until the mother is better placed
to resume custody and control of the child.
When all of these aids have been rejected and the mother still desires
to surrender the child for adoption the full import of surrendering her
child is explained (this included warning the mother of the risk of dire
future regret if she should decide upon adoption).
Only when the mother still INSISTS does the department's officer prepare
a form of surrender. This form must be witnessed by a Justice of the
Peace who in turn must furnish an affidavit to the effect that the
instrument of consent was read and explained to the mother and in the
belief of the Justice was understood by the mother."
But these regulations were never complied
In this State the mere signing of a consent does not remove parental rights -
which remain until the order is made.
Adoption is one of the most satisfying of the Departments activities. and it is
a constant source of pleasure to officers of the Department when adopting
parents proudly bring their children to Head or District offices, and
enthuse over their progress. It is highly gratifying to note that the baby
has grown up as much the child of the adopting parents as though he has
been born to them naturally. The fact that applications for a second child
are so rapidly increasing clearly establishes that adoption is meeting the
needs of both child and adopting parents in a very real manner."
A special service to unmarried mothers has been established and a lady
district officer, holding the Diploma of Social Studies, is attached to head
office to deal with this matter. Many approaches are made direct, and
are referred by hospitals and social agencies. Advice is tendered in many
cases, before birth. Assistance is given in regard to waiting time,
arranging confinement, employment of the mother in such capacity as will
enable her to retain and care for the child, financial assistance, admission
of the child to a home or to state control, surrender of the child for
adoption, and reference to the Affiliation Officer."
This work calls for the greatest tact and sympathy, when one remembers
the great emotional and physical stress under which the unmarried mother
labours at such a time."
NB Although adoption professionals still
claim that no provisions were available to support unwed mothers until 1973, an article found in the Daily Telegraph on 25th
March 1965 promoting the new upcoming adoption laws had district officers reassuring the reading public of the mothers above
mentioned rights, including how she had to insist upon adoption before the adoption procedure could commence, plus all facilities
available to the unwed mother who keeps her child was clearly outlined at the eleventh National Conference of Social Workers
in 1968, disproves the ignorance adoption professionals now claim to have about the availability of such facilities.
When explaining today why unmarried mothers
were not being told about financial help that had been available, adoption workers explain that before an unmarried mother
could obtain financial assistance under section
27 aid, she had to put herself through
an embarrassing affiliation procedure
in the Courts before benefit would be
granted. (see Lateline video Jennifer
Burns `Birth Bond' 21st October 1997). That does not seem to be entirely
According to their training regulations,
the benefit was available to her irrespective of any forthcoming maintenance. She was expected to hand the responsibility
of chasing up maintenance from the father over to the Department. She would then have to endure the possible embarrassment
of proving the paternity of the father of her child, through the Court.
Enforcement of maintenance orders under
the Deserted Wives and Children Act.
Child Welfare of NSW 1958
When a deserted wife, or the mother of an illegitimate child, receives
an allowance under Section 27 of the Child Welfare Act, she is required
to give control of any maintenance order against the father of the child
to the Department. If such orders are not complied with, application is
made to the Court for enforcement. At the Metropolitan Children's Court
an officer attends daily to present evidence in support of such
applications. At Courts other than the Metropolitan Children's Court
this work is undertaken by a Field Officer.
Adoption of Children Act 1965
The new Adoption of Children Act 1965
then added offences clauses into legislation against coercion, duress, and undue influence to prevent exploitation of mother
and child by unscrupulous baby traders.
BUT EVEN LEGISLATION COULD NOT PROTECT
MOTHER AND CHILD.
SOME ASPECTS OF RESEARCH IN THE FIELD OF ADOPTION
Coercion does not always require overt
bullying tactics. Realising they could get just as many babies with honey as with vinegar, the adoption experts had mastered
the art of undue influence and coercion in many cases simply by denying her information about legally available assistance
to make keeping her baby a viable alternative. Making her believe she had made a decision although no option had been offered,
and insisting that adoption was in her child's best interest, was in itself coercion - railroading the mother into the only
direction offered to her.
Section 27 aid -
Allowances for Children 1968
- available since 1939
Additionally, in 1968 the Department of
Social Welfare reported on benefits
available to unmarried mothers - under
Allowances for Children. section 27 aid, explained that:
"Not all unmarried mothers wish to have their child adopted and in
many cases have no family at hand
to help with the care of the
child. This embryo family group has
an important mother-child
relationship that needs both support
and nurture and the
Department assists the mother by acting
for her in affiliation
proceedings and by the granting of
regular allowances once the
mother's eligibility has been established.
The services of the social aid branch
are also used in special
cases to supply a layette, special
foods and milk. Many unmarried
mothers call upon the services of
the Dept to act for them in
court to obtain an affiliation order.
There is no charge for this
That having been said, we are yet to meet
any mother who has been aware that such provisions even existed. And yet these documents are clear evidence that financial
assistance and other provisions have always been available to assist the unmarried mother to keep her child.
NB An article in a Social Work manual
written in March 1977 by Elspeth Brown, explains that in her time, between 1958 and 1963, 60% surrendered and the bulk of
40% of babies kept by their mothers were born either to mothers in stable de-facto relationships or to very young mothers,
in particular those emanating from Child Welfare Department institutions.
Although it has been generally assumed
that financial assistance to unwed mothers was first introduced by the Whitlam Government in 1973, finally enabling mothers
the option of keeping their babies, that wasn't historically true. It seems that all Whitlam did was to advertise the already
available but unknown benefit to single mothers, gave it it's own title, and brought it into line with CPI.
the Adoption of Children Act 1965
The Propaganda Begins
From 1965 adoption propaganda had been
launched to introduce the new upcoming Adoption Act 1965. In reducing the mother's revocation period to no more than 30 days,
the new legislation making all surrendered children `as if
born' to their adopters (for inheritance
purposes), severing forever any further connection between mother and child - adoption had become a hot topic of discussion
in the media, with welfare officers promoting the location and availability of newborn babies as their exciting new service
to the public.
In order to recruit a greater pool of
potential adopters from which to choose,
a new term "unwanted baby" had been introduced
into adoption propaganda to allow the potential adopters to believe they would be `saving' the child by adopting it, More
importantly, its prime purpose was to give the adoptive parents a sense of entitlement to lay claim to another woman’s
child, as the belief was that they could not `bond' with the child of another without a sense of entitlement.
Additionally, being fully aware of their
legal obligations, these same welfare officers deceived the public (via newspaper articles and TV propaganda
releases) into believing unwed mothers
actually were being offered financial assistance and options, were being warned of the potential for dire future regret if
considering adoption, and assuring them she actually had to insist upon the adoption of her child. But never did they advertise
the tactics used to manipulate them into surrendering their babies.
Knowing perhaps all too well that the
concerned public would not tolerate baby theft, they kept their de-babying procedures conveniently hidden from public gaze.
The propaganda process relied on a two fold manoeuvre. On one hand, because the community needed to be assured that the child
was not being punished for it's mothers mistakes, district officers were claiming to the public the babies were unwanted and
therefore needed to be `rescued', and on the other hand, the industry was denying the unmarried mother her rights, forbade
her to see her own baby, and hid her baby from her either forever, or until a consent to adoption could be taken.
The much needed promotion of social hatred
towards the mother of the illegitimate child can be observed through the evolution of old movies, where
the unmarried mother, (prior to intervention
of the social worker) showed the tragedy of the unmarried mother needing to hide her `child of shame' and fade into obscurity
being depicted in sad and heartfelt old weepies, such as `Stella' with Barbara Stanwick, and `The Old Maid' with Bette Davis.
Movies of the 1930's witnessed fallen women trudging through heavy snows to leave her baby lovingly snuggled into a basket
on the steps of some benevolent foundling home - a supreme and loving sacrifice.
However, once social workers were introduced
to promote the concept of traditional adoption, the trend altered significantly. No longer an act of sacrifice, the unmarried
mother of the illegitimate child conveniently came to be seen as a pariah, a woman to be scorned, to be reviled, an unnatural
mother who could willingly give away her own flesh and blood, a neurotic
woman whose child needed to be `saved'
and protected from its own `deviant' mother through legislation. The hatred generated was perfectly orchestrated, so much
so that those few brave `birth' mothers attending adoption conferences and meetings in the early and mid 1980's, were treated
with such contempt, one reports being up and spat on by an adopting parent, others recall being called sluts and seen as a
lower class of human being.
Only the very brave entered these meetings
to endure the humiliation of hearing members of the audience make derogatory comments about teenagers like:
can't they just go to the drive-in and `get on with
we don't have to wait so long for our babies!"
Many witnessed utter contempt from their
found child upon reunion. The hatred fed through media articles, and talk back radio during debate about changes to legislation
and continued to be observed without respite through the 1990's.
Blaming the Victim
With the cunning of a paedophile the industry
and society continued to blame and punish their victim. SHE gave away her baby! SHE signed the consent! SHE made the decision!
She has no rights!
The contempt manufactured by the adoption
industry itself, rather forget they had been dealing with human beings, many of whom had been little more than children themselves
when they lost their babies.
Now blamed for having made a decision
when no option had been offered, punished for having been abandoned and unsupported by their own families, stigmatised by
their community, and hoodwinked out of their babies by the well rehearsed lines of a devious adoption agent who saw the mother
as simply a breeder. A social worker explained at a 1995 conference workshop on Trauma, Grief and Loss at Sydney University:
"We never considered you mothers. All we could see were the families
we were creating. We'd see an only child and think "wouldn't
nice for him to have a little sister."
It was considered, because a few older
mothers came back for `counselling', that the younger the girl, the easier it
was for them to forget. They would just go on home and resume their lives and were never heard from again. Instead of realising
that their inability to even return for their post partum check-up at six weeks, was a direct result of their inability to
cope with their unspeakable
death-like trauma when they were too young,
too psychologically immature to comprehend the nightmare inflicted upon them. Their pathological grief dismissed by the agencies with contemptible distain. They had after all, brought it upon themselves!
Keeping the lid on the truth -
Even decades later, when the 1990 Adoption
Legislation allowed mothers and children to be reunited and support networks were set up to counsel parties affected by adoption
separation, STILL the propaganda continued.
Support services and information provisions
were being controlled by the very same social workers who had worked in the industry. All counselling was manoeuvred to keep
a lid on the past and focus on the present, to look forward to re-union and it's associated problems.
Mothers were again being told to consider
the feelings of others. How will the adoptive parents feel! Think about their fear of losing their child! "We are only doing
women like you a favour. We don't have to give women like you anything!" You
should be over this by now! He has parents and won't want another! You should consider yourself lucky if your child even sees
you as a friend! Well dear you did sign the consent after all! The past was social mores of the time! It was the best decision
you could have made back then! It was your decision! look forward! Consider yourself lucky! Don't rock the boat or you will
lose any possibility of a future relationship! Boys are not usually interested! Most reunions fail after the honeymoon is
over anyway! It's a shame you can't let go! Don’t tell the child the truth, it will only upset him! Don't write and
tell him you have always loved him, it will upset his parents. Write only that you want to know if he is happy and your decision
had been the right one, it's not so threatening - it keeps the myth alive. Get on with your life! You should be grateful!
You made a loving decision!
Above all keep the propaganda up - keep
patronising and blaming the mother - keep avoiding the past - keep the lid on the truth!
Possibly the most eye opening aspect of
this study has been to notice how throughout the history of adoption, members of Parliament were clearly intent on improving
the lot of the unmarried mother and her child. Often showing sympathy for the mother and child - as opposed to the promotion
One example from the Minister for Social
Welfare in 1961, Mr Hawkins declared how:
The child must be protected from unnecessary separation
natural parents who could themselves provide
security and love if adequate help and guidance were
available. The child must be protected from adoption
people who are unsuited to the responsibility
or who approach adoptions as a means of satisfying
their own neurotic needs, The natural parents
helped to make their decision to surrender a child
adoption only after mature consideration of the
available and should be protected from any attempt
them to place the child unsuitably.
Hansard page 927
Concern was expressed in Parliament about
the minimum time in which the unmarried mother could sign an adoption consent, given that, as stated by Mr Kearns "Because
a number of provisions in this bill affect fundamental rights of human beings we are not in a position to dismiss it lightly."
Discussions on the issue included remarks by the Honourable Eileen Furley in 1965 that:
She is usually emotionally disturbed and after only three
days not in a fit mental state to make such
decision. Even with the saving thirty days
in which to revoke
her decision, she may feel too timid or
overawed to say that
she wishes to change her mind.
1965 Hansard 3053
The Hon. C.A.F. Cahill in 1965 states:
I agree that a young mother would not be in a fit state for
some days after the birth of her child,
by reason of her age
and the trauma of the occurrence, to exercise
rights in giving approval.
The Hon. Asher Joel suggested that the
period be extended to the five day post confinement period after the child’s birth, during which
"to get to know her child" and "she will be better able to
determine whether she wants to keep the
op. cit. page 3057
Insight Report on adoption,
"When a baby is given away"
Alexina Mary McWhinnie MA.Phd.SW
"In general, she says, "adoption is a pretty hit and miss affair which
can leave scars on the people concerned." Material conditions and class
status, Dr McWhinnie finds, have no invariable significance in themselves
"Spontaneous and real love for children for their own sakes is the only
sure safeguard against the hazards of adoption."
Occupation, social standing, religion are not actually the most important
things when placing a child. She thinks it would pay to give more
attention to the moral and emotional attitudes of prospective parents than
to their community standing and economic level..."Some people want a
child as a status symbol. They are ashamed of their sterility. Or they
may want a child as a pet. In that case they would be better off with a
house broken dog."
Explaining the Adoption of Children Act 1965
SERVICE Journal of the Council of Social Service of New South Wales. Implementing the Adoption of Children Act.
Dip. Soc.Stud. Deputy Director,
Department of Child
and Social Welfare. Vol.18, No 2. 1966.
Announcing how the rights of the unmarried
mother remains essentially the same as with the Child Welfare Act (ie only the revocation period is reduced) Langshaw further
"The placement of children for adoption should have as its main objective
the well-being of children. Its main purpose is not to find children
families, nor should it be expected to provide help for many of
problems associated with childlessness."
"The natural parents and especially an unmarried mother, have the right
full discussion of all the factors that may help them to a reasoned
to keep or surrender their child, and need to have trust that the
arrangements made for their child are, in fact, the most suitable
"A person using undue influence to induce the signing of a consent to
adoption or to the expression of any wishes in such a consent, is
guilty of an offence." He was ignored.
Private Adoption Arrangements
It has been estimated that there could
be as many private arrangements having occurred where no official registration of the adoption has been made, as there are
official registered adoptions. The exact numbers we may never know.
It was once common practice to arrange
private adoptions between family and friends without the intervention of the state.
However there have also been many instances
where doctors and other professionals have made baby transfers their business. One such example was uncovered in 1961 around
Newcastle where the unmarried mother would be hit with an enormous medical bill and told it would be wiped out if she booked
into the hospital under a certain name, registered the baby in a certain name, where upon discharge, a taxi would be waiting
to pick her up where she was to drive to a certain location, drop her baby off, and drive on.
The birth and medical records had been
registered in the name of the adopting mother, to imply she had given birth, and no record of an adoption was made.
After discovery the doctor concerned was
fined for false information on a birth certificate only. This type of scam was apparently occurring all around the country,
making one wonder just how many Australians are married to their own blood relations.
a mother collapses, it means
lost her sense of herself."
The way to cause a mother to collapse is to divide
her emotionally. The most common way, time out of
mind has been to force her to choose between loving
her child and fearing what harm the village will
visit on her and the child if she does not comply
with the rules.
When a mother is forced to choose between the child
and the culture, there is something abhorrently cruel
and unconsidered about that culture. A culture that
requires harm to one's soul in order to follow the
cultures prescriptions is a very sick culture indeed.
This "culture" can be the one a woman lives in, but
more damning yet, it can be the one she carries
around and complies with within her own mind....."
Who Run With The Wolves Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Licensing Adoption Agencies -
Although outlawing independent baby traders,
the new protection clauses introduced into the new Act, had been entirely disregarded as the industry introduced practices
that simultaneously contravened its own legislation, allowing the newly "respectable" licensed adoption agencies to simply
turn baby trading into a major industry - and a very lucrative one at that.
Providing lifetime careers for agents,
finders fees for the location of suitable babies, providing as many babies to their own friends and family members, church
friends and members, including hospital staff, their family and their friends, all helping themselves to our newborns as required.
With district officers hounding mothers day and night, who had refused or resisted signing their babies away, only to find
decades later that that same district officer had been the very person
to adopt her baby, that the same paediatrician who had pulled her baby out of her womb had taken her baby for himself, that
nurses working in hospital nurseries had earmarked a particular baby for themselves and waited weeks or months before taking
the baby home to coincide with their annual holidays, or long service being due, long after private adoption arrangements
had been banned.
But possibly the biggest factor that motivated
the ferocious promotion of babies for adoption was the reaping in of huge financial gains. Call it what you will and give
it any official name you like, but it was selling babies nonetheless, by
way of charging administrative fees and demanding tax exempt and often huge donations from adoptive parents - for services
Under the new Adoption of Children Act
1965, however, it is an offence to make, give, receive, or agree to make, give, or receive payment or reward in consideration
of any arrangements with a view to adoption.
A Marketable Commodity
If both adoption and foster care are services
to provide for children in need: given that less work is involved in the process of arranging an adoption placement of a healthy
white newborn which is over once the order is made, and yet prospective adopters now pay administration fees of around $3,500, by comparison to the massive work involved in the placement of a child into long or
short term foster care where the paper work, visitations, relocations, court orders and arrangements etc., can continue for
years on end at no cost to the foster parent (in fact she gets paid), with the state picking up the tab, and given that adoptive
parents prepared to adopt a disabled child are exempt from administration fees, if adoption really is now a service to provide
for children in need, and not still a marketable commodity, why isn't the state also picking up the tab for administrative
fees for adoption placements?
Why is it that only a perfect newborn
is expected to be paid for?
A Social Experiment
While the baby's mother was being promised
the perfect life with perfect parents , an idealised family structure she could not hope to compete with, and being made to
believe she would be a selfish mother to deny her child a life far superior to anything she could provide, the reality was
that no-one knew if the placement of her child would even be successful let alone superior. Traditional adoptions were simply
a long term experiment with the lives of our children. An experiment which according to many outcomes - and the cost in human terms - has failed dreadfully.
MAEV O'COLLINS..B.A. Dip. Soc. Stud. Social
Worker, Catholic Family Welfare Bureau, Melbourne, Vic. (extract from a paper printed in the; AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF
SOCIAL WORK Vol 19, NO 1. February 1966)
In assessment and placing of children with adopting applicants we are
always looking for their normal capacity for parenthood. Our judgement in
many cases is only a little better than chance and our ability to assess
possible problems must leave a greater margin for error than perhaps any
other field of social welfare. However, it is reassuring to note that studies
carried out in the USA have shown that trained workers in adoption
agencies have significantly better results than independent adoption
work........Often we are affected by over-crowded nurseries and
insufficient couples applying to adopt 'hard to place' children and a growing
awareness that delay for the baby can have a damaging effect on his
personality that even the best and most understanding couple may not be
able to counteract.
This may mean that in the 'stress' of the moment we place a child hurriedly,
perhaps too soon, perhaps to the wrong couple, perhaps to unsuitable
people. Donald Brieland in his experimental study of the Selection of
Adoptive Parents at Intake, raised the problem that individual judgement by
social workers is only somewhat better than chance.
Our task of clarifying and strengthening the reality of parenthood while at
the same time not withholding or denying the fact of the child’s biological
origins will perhaps always remain the crucial difficulty in adoption.
Studies to determine the success or failure in adoption work must always be
considered against the background of normal family living, and results may
not be readily assessed until 15 or 20 years after the original placement.
Adoptive parents will make mistakes because they are human and will not
always understand, thus adoption is not a panacea, it will not always
produce well adjusted adults but it does seem to be the best plan we have to
offer the child denied his own parents'.
That timing coincided nicely with legislative
changes in Victoria by 1985.
The experiment on our children had obviously failed.
Just as Vincent had forecast some years
earlier, the recruitment of more prospective adoptive parents had begun in 1967 by the use of media articles, ministers of
church congregations calling on their parishioners to do their Christian duty, even if they already had families of their
own, began to draw huge levels of applicants.
By 1967, McLelland, referred to the historical
developments in the selection of adoptive parents where efforts were also being made to recruit those prepared to take hard
to place children:
"Including those who were by no means
A thought for the unmarried father.
Tele 5/2/67 Miss Mary McLelland.
"There are three people involved in adoption," she said, "the child, the
natural parent who must surrender him, and the adoptive parent."
Miss McLelland said another current change in the adoptive practice was
that the supply of children was falling in relation to the supply of
adoptive parents. This was even more unfortunate as not all adoptive
parents were suitable....a further modern day
role of the social
worker was to recruit adoptive parents by stimulating interest among
Dissenters of Adoption
McWhinnie scathingly attacked adoption
as a hit and miss affair in 1967, publicly exposing (via the Daily Mirror), the findings of research she had conducted on
58 adult adoptees. Of her 58 guinea-pigs, only 15 were well adjusted and considered their childhood to be happy and successful,
10 were poorly adjusted and 21 were still struggling with severe immediate emotional problems relating to adoption. The rest
were considered to be intermediate.
I should note here that in 1967 according
to the Proceeding Seminar held on Friday 3rd February 1967to proclaim the new Adoption of Children Act 1965,
giving mothers protection as never before
(apparently), concerns had been raised by the medical profession regarding what they considered to be the best form of adoption.
These were known as "rapid adoptions."
A rapid adoption was a process whereby
the parents of a recently stillborn child (not having intended to adopt) were offered a substitute baby to replace their own
dead infant so as not to leave the hospital empty handed. But the decision had to be made quickly as the swap had to be made
prior to leaving the hospital.
As the grieving mother of the stillborn,
in having just given birth could immediately breastfeed the alien child, this was considered to be a much favoured adoption
variable by many in the medical profession. It relied simply on swapping the dead infant for an available recently born ex-nuptial
Naturally the security of such a placement
would have been imperative and may well have relied on telling the unwed mother her baby had been stillborn to ensure she
didn't try to legally reclaim her child.
Rapid adoptions were very much discussed
at the seminar, and could well be the answer to the recently exposed adoption/stillborn scandal of 1996 where many unwed mothers
across the country, having been told their babies had been stillborn, have reunited with their so-called dead babies in recent
years. Their children had been taken for adoption instead.
Some mothers around the Newcastle area were told their baby had died and would be buried
in the `rose garden' on the grounds of the hospital.
The Children's Medical Research
Medical records of Crown Street hospital indicate that some babies born to unwed
mothers were being used as guinea pigs in trials being conducted into the respiratory development of low birth weight babies
in the mid 1960's. The babies were being administered the drug Phenergen at a few days of age, although the drug was not to
be administered to a child under two years old.
On the same point, unwed mothers were
being used to trial new diuretics. By the mid 1970's Rubella Titre trials were being conducted on unwed mothers without their
consent or knowledge.
Well Kept Secret -
This section will come as a shock to every
mother who reads it. Nevertheless it must be known.
Since the introduction of the Adoption
of Children Act 1965, only one paper presented at a 1968 Conference for social workers outlined provisions available to assist
the unmarried mother who keeps her child, including financial assistance, and child care facilities available in and around
the city of Sydney which accommodates the child while the mother works.
This was obviously a well kept secret
available only to those in the know and I suspect their secret didn't leave the conference room, given that mothers were being
told there was no assistance even if they knew to ask. Even those who managed to keep their babies were not made aware of
the provisions and subsisted on family help until 1973.
One can only wonder how many lives might
have been saved, how many unnecessary separations might have been averted, how much pain and suffering might have been avoided
had the regulations been complied with togive mothers a free choice.
That the primary reason why the vast majority
of mothers lost their babies because they were given to believe no help
was available only to learn that there was help, and they did not have to lose their baby after all, is to all, an indescribable violation. The cunning of the industry in their self righteous, outright theft of our children, by conveniently denying the mother her legal options defies
Financial Assistance, and Support
Association of Social Workers
National Conference Proceedings
Issues of Today'
unmarried mother who keeps her child'
`From the Commonwealth, the unmarried mother receives the Maternity
allowance of $30.00 and thereafter child endowment of 50 cents a week.
is entitled to special benefits until six weeks after the birth of the
when it ceases unless she is considered medically unfit. She must apply
through the courts to obtain maintenance from the putative father before she
is entitled to any help from the Department of Child and Social Welfare.
This help would vary according to circumstances but is always $1.00 below
that of the Widows pension. As you know, a Class A Widows Pension for a
woman with one child who is paying rent is $23.00 a week....So unless she
returns to work, she is permanently on an income below that of a Widow's
-Day care for the child-
If she is to work, the mother who is on her own needs to find satisfactory
day care for her child. In New South Wales, if she is within reasonable
distance from the inner city she will be given priority at one of the six
Sydney Day Nurseries Association nurseries which take children under the
age of two years.
The other essential for the mother on her own with a baby is, of course,
accommodation. In New South Wales she can apply to the Housing Commission
for accommodation and, in due course, when her turn is reached on the waiting
list she will probably be allocated a flat. At present, the average waiting time
for this is 3-31/2 years. There is one infants home in Sydney where a mother
can go with her child but otherwise there is at present no special provisions
for this group of mothers.
In some cases for the first few weeks of the baby's life, the obstetric hospital
will still be the main source of support and help to the single mother who is
trying to keep her child without her own family's help. It may well be that
much help is needed in these first few weeks because, for some mothers, the
actual experience of caring for the baby, accepting the reality of what this
means to both of them is only fully appreciated after caring for the child. If
support and acceptance is still freely available, subsequent surrender of the
baby, which may be in everyone's best interest -including the child - may be
The last public advert
The following article was the last time
any mention had been made publicly of services available to allow an unwed mother the option of keeping her child until the
sole parents benefit was re-introduced/advertised in July 1973.
25TH March 1965
`Adopted babies to get new deal'
by Wallace Crouch
"Child Welfare officers emphasise that before she
signs a consent a mother is made fully aware of
the import of her actions. Alternatives to adoption
are outlined to her - financial assistance, placement
of her child in a licensed home or its admission to
State control as a ward. Only if a mother still
insists that she wants her child adopted does the
officer proceed with the consent."
According to Hansard, the Child Welfare
Department was concerned about the level of pressure being put on them by infertile couples who constantly complained how
4 - 5 years was too long a wait to obtain babies once the decision to adopt had been made. This article indicates that their
demands had been acknowledged and were going to be met.