An estimated 300,000 adoption have occurred within Australia. A similar number
of unregistered adoptions where no official transaction took place is also believes to have occurred.
Of those official adoptions, they include pre 1960’s intra-familial placements
where the child was absorbed into the natural family to be raised by a relative. These
figures include step parent adoptions and to a lesser degree the placement of
older children held in orphanages and the care system who really did need a new
family to care for them. These types of adoption occurred primarily before the mid 1950’s.
However, this overview is about Traditional Adoptions.
These were the most commonly promoted form of adoption and known as infant adoptions – where the newborn
child was removed form its mother at birth and placed with non related strangers to be raised as their own as if born to them.
It is estimated that at least 200,000 such adoptions have occurred in Australia since WW2.
2. Birth certificates
adopted person has two birth certificates.
Birth Certificate - providing a true record of his birth which included his mothers name and the name she chose for
him – if she was allowed to name him.
The second is called the Amended Birth Certificate – which replaced
the original one and claims the adoptive parents as being the original parents of the child and implies that the adoptive mother gave birth to him.
Upon the adoption order being finalised through the Supreme court, the
original Birth certificate is sealed away forever and was never to be released. The mother and child were forbidden by law to ever know
each others names.
Humphries, described the separation between mother and child under closed adoption legislation as being as complete and as final as
the veil between life and death itself.
Brief history of adoption in Australia
legislation was first introduced in NSW in 1923.
original intention was to care for children who were without parents.
WW2 illegitimate children and children
of the poor were usually placed
into institutions until their parents were better placed to care for them.
legislation evolved to secure adoption placements to avoid children being returned
to the state by their adopting parents.
was slow to be accepted due to the belief that illegitimate children and children of the poor inherited these and other “evil tendencies” which were
on from mother to child through the parents BAD BLOOD.
The original intention of adoption
Was to provide permanent alternative care for a child
deprived of his own family. It was not meant to set about depriving the child
of his own family. But that’s what it did.
The law stated that 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.
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. 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 adoption.
How did infant adoptions evolve???
Nature v Nurture debate
War 2 the shame of the Holocaust caused societies around the world to
rethink their inheritable BAD BLOOD theories, deciding that a child’s environment had more to do with the quality
of the child than who he was born to.
was seen as more important than genetics in
the development of the child, adoption became more popular as people became less afraid of our “bad blood.”.
1950’s the medical profession was
trying to find a cure for infertility. When their fertility treatments
didn’t work they advised on adoption.
fifties, childless married couples began demanding newborn infants .and putting pressure on the Child Welfare Departments to supply them.
The demand for newborns made adoption a political issue.
The Medicalization of Infant Adoption
“The last thing
the obstetrician should concern himself with is the law in regard to adoption.”
The Anxieties of Pregnancy - D.F. Lawson M.B. F.R.C.S., F.R.C.O.G.
Medical Society Hall East Melbourne August 19, 1958
The medical profession was encouraged to disregard the law when it came to infant adoptions and the rights of
In his presentation to the Fetherston
Memorial Conference in Melbourne 1959 Dr Lawson, an obstetrician announced that
the prospect of the unmarried girl or of her family adequately caring for a child and giving it a normal environment and upbringing is so small that I believe
for practical purposes it can be ignored. I believe that in all such cases the obstetrician should urge that the child be
adopted. In recommending that a particular child be fit for adoption, we tend to err on the side of over cautiousness. “When
in doubt, don’t” is part of the wisdom of living; but over adoptions
I would suggest that “when in doubt, do” should be the rule.
Heredity is important: but everything we hear from the child health
specialists tells us how important is the right environment for normal mental
and social development. To them environment is almost everything, and I believe that a good environment will make a better
job of bad genes than a bad environment will make of good genes.
When you walk through the nurseries,
you know that some babies are hungry, some have a belly ache, but none of you imagine that they are stuffed with original
sin – the way they are cuddled and kissed as they are carried to their
mothers makes this obvious. It is environment which pushes the sinfulness into these babies. Adoption brings joy to the adopting parents and the prospect of a better life to the child, and makes the life of
the mother much easier.
The last thing that the obstetrician might concern himself with is the
law in regard to adoption. All of you here belong to some club or another – the British Medical association, the Royal
College of Nursing, golf clubs, tennis clubs – and you all know that if you do not behave properly you can be thrown
out. If you belong to a bowling club, you cannot trample on the green with hobnail
boots; but you can trample on the face of everything that is decent and proper, and because of something which is called the sacred right of parents, you can never
be thrown out of the parents club.
There are many welfare and foundling homes full of neglected children.
To have children is to assume an obligation and to create the opportunity of
rearing good people. When parents continuously neglect their obligations, should they not
be deprived of their rights?
It was form this point on that almost all hospitals around
Australia introduced the medicalization of adoption/ By that I means
taking/stealing the baby during the process of labour.
THE PURPOSE OF INFANT ADOPTION
To resolve two social problems.
To eradicate illegitimacy
and single motherhood from society where young mothers were expected to forget about their child and get on with their lives, get
married and have children
of their own.
To cure the social problem of childlessness within
None of these theories were based on any scientific evidence.
Infant Adoption as a Eugenics Based
The Baby Boomers
At a National Conference on Social Welfare in the early 60’s in the US, Dr. Clark E. Vincent, Professor
of Sociology gives us the clue as to why the peak era of infant adoptions occurred so prolifically at a time of such monumental social change and Women’s
Dr Vincent, a sociologist and prognosticator of social
forecasts, had outlined his predictions on adoption in his paper titled `Illegitimacy in the Next Decade: Trends and Implications'.
He explained that as a result of the post war baby boom,
a huge pool of teenage mothers born during the post war era would produce a potential over-supply of illegitimate babies as
they reached the 15 to 19 year old age group. Unless this crisis of illegitimacy
levels could be socially controlled it would create a major social problem.
Teenage mothers were seen as “the greatest suppliers of adoptable babies”
This would create a major economic and social imbalance in the acceptable levels of illegitimacy in the community
and have a detrimental EFFECT ON THE STABILITY OF SOCIETY and the sanctity of MARRIED LIFE unless enough potential adopters
could be encouraged to consider adoption.
Ironically, Vincent warned
that "If the demand for adoptable babies continues to exceed the
supply...then it is quite possible that, in the near future, unwed mothers will be "punished" by having their children taken
from them right after
birth." He explains that:
policy like this would not be executed - nor labelled explicitly as "punishment". Rather, it would be implemented by such
pressures and labels as - scientific findings, the best interest of the child, rehabilitation of the unwed mother, and the
stability of family and society." This all came to pass and the rest is history.
The Infertility Epidemic.
According to the Australian
medical Journal an epidemic of clamidya swept the nation after WW2 which returned soldiers brought back from the war
and transmitted to their wives and girlfriends. This resulted in a wave of infertility
problems in many women.
The introduction of
the pill was also a factors in the increased infertility problems –oestrogen
levels too high.
And along with medical problems such as endometriosis and
other unfortunate gyneacological problems, illegal unsanitary abortions also
gave rise to the problem of infertility.
Sterility caused by Mumps in men was also another serious factor
In addition to infertility, unconsummated marriages accounted
for up to 50% of adoption applicants. These
marital problems were the result of latent or closeted homosexuality, and sexual inexperience and an adversion to
sex by staunchly religious women.
Cross Cultural Data Collection
Federal Governments had already begun providing funds for research and demonstration projects dealing with illegitimacy
and related problems during the late 1950's and early 1960's, and estimated how, by 1965-1970, more attention would be given
to international and cross cultural comparative data, reticent interest in unwed fathers., and that longitudinal studies into
illicit sexual activities were already being accompanied, if not exceeded by, the increased research interest in highly selected
aspects of illegitimacy ie. adoption.
These developments and the push toward coordinated services were intended to understand illegitimacy and to
diminish its occurrence, through education, research, and preventative and rehabilitative services and activities.
And although he was only three years out, he had also forecast how the illegitimacy levels would eventually
be controlled by 1970 through the introduction of easy access to terminations and the availability of contraception to unmarried
women. His forecasts have all came to pass.
Vincent’s studies were
the underlying reason why Governments of all English speaking nations, including Australia, took over control of all adoptions, and therefore illegitimacy, with the implementation of the Adoption of Children Act 1965.
The only way the state could
effectively cull the illegitimacy rate to
a more acceptable level was to disregard their own legislation, regulations
and responsibility toward the psychological well being, legal rights, and legal
protection of the unwed mother and her child.
No research was conducted into the effects of relinquishment on the mother herself until the 1980’s.
In short this was the systematic kidnapping of possibly 200,000 newborns at birth.