On 3 March 2023, the Government provided its response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights report, The Violation of Family Life: Adoption of Children of Unmarried Women 1949–1976.
In the report, published in July 2022, the Joint Committee called on the Government to issue a formal apology to unmarried mothers who had their babies taken for adoption in the late 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s.
It found that the Government bore ultimate responsibility for the pain and suffering caused by public institutions and state employees that railroaded mothers into unwanted adoptions.
It further called for more to be done to support those dealing with the life-long consequences of these adoptions, urging the Government to improve access to counselling and remove barriers to accessing adoption documents.
PAC-UK are pleased the Government has recognised that what happened to unmarried mothers and their children was profoundly wrong.
We acknowledge the response from the chair of the JCHR, Joanna Cherry who said:
“It is disappointing that the Government has chosen not to issue a formal apology in recognition of the appalling treatment that unmarried mothers suffered during that time, and the lifelong consequences this had on them, on their children, now grown, and all those involved.”
Since the Government response was published, PAC-UK has heard and listened to those affected share their views through various mediums, including social media (individual views, statements from campaigning groups and discussion on our Facebook Groups for birth parents and adult adoptees), direct feedback via our PAC-UK Advice Line and during counselling sessions and support groups.
PAC-UK supports over 5,000 people affected by adoption and permanency every year, the vast majority are birth parents and adult adoptees who come to us carrying significant trauma and a deep sense of loss. Many have voiced their disappointment in the Government response, which does not address the issue of state responsibility and the need for support and resources to address the lifelong impact of historic adoption practices.
In October 2022, PAC-UK launched ‘BIG CONSULT 2022’ surveys for adopted people and birth families to hear about the experiences and views of adopted people and birth families on a range of adoption issues. We were extremely thankful to have had 454 completed surveys from adopted people and 151 completed surveys from birth families.
On 20 April 2023, we will be publishing the full findings and analysis on our website, though wanted to share some statistical data now from our BIG CONSULT of Adopted People:
- 77% of all respondents said they had accessed mental health or therapeutic support as adults
We know from the thousands of service users who contact us that many adopted people have very limited access or no access to services – levels of support is patchy nationally and remains a postcode lottery. While we welcome PAC-UK being listed as an agency who can provide support, the Government response has not addressed where these services are now and how they will be funded.
- 85% of all respondents said they had attempted to have contact with their birth families as adults
We know that fewer Regional Adoption Agencies and Local Authorities fund intermediary services – the Government response does not address head on where those separated by adoption can access support. We are particularly concerned about where this leaves the older ‘before it’s too late’ birth mothers who may never meet their children or be supported in their loss. We are also concerned that adopted people unlucky enough to live in postcodes where there are no funded adoption specific therapeutic or intermediary support services will not be able to access support.
Without positive action from Government to upscale services to remove the postcode lottery and meet increased and unmet lifelong need, the trauma and loss for birth families and adopted people will only continue.
Our PAC-UK Advice Line is available on 020 7284 5879 (London office) and 0113 230 2100 (Leeds office) and is staffed by qualified and experienced PAC-UK counsellors who can provide advice and information on all aspects of adoption and other forms of permanent care. If preferred, you can also contact us by emailing email@example.com.