A Manchester MP wants his Parliamentary colleagues support for a government apology to unmarried mothers forced to offer their children for adoption from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Liberal Democrat John Leech has acted after being contacted by one of his Withington constituents. Writer and broadcaster Phil Frampton’s BBC radio programme The Crying Shame saw him revisit, for the first time, the unmarried mothers home in St Agnes, Cornwall where he was born in 1953.
“My mother was a Birmingham teacher. Not being married she bore me in secret to avoid bringing shame down on her head and losing her job” says Frampton, who remained in care until he was 18.
Frampton was shocked to discover the “extent to which mothers were systematically humiliated, including being forced to watch from a locked room as the adopters put their baby into a car and drive away.” In some cases children and birth parents were denied any contact following childbirth. Many of the institutions that carried out these cruel acts were publicly funded through the Church of England and local authorities.
Leech’s early day motion submitted for debate in the House of Commons, “notes the women were not given information about welfare services including housing and financial help and there was no questioning whether women putting their children up for adoption had given informed consent.”
The MP has won support from the Movement for an Adoption Apology, a group established last year. One of its members, Green Party member Jean Robertson-Molloy, gave up her newly born daughter in Australia 49 years ago, believing “every child needs a mother and a father.” Ironically when she did return to the UK, married and had two children she ended up looking after them on her own when the marriage collapsed. Only then did she discover her parents would have been more than happy to have assisted her care for her youngest born.
Robertson-Molloy praises Australia’s registry programme, which she claims “puts Britain’s to shame, making it easier for birth parents to find their children.” Nevertheless her daughter was 28 years old when they re-met, and the relationship remains strained.
Many children were also forcibly deported to Australia to populate the country, and abused in the homes they were put in.
Next month South Australia’s premier Jay Weatherill is set to offer in the State Parliament a formal apology to people affected by past forced adoption practices.
From the 1950s until 1980, it has been estimated that more than 17,000 children were adopted in South Australia, many through forced removal by agencies or churches. South Australia is the first state to act after an Australian Senate report recommended all states and territories make official apologies.
Leech would now like to see the UK follow suit: “Women subjected to forced child adoptions have carried a lifelong sense of shame. The same is true for child victims of such adoptions. An acknowledgement from the establishment that they did not take enough action to prevent forced child adoptions may help ease the personal hurt that the women and children who went through such adoptions experienced.”
Leech, who at the 2005 General Election became the first Liberal or Liberal Democrat to win a Manchester seat since 1929, feels Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s official public apology in September 2009 for the persecution suffered by wartime codebreaker and computer genius Alan Turing sets a precedence that should be followed.
In a period when homosexual acts were illegal, Turing’s homosexuality resulted in a criminal prosecution in 1952 and he accepted chemical castration treatment rather than go to prison. In 1954, aged 41, he committed suicide after taking cyanide poisoning.
“An apology will bring what happened to thousands of women and their children into the open, acknowledge it happened and exert pressure to make sure it doesn’t re-happen. Furthermore, it may also help repair some damaged family relationships. I hope MPs support the early day motion” says Jean Robertson-Molloy.
However, no-one from the Department of Education, was able to say if government ministers – including children’s minister Tim Loughton – would be amongst them.
The Movement for an Adoption Apology can be contacted at MAANPN@gmail.com