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Publication of the JCHR Report

The report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights has been published today, Friday 15th July.
Titled “The Violation of Family Life: Adoption of Children of Unmarried Women 1949-1976” it is a strongly worded report that outlines the issues very clearly and shows the level of injustice suffered by the mothers and children affected and includes moving accounts and evidence submitted to the Committee.

The full document is available here:
The Violation of Family Life: Adoption of Children of Unmarried Women 1949-1976 (parliament.uk)
There is a great deal of coverage on News channels today.

We are extraordinarily grateful to the Committee for their compassion and commitment to this issue.

Update – Evidence Session – 25th May 2022

The final evidence session of the JCHR took place on 25th May, and was well attended by many of those whose lives have been deeply affected by these issues.

Witnesses included Nadhim Zahawi, MP, who is Secretary for State, Department of Education;, Sarah Jennings, Deputy Director of Adoption, Family Justice and Care leavers, Department of Education.
The session was broadcast and can be watched online via this link: Committees – UK Parliament.

Update – Oral Evidence – 27 April, 2022

Over 40 mothers and adoptees attended the JCHR round table event at Portcullis House, Westminster. Each table had a member of the committee to listen to them. We had Joanna Cherry MP for Edinburgh South. I sat with other mothers and  related our experiences of being pregnant and thereafter losing our children to adoption. The shock and horror on Joanna’s face was very evident. This was duplicated at other tables.  There was discussion about what we wanted the Government to do re an Apology and what improved post adoption services they should provide.

One of the adoptees reported: ‘Florence Eshalomi MP for Vauxhall was on our table and chaired it well, though I’d be interested to find out the depth of her understanding (some of the discussion afterwards centred around understanding – as adoptees we readily understand each other, and we agreed it was an all too rare tonic).
We were given plenty of opportunity to express ourselves and I think we did it pretty well. It was notable how much we agreed with each other, to the extent that one of the committee members was surprised we’d never met each other before. I would have liked to have had the opportunity to listen to the mothers’ experience.’

 The meeting was not filmed but there was a note taker at each table. A report will be written and the next stage is outlined below by the Select Committee Engagement Team:

“The Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi MP, will be appearing in front of the Committee at a public oral evidence session on Wednesday, 25 May 2022. While timing is yet to be confirmed, sessions generally start at 3pm. (The hearing will also be available on parliament TV for those unable to attend in person, and on that website after the hearing.) If you are interested in attending, please keep an eye on the JCHR website for further details – including the confirmed time, when known –https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/93/human-rights-joint-committee/

Update 22 April, 2022

We have now compiled a list of Recommendations for the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
They will be delivered at the next Adoption Roundtable Event on 27th April, 2022.
The Recommendations are available as a PDF – please click here to download a copy.

Update – 21 March 2022

Adoption Roundtable Event
The Joint Committee on Human Rights is holding an event to hear from mothers whose babies were taken away for adoption in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, from the people who were adopted and from others with experience of adoption then, such as adoptive parents and social workers. The Committee is asking those with relevant lived experience to get in touch if they would like to attend.
If you’d like to take part, please visit this page on their website to register.

Moving statement from Liz Harvie
Last week, Liz Harvie spoke in Parliament about the painful impact of the policy of taking babies from unmarried mothers. For more on this, please read this article was published in the Guardian on Sunday 20th March.

If you’re unable to access the article directly, you can download it as a PDF, here.

Written evidence from Dr. Michael Lambert
Dr Michael Lambert has submitted detailed written evidence which casts light on many of the issues we have campaigned about for years. The full text of his submission is available here.

Update – 10th March, 2022

The next session of the Parliamentary Inquiry is now set to take place on Wednesday 16th March 2022
If you wish to attend the meeting, please note that the designated Committee Room holds a maximum of 48 people. This includes Committee Members and any ancillary staff, so space will be very limited.

The session will be broadcast live then available as a recording, as with the first meeting.
Please use this link to watch online:

Two Mothers have been selected to give evidence to the Committee, and two Adoptees.
Questions they are likely to be asked are still being drawn up for approval.

As soon as any further information is available, we will let you know.

Update – 14 December, 2021

Following years of campaigning, we can now confirm that the Parliamentary inquiry:
The right to family life: adoption of children of unmarried women 1949 – 1976will commence tomorrow, Wednesday 15th December 2021. 

Over 300 people submitted written evidence during the information gathering phase and much of the data that has been collected is still being analysed.

As we understand it, tomorrow’s session will comprise several experts giving oral evidence to the Committee.  The BBC are holding a Zoom call for some of those affected by these issues. The oral evidence will be broadcast on www.parliamentlive.tv/Guide at 3.00.pm.

A piece covering the inquiry so far will be broadcast on the BBC 6 o’clock News.

The inquiry will be suspended over the holiday period. When it resumes it is likely to focus on evidence submitted thus far.  We have yet to hear about whether any of us will be called to provide oral accounts of our experiences.

As soon as we receive more information , we’ll send out another update.

Update – 23 September, 2021

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has announced that it will hold a new inquiry:

The right to family life: adoption of children of unmarried women 1949-1976 

Inquiry page details: The right to family life: adoption of children of unmarried women 1949-1976 

Find out how to submit evidence here 

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has launched a new inquiry to understand the experiences of unmarried women whose children were adopted between 1949 and 1976. The inquiry will examine whether adoption processes respected the human rights, as we understand them now, of the mothers and children who experienced them, as well as the lasting consequences on their lives. 

The inquiry will cover a range of practices that led to the children of unmarried mothers being adopted. The scope of the inquiry will specifically cover issues arising from cases which took place during the time period between the Adoption of Children Act 1949 and the Adoption Act 1976.

Launching the inquiry, Committee Chair Harriet Harman QC MP said: 

“Everyone has the right to family life. The Joint Committee on Human Rights will look at whether the right to family life of young unmarried mothers and their children was respected in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. We have launched this inquiry to understand the realities of what the adoption process was like at that time and hear the experiences of those who went through it. 

“The adoptions took place decades ago, but the pain and suffering remains today.” 

Terms of reference 

The Joint Committee on Human Rights invites submissions on the following questions by 28 October. Find out more about how to submit evidence here

  • Was the right to family life of unmarried mothers and their children, as we understand it now, respected at the time;
  • How the experience of being adopted, or having a child who was adopted between 1949 and 1976 impacted on the family life of the unmarried mother, child and others;  
  • How social practices at the time contributed to unmarried women not being able to keep their babies and what if any, other reasons contributed to women feeling compelled to have their babies adopted; 
  • What, if any, information and support were provided to expectant mothers to help them make decisions or to enable them to keep their baby;  
  • The role played by legal consent of the parents in any adoption, how consent was given, what effect it had on children whose parents did not consent and how the standards of consent have changed since the 1950s; and 
  • How the lack of recognition of the impact of adoption practices between 1949 and 1976 has affected those whose child was adopted or who were adopted as a child during this time.

Notes to editors

The inquiry will examine historic adoption practices in England and Wales.

The inquiry will not examine current adoption practices.

Media enquiries to George Perry: perryg@parliament.uk / 07834 172 099   

Committee membership:       

Website: http://www.parliament.uk/jchr     

Ms Harriet Harman MP (Chair) (Labour),  Joanna Cherry MP (SNP),    Florence Eshalomi MP (Labour),  
Angela Richardson MP Conservative),   Dean Russell MP (Conservative),    David Simmonds MP (Conservative),      Lord Brabazon of Tara (Conservative),      Lord Dubs (Labour),      Baroness Ludford (Liberal Democrat),     Baroness Massey of Darwen (Labour),     Lord Singh of Wimbledon (Crossbench),      Lord Henley (Conservative)      

Email: jchr@parliament.uk     

Watch committees and parliamentary debates online:  www.parliamentlive.tv     

George Perry
Senior Media Officer, Select Committees
Home Affairs | Human Rights | Justice
+44 (0)20 7219 8430 | +44 (0)7834 172 099
Text relay: 18001 020 7219 8430
House of Commons, Palace of Westminster, London SW1A 0AA