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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 
parliament.uk

Update 25 June 2021

It is a month since we wrote to the Prime Minister and our letter was handed in at No. 10.
We have yet to receive a reply.


By way of contrast, a Parliamentary Debate took place in Scottish Parliament, during which immense compassion was shown for everyone affected by these issues. The Scottish arm of the campaign is being received sympathetically by those in power there. More details on our MAA Scotland page.