These are just a few of the stories that have come to Movement for an Adoption Apology from individuals affected by the adoption process. Each one’s experience is unique and different. We cannot ‘compare’ stories but we can listen to each other.
If you would like to offer your support to MAA by sharing your story for this page please email to MAANPN@gmail.com saying whether you want to be named or anonymous.
Our thanks to all contributors.
In response to the Observer magazine article 27.10.2013
I was really happy to read about you in the Guardian yesterday and I wanted to wish you courage and all the best for your campaign.
I was born and adopted in London in the late 60s. I searched for and met my Irish birth mother 18 years ago. The loving relationship I now share with her and my warm and welcoming extended birth family has gone some way to healing the hurt of the adoption for both of us. Whilst I have nothing but compassion for the heartbreak she endured and I still find it hard to this day to countenance the indifference of the Catholic Church and wider society that treated young women so cruelly, all in the name of propriety.
I think you are really brave to stand up and tell your stories and demand an apology.
In response to a letter in the Times from Helen Jeffreys, MAA committee member, wrote sparked by an article about the swing 60s – the dual standards that prevailed – the sexual revolution, and the lack of birth control, safe abortion, or resources for single mothers.
I was very touched by Helen Jeffreys’s letter in The Times (10.5.2013) and, although I am not a ‘natural parent’, my own birth mother (who was 20 years old at the time of my birth in Oct 1964) would be 66-67 now, and had to give me away at six weeks old.
My (now) mother once casually referred to the fact that my (natural) mother apparently had a wobble at the time of my adoption (c.March 1965) and it somehow didn’t surprise me, although the insensitivity to what that small nugget might mean to me and, by association, my distraught then-very-young mother, did.
If it is any comfort to you – meaning natural parents and especially mothers – not a birthday has gone by without me privately thinking of my natural mother, and of what she went through, and thanking her. I have been lucky to have inherited many very useful innate talents and toughnesses, some of which must be partly hers.
I think of it as a bit like losing your entire family in a plane crash, and coincidentally all portraits/heirlooms/records of your ancestors in a fire the same day, when six weeks old. It is an enormous private bereavement, not ‘mentionable’ in normal life, and never fully appreciated by others.
To this day, I have never knowingly met a single person who is related to me. The least they could have done is provide us with a photograph of our natural parents, or at least the mother, and I can never really forgive either the adoption agency or my own parents for not thinking of this, such a simple and obvious source of comfort to the curiosity factor, which would have answered so many questions and silenced so many nagging voices within. And that’s not even starting on any anecdotal evidence of genetic medical predispositions etc.
On paper, I have been very lucky, have had a wonderful life of opportunities, and am happily married etc. but there always remains this huge ‘wound’ that I live with daily, and which no one really knows about or can appreciate. I do think there is much to be said for ignoring it and counting your blessings. There are so many people far worse off in so many ways.
I really do feel for our natural mothers especially, and have often wondered if mine ever thinks of me, and if she will be aware of my 50th next year etc. if she and I are still alive. I have also refrained from trying to find her, for fear of upsetting people. I would be fascinated to hear from any natural mothers c.1964 adoptions of their viewpoint on that quite sensitive aspect. I work on the basis that my skin might be thicker than hers, so beware.
I received details of MAA from a very dear friend of mine who had spent several years trying to find me on behalf of my birth parents.
I was born in 1962. My birth mother was just 16 when I was born and my birth father only 15. Both my birth parents were caught up in the system so that they had no choice in any decisions regarding their unborn child. My birth father was ostracised by my birth mother’s family and despite many pleas he was never allowed to see her. My birth mother was sent away during her pregnancy and then came back to her home town of Birmingham and into an unmarried mothers home for my birth. She cared for me for eight weeks in this home; she was denied the opportunity to breast feed; she, as you can imagine, was a young vulnerable girl whose domineering mother completely took control. On the day my birth mother had to hand me over for adoption my birth father, only a lad himself, defied her parents and went with her to say goodbye to me.
After 45 years of separation I was finally reunited with my birth parents, but the guilt and whole experience they have both carried with them all their lives has had an enormous effect on them. She and I have found it very hard to form a relationship. She cannot express any form of love or emotion as she was made to feel, all her life, that she did the most awful thing. She was made to feel so ashamed of what she had done. No compassion was ever shown to her and, even when she tried to find out in the weeks after I was adopted how I was doing, the cold-hearted voice on the end of the social service telephone made her feel she was nothing more than a criminal. She is now 65 years of age and she went on to have a very sad life in many ways.
My birth father has also many ghosts to overcome and, although I see him about five times a year, he has told me that he struggles with guilt that he could not prevent me from being taken away from him.
For me, I feel so angry. I feel that I had taken away from me the chance of being brought up by my birth parents because they were never given a choice. No matter how much I was loved by my adoptive parents, and I was lucky, it is not the same. A child truly belongs with its natural parents. I feel the bond, and I feel cheated of what I should have had. Therefore I fully support the MAA campaign. So many birth parents had no voice and no rights during these harsh times.
Julie recently added the following update –
The actions from the past regarding the whole adoption process affected so many, and this is true of the children who were put up for adoption.
Since I last wrote I am very sad to inform you that both my birth parents have broken contact with me. For my birth mother she had not been able to forget the guilt and feelings of the past. My birth father truly broke my heart. His wife and children just saw me as a threat to their family unit and, in the end, he was given little choice – it was me or his marriage. Although it has been a painful journey for me, I love them both even if I cannot be with them.
Very best wishes for the future and kindest regards,
I was born on 16 November 1952 in my grandparents’ house in Princes Risborough, Bucks. My mother Peggy was a 31 year old widow with a 5 year old son. Her husband had died about two years previously and she had moved from London to live with her parents and youngest sister. She commuted to London and worked as a secretary earning a good wage. My maternal grandfather had been in the Metropolitan Police and was working as a caretaker for a government establishment in the town and the house they lived in was tied to this job.
The agency that effected my adoption was called the Oxford Diocesan Council for Moral Welfare. An “outworker” called Mrs Hill was instrumental in the process. She lived in a nearby village and I suspect had no qualifications for this role but was, I am sure, revered in her community as a do-gooder. PACT – Parents & Children Together (an ironic title in the circumstances) has subsequently taken over the records from the Oxford Diocese but sadly is unable to trace anything relating to my adoption. This is despite a legal requirement to keep the records.
I took steps to discover who I was in early 2007. I was required to consult a social worker who would have obtained the records from PACT but, in their absence, she managed to get hold of Ad Litem records from Bucks County Council Social Services. On our original consultation she talked about how sometimes mothers would write a letter to their child to be kept with these records. When she phoned to tell me she had the paperwork she told me there was a letter. When I visited her to go through the documents it transpired there was no letter.
From documents in the Ad Litem records (that were far from complete – some documents referring to enclosures that were not included), and using Births, Marriages & Deaths records, I was able to trace my mother’s two younger sisters who were still living in Princes Risborough and were both in the phone book. Also one miserable Sunday afternoon my mother’s death in 1995 appeared on my computer screen.
I have met both my aunts and my older half-brother. I would like to find out who my father was but because my mother in her shame apparently made her sisters never talk to anyone about what had happened. Unfortunately this includes me and although I have got a name from the court documents despite many efforts I have failed to progress this.
I have an adopted brother who is 3.5 years older than me. In his early twenties, by pure chance, her found himself working with a younger half-brother and was able to make contact with his mother. He was with her when she died a couple of years ago. My adoptive parents were very upset about him making contact with her which is one of the reasons I never started my search, that and I was very angry with my mother and wanted to punish her by not making contact (I think).
As a family the adoption issue was a taboo subject. When I was about 7 I told my teacher that I was adopted and she told me she would never have guessed because I was like mummy – she was probably just trying to be kind. When I told my mum what she had said she went berserk and told me I shouldn’t go around talking to people about it. From then on I realised it was not a good thing to be adopted.
So my brother and I never talked about it until four years ago when he told me he could remember the shock of me arriving. He hadn’t been warned even though it was obvious from the documentation I have that I had been lined up for my adoptive parents several months before I was born. He had clear memories of when he was small being left alone to play while mum disappeared upstairs. The criterion for me being allocated to them was that my brother seemed a happy child. He wasn’t. Our mum was not at all suitable as an adoptive parent. She was unable to get over not having children of her own.
When I was 11 weeks old my mother took me by train to a home for unmarried mothers in Aylesbury called Puttnam House. I believe this was not a pleasant place to be and the girls there were not treated with any great Christianity although it was run by the Church of England. According to one of my aunts, when my mother took me I was dressed in a pretty pink outfit that they had knitted for me. My mother held me up for her 15 year old sister to wave goodbye to me. My sister in law has told me that my mother told her (not me) that when I arrived with them, according to the records on the same day, I was wearing some worn out old clothes that she immediately removed and burned. Did the Christian women of Puttnam House take off the outfit knitted by mother and her sister and put me in some scruffy old tat they had?
I was removed from a close and loving family, from a woman who had the wherewithal to support me and her old child, given a little support by an organisation of over-zealous bigots. That family got on with their lives without me, my real life stopped. My mother married again and had another daughter. By 11 weeks old I would have formed a close bond with the family around me. I was wrenched from them and put with complete strangers. I imagine that I can still experience this terror. When I think about it my stomach turns over. I have never been able to form relationships. I do not keep up friendships. If your own mother isn’t committed to you, why would anyone else be? It is my son’s birthday today. He called on me this morning. No matter how much I would have liked to, I was not able to hug him. This is what the Church of England did to me.
A STORY FROM A CHILD SEPARATED FROM HER MOTHER IN THE 1950s
I was an orphan.
Well at least I thought I was until the age of 14 when my mother attempted to contact me. I was in foster care at the time and I was advised?? to have nothing to do with her – but that is a whole other story.
I did not meet my mother until I was 21 when it was I who went in search of her. What I discovered appalled me.
I was born in 1948 and my mother had managed to keep me for 3 years, yes 3 years, after which I was forcibly removed from her and put into a children’s home – and there lies another story. My mother visited me frequently until one day when she came to see me I was no longer there. The powers that be had transferred me to another children’s home ad had not informed my mother, neither would they tell her where I was.
My childhood was not the best. However, this pales into insignificance compared to the grief my mother experienced, a grief that never went away or indeed subsided.
As I got older I was given no information as to my roots and indeed I was told I was an orphan.
My mother, a single parent, was given no help at the time. I was simply snatched from her and no paperwork or signatures were ever to be had. She had two further children who she managed to keep because at least the system had changed and she received housing.
I have met my brothers but most importantly I now know my roots. Good or bad, children need to know where they come from, otherwise they end up with terrible feelings of isolation, of being misfits, detached and unable to bond.
Who were these faceless people who decided that taking me away from my mother in such a manner and giving neither of us any information would far outweigh the detachment I felt and the years of grief my mother felt. SHAME ON YOU. I was not an orphan.
I just wanted to say thank you to all those involved in your interview in the You magazine for the Mail on Sunday dated 23 February 2014.
I was adopted from birth in 1974 and, over the last few years I have had some contact with my birth mother although this is limited to email. One of the things that she has said to me was that she suffered from prejudice from her catholic family when they found out she was pregnant with me. Her family sent her away to stay with an aunt. Until I read your article I did not understand the extent of the prejudice that was in our society and what she must have gone through.
So thank you very much for the honesty of your article. It has helped me a lot.
From an adoptee who wishes to remain anonymous.