A Presentation By Dian P. Wellfare, 15th June 1997
“We tend to designate as political the kind of conference at which putting out fires with water buckets is discussed, with the proviso that no-one inquire into the cause of the fires.” – from “Pictures of a Childhood” by Alice Miller, p.35.
This paper will focus on the adoption worker’s responsibility toward the unwed mother (in fact any mother) regarding the possible adoption of her child, since 1958, how she was to personally request that adoption papers be brought to her, how she was to be advised of financial assistance and alternatives that might enable her to keep her child, how she was to be warned of the risk of dire future regret and the potential psychological harm that such a course of action may cause her, and how only when she insisted upon the surrender of her child was an adoption to proceed. It will explain why this did not occur, and how her rights have been entirely contravened.
I was going to call this paper “Human Rights Crimes in Adoption” but as Australia does not have a Human Rights Crimes Act, and any claim of human rights violations has to be passed by Parliament, I have chosen the name Civil Rights Crimes in Adoption, which by-passes the sanction of Parliament and takes us straight into the Supreme Courts.
Twenty four years too late, but as soon as my mind allowed me to confront the loss of my child, I went in search of my legal rights, and in doing so, found that as a 16 year old mother in 1968, not only did I have the legal right to keep my own baby after all, but that in their rapacious quest for newborns, the adoption industry rather forgot the law – in having introduced hospital practices and counselling procedures that contravened not only their own manuals of adoption practice since 1958, but also the protection clauses of the Adoption of Children Act of 1965, in their entirety.
In having exploited the fertility and trust of defenceless young mothers, by systematically denying them all knowledge of their legal rights and options; by using both overt and covert methods of coercion to obtain consents; by actually promoting adoption – rather than following their legal fiduciary duty of having to warn mothers’ of the potential harm such a course of action may cause them.
In having introduced dehumanizing labour ward procedures of violently snatching newborns from their mothers wombs during birth, at a time when still in labour, a mother was bound by stirrups, awaiting the expulsion of the placenta; by introducing policies forbidding eye contact between mother and child to prevent bonding (culminating in a violent trauma to the female psyche from which no mother is ever able to recover).
In preventing lactation by the use of drugs or breast binding prior to a consent being taken; by sedating mothers post-natally with hypnotic barbiturates: by hiding babies from their own mothers therefore denying mothers free access to their own babies; by separating and transporting mothers without their babies to distant locations – all without due consultation, permission or written consent from the mother, and by taking unenforcable (and therefore invalid) consents from minors: I contend – were all violations of the law.
This was adoption Australia-style.
These practices constitute coercion, undue influence, duress, abduction, kidnapping, professional negligence, breach of duty of care, assault, improper consent taking, and breach of fiduciary duty both by the department of the then Child Welfare (now the Dept of Community Services) in collusion with the Department of Health – in having violated their right to be free from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, to be free from discrimination, free from arbitrary interference with their families, and their right to be entitled to special protection as mothers.
I contend that those involved in these sadistic violations were fully aware of the potential for psychological harm inherent in adoption separation, and therefore are guilty of committing major human rights crimes, and major civil rights crimes of gigantic proportions, to which the Australian Government and their licenced adoption agencies are now fully accountable.
These practices now bring into question the legal validity of possibly every adoption consent taken since protection clauses were introduced into adoption procedures in 1958, and reinforced through legislation in 1965.
Based on supply and demand, the adoption of newborns, under the guise of christian morality, relied on perverting the principles of nature (or God’s master plan) in treating unwed mothers as breeders, devoid of human instincts and emotions, giving rise to the diabolical concept that total strangers (guaranteed a waiting period of no longer than 12 months for a newborn), were entitled to claim an already developing fetus, or one yet to be conceived – as their own.
So permanently traumatised by such unspeakable inhumanity against them, and being then accused of having given away their own babies, the young mothers themselves were unable to give voice to their horror, and those who did try to speak out during the 1960’s-70’s and 80’s, were conveniently dismissed (silenced) by both the adoption industry and the courts themselves. Thus the public remained unaware of the workings of this wicked system until recent years.
I also intend to refute the myth that adoption was ever “in the best interest of the child,” by explaining how the true meaning of the term has been misrepresented with malicious intent, to be used as the key to the smooth functioning of what began as a monstrous (but illicit) social cleansing campaign that ran away with itself, and came to be seen as “a wonderful community service” for childless couples.
And finally, although this paper focuses on adoption practices within New South Wales, every state in Australia followed similar adoption procedures, although dates may differ from state to state.
The Adoption Act refers to the Adoption of Children Act 1965.
RESPONSIBILITY TOWARD THE UNWED MOTHER WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Perhaps the best place to begin this paper is by explaining when protection regulations were introduced into the treatment of unwed mothers, and how the adoption industry contravened those rules – and damned us all to hell.
The legal responsibilities in the treatment of unwed mothers began as a consequence of the famous legal case of “Mace v Murray” in 1953, where an unwed mother tried unsuccessfully to reclaim her child from the adoptive parents who refused to return the child to its rightful mother. This resulted in a sensational legal battle which split the nation.
As a consequence of that legal case, and in order to protect adopters from the disappointment of having to return the child, new regulations were introduced to ensure that in future any mother forced to consider adoption was to be made fully aware of the consequences of her actions, to enable her to live with her decision for the rest of her life, without regret and without redress.
CHILD WELFARE MANUAL OF ADOPTION PRACTICE 1958
According to a report by John Bowlby, M.A., M.D. on behalf of the World Health Organization as a contribution to the United Nations programme for the welfare of homeless children, in 1952, it had become recognised world wide that a mother should be assisted in keeping her child within its own family where ever possible. Adoption and fostering in that order were the next alternatives but only if keeping the child was not an available option.
And so by 1958, according to the NSW Child Welfare manual of adoption practice, provisions were made to protect children from maternal deprivation by assisting the unwed mother in keeping her child out of institutions and foster homes by providing financial assistance. The training manual explains that:
“Most of the babies come from large public hospitals where the mother has indicated that she does not desire to keep her child. In these cases the mother is visited in hospital by a specialist Lady District officer who explains to the mother the facilities (assistance) which the Department can offer to affiliate the child.”
“ These include:
- To assist with monetary allowance (section 27 aid. Destitute Persons Act).
- Or by admission to State control until the mother is better placed to resume custody and control of the child.
“ When all of these aids have been rejected and the mother still desires to surrender the child for adoption the full import of surrendering her child is explained (this included warning the mother of the risk of dire future regret if she should decide upon adoption).
“ Only when the mother still INSISTS does the department’s officer prepare a form of surrender. This form must be witnessed by a Justice of the Peace who in turn must furnish an affidavit to the effect that the instrument of consent was read and explained to the mother and in the belief of the Justice was understood by the mother.”
Because of the demand for newborns, these regulations were clearly never followed, as it has been generally assumed that financial assistance for unwed mothers only became available in 1973, no mother has ever been warned of the risks associated with adoption separation (in fact quite the contrary), nor was there a third person (or J.P.) present upon signing a consent. And yet district officers have all signed affidavits to the effect of having carried out their legal obligations.
Although unbeknown to most, prior to the introduction of the new Adoption Act 1965, if her circumstances changed, a mother had until an adoption order was made to reclaim her child. This meant that by law the mother had anything from a few weeks to eighteen months depending on the speed upon which an adoption order was finalised through the Supreme Court. The mere placement of a child with adopters was simply an interim placement and was not legally binding.
Nevertheless, as adopters felt unable to bond with the baby under threat of its mother coming back to reclaim her child, to alleviate any greater stress than necessary, the new Adoption Act 1965 would reduce the mother’s revocation period to a maximum of 30 days. But again many mothers knew nothing of the newly introduced revocation period.
The many thousands who did know and who attempted to reclaim their babies within the legally permitted time, had been told the child had already been placed and therefore it was all too late and too bad. In many instances their babies had not even left the hospital at the time of attempting revocation.
WHY IT OCCURRED
By the late 1950’s, having debunked the bad blood theory, through the nature v nurture debate, social workers had effectively unleashed a monster in having instigated a frenzied demand by childless couples for babies. By the mid 1960’s, the media, adoption agencies and politicians had become inundated with complaints of how it was taking far too long to obtain a baby once the decision to adopt had been made. Hansard reports the problem was not that of administrative delays – there were simply not enough babies to go around.
Eventually unwilling to take older children, with everyone demanding only perfect newborns with a “clean slate,” by the early 1960’s a policy was being engineered to kill two birds with one stone – to control illegitimacy by using the babies of unwed mothers as a cure for infertility. but it meant having to promote adoption as being in the best interest of the child to meet social approval. It also relied upon disregarding all legal regulations and protection clauses in relation to the treatment of unwed mothers in order to fill the orders placed for newborns.
SOCIAL CLEANSING & WHAT IT WAS BASED ON
Just as Hitler began his social cleansing campaign by first sterilising anyone considered to be social misfits, (a trend he followed from the Eugenics Institute of Virginia USA) so too did Australia follow a social cleansing campaign based on a yet another predicted trend coming out of the USA, (this time) to eradicate unwed mothers from society.
In his highly referenced book titled Unmarried Mothers (1961) based on research conducted into mothers who kept and mothers who gave up their babies, Clark Vincent explains the propaganda on which the new Adoption of Children Act 1965 would become based, and how the term “in the best interest of the child” would become the tool used to pry newborns away from their own mothers at birth to supply the demand. Vincent’s book concludes (in part) with the prediction that:
“If the demand for adoptable babies continues to exceed the supply… then it is quite possible that, in the near future, unwed mothers will be ‘punished’ by having their children taken from them right after birth.”
He explains that:
“A policy like this would not be executed – nor labelled explicitly as ‘punishment.’ Rather, it would be implemented by such pressures and labels as – scientific findings, the best interest of the child, rehabilitation of the unwed mother, and the stability of family and society.”
Vincent had let that (socially engineered) cat out of the bag in 1961, but it took a further 5 years to engineer a networking arrangement between 314 various departments and agencies within NSW, to implement Vincent’s predictions thus ensuring the successful functioning of their new social cleansing campaign. The peak years of the closed adoption policy (between 1967-73) proudly referred to in social work circles as the “bumper adoption era” was to last as long as Hitler’s peak reign of terror. Six years.
I should note here that in 1967 with the proclamation of the new Adoption Act 1965, giving mothers protection as never before (apparently), concerns had been raised by the medical profession regarding what they considered to be the best form of adoption. These were known as “rapid adoptions.”
A rapid adoption was a process whereby the parents of a recently stillborn child (not having intended to adopt) were offered a substitute baby to replace their own dead infant so as not to leave the hospital empty handed. But the decision had to be made quickly as the swap had to be made prior to leaving the hospital. As the grieving mother of the stillborn, in having just given birth could immediately breastfeed the alien child, this was considered to be a much favoured adoption variable by the medical profession. It relied simply on swapping the dead infant for an available recently born ex-nuptial one.
Naturally the security of such a placement was imperative and may well have relied on telling the unwed mother her baby had been stillborn to ensure she didn’t try to reclaim her child.
Rapid adoptions were very much discussed at the preceding seminar which proclaimed the Adoption of Children Act 1965 in NSW and could well be the answer to the recently exposed adoption/stillborn scandal of 1996 where many unwed mothers across the country, having been told their babies had been stillborn, have reunited with their so-called dead babies in recent years. Their children had been taken for adoption instead.
A NEGLIGENT EXPERIMENT IN CHILD PLACEMENT
Having anticipated a huge increase in available babies, by introducing procedures to accommodate the new Adoption Act 1965, (while simultaneously trying to placate unwed mothers by promising perfect lives with ideal parents for their babies), it was decided that no infertile married couple with a potential to remain alive for 20 years (other than alcoholics and those with the more severe forms of psychiatric disturbances) should be denied a baby if they so wished. According to McLelland, McWhinnie and O’Collins, the placement of babies with substitute families was no more than a hit and miss affair, being nothing short of a negligent experiment with the lives of children supposedly being adopted “in their best interest.”
In 1966, according to Maev O’Collins of Melbourne’s Catholic Family Welfare Bureau the selection of suitable adoptive parents was:
“in many cases only a little better than chance, and our ability to assess possible problems must leave a greater margin for error than perhaps in any other field of social welfare…..Often (she explains) we are affected by overcrowded nurseries and insufficient couples applying to adopt hard to place children …This may mean that in the “stress” of the moment we place a child hurriedly, perhaps too soon, perhaps to the wrong couple, perhaps to unsuitable people.”
O’Collins further explained in 1966, that:
“Studies to determine the success or failure in adoption may not readily be assessed validly – until 15 or 20 years after the original placement.”
That timing coincided nicely with legislative changes in Victoria by 1985. The experiment on our children had obviously failed.
In 1967 McLelland, referred to the historical developments in the selection of adoptive parents where efforts were also being made to recruit those prepared to take hard to place children:
“including those who were by no means ideal.”
McWhinnie scathingly attacked adoption as a hit and miss affair in 1967, publicly exposing (via the Daily Mirror), the findings of research she had conducted on 58 adult adoptees. Of her 58 guinea-pigs, only 15 were well adjusted and considered their childhood to be happy and successful, 10 were poorly adjusted and 21 were still struggling with severe immediate emotional problems relating to adoption. The rest were considered to be intermediate.
IN WHOSE INTEREST? EXPLOITING NEWBORNS.
The promotion of adoption in light of mountains of psychiatric case studies clearly indicating the longterm detrimental effects and problems associated with adoption and maternal deprivation on the child at or soon after birth – dating back to the 1940’s, all of which, having been totally ignored by the adoption industry is a clear act of negligence (if not child abuse) and is certain indication that the interest of the child was of no more concern in the adoption equation than that of his mother.
According to their own documentation, the adoption industry’s main concern was the effect of infertility within marriage, with the overall success of newborn adoption being based solely upon meeting the needs of childless couples – the premise being that emotional issues pertaining to infertility could be alleviated by providing an infant young enough to be “just as if” born to the adopting couple, not to mention the worker’s own personal satisfaction of playing God (their words) by using a child as a placebo in providing a family where before one did not exist – a fact compounded in more recent years by the adoption industry seeing itself as being in “crisis” as a result of adoptable babies being in short supply. In a less savage society it is the abandonment of babies that would be seen as the “crisis.”
UNWED MOTHERS AS BREEDERS — PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE AND MIND CONTROL
Their minor concern (again using their own words) was in locating enough babies, and finding ways of getting the unwed mother to accept the required separation from her child in order to meet their demand. It meant the implementation of psychological abuse and mind control.
In relation to the treatment of the unwed mother, and irrespective of both the law and mother nature, by 1967 according to McLelland’s unresearched theories, it was decided that to enable an unwed mother to live for the rest of her life without her child, it had become “obvious” that during pregnancy:
“she must come to see her child as being a separate individual from herself with needs of his own.”
To do this her fetus would be referred to as “the baby” rather than “her baby” at all times.
Using abusive psychological cruelty, common practice was to remind the mother she was simply carrying the fetus for its “real parents,” if she dared speak of keeping her baby at all. Upon taking a consent, she was told she could have “children of her own” when she married – whereas almost 50% of mothers were unable to conceive again, making the adoption industry instrumental in causing infertility in otherwise fertile young women.
Further deceit was warning young mothers, (if the baby’s father remained on the scene) that he would come to hate both her and the baby if she forced him into marriage – and worse – she would end up hating her own baby if she kept him.
Perhaps the most common of all coercive practices was to convince oppressed and unsupported young mothers that it was “in her child’s best interest” to be surrendered for adoption – and any mother who really loved her baby would want what was best for the child. To want to keep the baby would be selfish and would indicate that she was a “bad mother.”
Other tactics were not as subversive. Mothers were tricked, lied to, restrained to beds, coerced and bullied into signing blatantly obvious, uninformed consents. Consents were often taken prior to – and immediately upon birth and post-dated to accommodate the legal requirement of leaving three clear days before signing. Others signed empty documents that would be typed in by the officer at a later date.
Using oppression, fear, trauma and sedation to acquire signatures, and without an informed decision anywhere in sight, made for easy pickings to enable this grand baby larceny.
In relation to adoption, the question needs to be asked: in what other period in the history of mankind, did young mothers defy human nature and “willingly” give away their own newborns en masse to strangers?
Ultimately, even the promise of a perfect life for our children was yet another lie. Upon reunion, the astounding level of emotional neglect, violence against, psychological and sexual abuse of our children from infancy and beyond bears witness to that deceit. In the words of but one distraught mother:
“They said my baby needed a father, so they gave her to a pedophile.”
THE ADOPTION OF CHILDREN ACT 1965: THE PROPAGANDA MACHINE
From 1965 adoption propaganda had been launched to introduce the new upcoming Adoption Act 1965. In reducing the mother’s revocation period to no more than 30 days, the new legislation making all surrendered children as if born to the adopters and not to their own mothers (for inheritance purposes), severing forever any further connection between mother and child – adoption had become a hot topic of discussion in the media, with welfare officers promoting the location and availability of “unwanted babies” as their exciting new service to the public.
Being fully aware of their legal obligations, these same welfare officers deceived the public (via newspaper articles) into believing unwed mothers actually were being offered financial assistance and options, were being warned of the potential for dire future regret if deciding upon adoption, and assuring them she actually had to insist upon the adoption of her child. But never did they advertise the tactics used to manipulate them into surrendering their babies.
Knowing perhaps all too well the public would not tolerate baby theft, they kept their deceptive de-babying procedures – conveniently hidden from public gaze.
Although outlawing independent baby traders, the new protection clause introduced into the new Adoption Act 1965 regarding the treatment of unwed mothers had been entirely disregarded as the industry introduced practices that simultaneously contravened its own legislation, allowing the newly “respectable” licenced adoption agencies to simply turn baby trading into a major industry – and a very lucrative one at that – providing lifetime careers for agents, finders fees for the location of suitable babies, and selling babies tastefully, by way of discreetly demanding tax exempt and often huge donations from adoptive parents – for services rendered.
So certain were they of a constant supply of babies, the industry continued taking non-refundable application fees (deposits) on “unwanted babies” who were yet to be conceived. And although the baby-well began drying up in 1976, by 1986, 2,000 applications had been accepted, with only 155 babies being allotted.
Adoptions in Victoria in the 1990’s relies on a lottery system consisting of a three step procedure where, after recruiting hundreds of potential adoptive parents (having paid administrative fees according to their progress up the three tiered process) are culled down and eventually the successful applicants are given a number. These numbers are placed into a box (to be fair to all applicants) and the numbers drawn from the lottery system are the winners of the great baby prize, needing simply to then wait for an appropriate baby to be born. For the paid up losers, and with so few babies now available, the industry had discovered a new money spinner in prolonging and exploiting their loss and grief, by peddling false hope.
Incidentally, although classified as “unwanted babies,” ironically, Miss Isobel Strahan of Victoria, a social worker presiding over the boom years in adoption, declared upon her retirement that:
“she had never met a girl who wanted to give away her baby.”
WHERE IT BEGAN TO TURN
By 1971, the adoption of newborns had become well entrenched as a “wonderful community service” being in the child’s best interest. But it was especially in the best interest of healthy white newborn babies.
With so many being harvested from their mothers during birth, no market was available for the not quite so perfect newborns, and by 1971, according to their new Manual of Adoption Practice, it was decided that from now on all unwed mothers should be advised before birth, that if her baby was disabled or otherwise unadoptable, the mother may need to be recontacted and offered financial assistance to enable her to keep her unmarketable baby herself. Of course it never did occur, but I suspect it was the first indication that something was going terribly wrong with their social cleansing campaign.
Having taken so many babies, by 1972 the industry began trying to offload their surplus stock onto already created adoptive families, as institutions were becoming overcrowded with not perfect enough to be adopted ones, or babies slightly older than new, coloured or redheads – all so unnecessarily traumatised by maternal deprivation – as well as the many older adopted children having been dumped back onto the system when the need for a child was no longer required, or the child didn’t fix the marital problems after all. It had become clear that only special adopters could cope with or attach to less than ideal children, with many others having tried to return the child a year or so after placement when for example, the child was later discovered to be deaf, or cried too much.
Something had to be done, so in 1973 the Whitlam Government introduced (or rather advertised) the already available (but unknown) benefit to single mothers, in the hope apparently, that more older unwed mothers, perhaps in defacto relationships, might consider keeping their babies. Its purpose designed to dry up the perfect baby glut in the hope that some adopters might begin taking the less than perfect off their hands.
It seems institutionalised children began costing the public purse too much in revenue.
In relation to the legal aspects of adoption: The state’s responsibility was to look after a child’s best interest only IF a mother had surrendered her child. whereupon the child became a state ward. It was only then, that adoption was considered to be in the child’s best interest as the preferred option to remaining a state ward.
Except in cases of abandonment, neglect or abuse, no law has ever alluded to adoption being in a child’s best interest, over remaining with its own mother.
Furthermore, under the NSW Limitations Act of 1969, the consent of a minor was (and still is) unenforceable (and therefore invalid) until a mother reaches the age of majority which was 21 years of age and reducing in the early 1970’s to 18 years. In relation to this issue the state owed a greater than normal duty of care to unwed mothers because of their youth.
According to fiduciary law regarding the adoption of children within New South Wales:
The State was at all material times, in accordance with its responsibilities in operating an adoption service through the Department of Child Welfare, obliged to look after the interests of mothers, regarding the “possible” adoption of their child and the potential psychological harm such a course of action might cause them.
In the matter of adoption the State was under a fiduciary obligation with respect to such women and was not to:
- promote other interests over the interests of such women;
- advise such persons or seek to persuade such persons to act in a manner contrary to their wishes with respect to the adoption of children;
- seek to persuade such women to surrender their children for adoption as an alternative to keeping their children.
In fact, the use of the term “in the best interest of the child” to obtain a consent, could very well be interpreted as duress if contested in a court of law.
A further relevant legal factor is the significant protection clauses introduced into the new Adoption of Children Act 1965.
In New South Wales, Section 31 of the Adoption Act states that: a consent may prove invalid under the terms of the Adoption of Children Act 1965, if a mother has been subjected to duress or undue influence. Refusing a mother permission to see or handle her child prior to her signing the consent, or putting obstacles in her way of asserting this right may readily be interpreted as duress if the validity of a consent is being contested. In the same context any comment or actions by staff members which the mother could see as pressure to persuade her to place her baby for adoption run the risk of later bearing the legal interpretation of duress. Anyone found in these circumstances to have exerted “undue pressure” is liable to prosecution under Section 51 of the Act.
The law also states that a single mother whatever her age is the sole legal guardian of her child and remains so until a consent to adoption is signed. She therefore has the rights of access to her child and cannot legally be denied this.
HOSPITAL COLLUSION = VIOLATIONS
Although adoption practices were instigated by the Department of Child Welfare, they could only be implemented by colluding with the Department for Health – obstetric divisions.
Keeping the above protection clause in mind, although slight variations between hospitals occurred, the overall practices introduced into the treatment of unwed mothers followed a routine procedure commencing with the initial ante-natal visit, where the young mother at varying degrees of pregnancy would be directed to the hospital almoner’s office (renamed social workers in 1969), where an evaluation of her marital status was conducted, whereupon automatic counselling toward the promotion of adoption was assumed. Neither warnings against, nor alternatives to adoption were being offered, and any discussion of keeping the baby was actively discouraged.
At a recent Supreme Court hearing (although unbeknown to her), it was explained that the unwed mother’s medical chart was marked with the codes UB- meaning “unmarried, baby not keeping” or BFA meaning “baby for adoption” to be used as a guide for labour ward staff. This code had three functions.
Firstly, policy dictated that eye contact between mother and child was to be forbidden to prevent bonding (by forceably using pillows, sheets or blindfolds over the mother’s face or chest) The second was the location of mothers postnatally. And lastly, pertained to the type of medication to be administered to the mother (with hypnotic memory altering barbiturates such as sodium pentobarbitol and Chloral Hydrate being the order of the day). Stilboestrol (in illegal doses) was administered upon birth to prevent lactation. Other hospitals used the barbaric breastbinding process.
AN INFORMED CONSENT?
Policy then dictated that some time after the birth, a mother would be visited by a social worker (after having been conveniently traumatised and sedated) and if it was then indicated that the baby (she had been forbidden to see or to bond with) was to be adopted, an unknown district officer from the Department of Child Welfare would then be called upon to take the consent.
The consent taker was usually the allotment officer working on behalf of the adopters. No mother was ever asked if she would like to keep her baby as adoption was automatically assumed. This intolerable conflict of interest meant that if the consent wasn’t signed, her clients wouldn’t get the baby.
(Incidentally – the documents a mother signed surrendered her parental right to raise and have further contact with her own child, but at no time is she referred to as anyone other than the natural mother of her child.)
Being strictly the social workers’ domain, hospital staff were forbidden to discuss adoption matters with unwed mothers lest it interfere with the process at hand. And according to the records of one major maternity hospital in Sydney, having prided itself on separating over 40,000 babies from their mothers (which was almost half of all NSW adoptions) her medical chart would be marked with the term “awaiting social clearance” prior to, and “socially cleared” upon a consent being taken, thus permitting the mother to then legally leave the hospital.
If she attempted to discharge herself from hospital prior to being “socially cleared,” her records indicated the police were to be informed. These practices only began to change after 1982, when the Health Commission of NSW (having smelt a rat within the industry some years earlier) eventually distributed a warning to every hospital within the State to clean up their act – as their practices in the treatment of unwed mothers were contravening the Adoption Act on mental health and legal grounds.
In 1984, NSW Parliament again reminded the industry that before surrendering her child, unwed mothers were to be informed of the consequences of adoption, and this time it was to be in writing. But of course this is yet to occur, leaving adoption agencies wide open to litigation for persistently breaching their duty of care.
Realising too late that she had been a victim of the ultimate social betrayal, her shamed silence coming not from her out-of-wedlock pregnancy as is assumed, but from signing a document that surrendered her own baby to be exploited by a system that had preyed upon her vulnerable state, and offered her no option but adoption. It was that alone which resulted in a social stigma by far greater than becoming a sole parent could have ever been.
Condemned by her community for her out-of wedlock pregnancy, betrayed by her own family, and deceived by an industry that promoted adoption as being in her child’s best interest, society needed a scapegoat to justify the social raping of her womb during birth – and so the de-babied mother (often little more than a child herself) conveniently became:
“the sort of mother who could give away her own flesh and blood.”
Simultaneously, the child in whose interest adoption was meant to be, traumatized by having been snatched from his mother’s womb as if a living stillbirth, was to live with the pain in being led to believe his own mother willingly gave him away, resulting in oppression and a social rage that comes with the stigma of being labelled – an unwanted child.
The devastating and irresolvable psychic trauma inherent in having introduced adoption policies condoning the tampering with nature, by interfering in the process of completing the very primal act of giving birth between a mother and child, is something so heinous and so psychically destructive, that few health professionals dare touch it, and instead choose to minimise, and keep the lid on the catastrophic consequences of such separation, by preferring to view it as grief and loss.
Conclusion: evil comes in many forms, and perhaps the true nature of the adoption industry’s collective sociopathic mind, can be summed up in the words of one former adoption policy maker and social worker in charge at a major Sydney hospital where, in a written statement presented at a recent Supreme Court hearing – when asked if it was known to professional persons of moderate sophistication in 1968, that a mother would suffer psychological harm if forced to surrender her child to adoption. Her answer was:
“Health authorities were aware of the potential for harm in that sphere of time.”
Furthermore, in their attempt to deflect the reality of the adoption happy era, a 1984 Review of Adoption Policy and Practice in NSW described traditional adoptions as being:
“largely a phenomenon of a social era that is past.”
Compiled predominantly by social workers active throughout the “bumper adoption era,” the report conveniently failed to acknowledge that the adoption “phenomenon” to which they referred, came about as a direct result of a contrived and contemptuous corruption of the law, by the entire adoption industry, in collusion with the Health Department, in breaching their duty of care toward the emotional health and wellbeing of their patients/clients, and in having denied unwed mothers their legal rights, their options, and their dignity as mothers and as human beings.
I very much doubt that adoption will safely be swept under some historical rug as having been a mere social phenomenon, but will rather come to be seen as yet another vile social cleansing chapter in Australia’s family destroying and child hating history.
And how was it possible that such contempt of the law and of basic humanity towards mothers and their babies could have been tolerated for so long? Because (according to at least one lawyer in NSW), up until now it has never been challenged.
And finally a word on reconciliation.
To consider reconciliation before establishing national awareness of the true nature of adoption, before mothers are released from their unfounded guilt in having surrendered their babies, before our children learn the truth, before we have accountability, justice, and restitution for these crimes, in whatever form that takes, is an outrage to those of us whose lives have been so adversely affected by this monstrous perversion of nature.
As to whether it is humanly possible that any mother can ever reconcile the loss of her own living child: that will only be determined by the mothers upon whom these atrocities occurred. And that is at least one right of theirs that is certainly non-negotiable.
The focus of this paper is in understanding that healing for mother and child does not, and cannot occur when based upon a lie. We cannot change the past but perhaps in the interest of all concerned, we can begin dispelling the myth upon which our lives have been based – by setting the record straight.
This paper has been dedicated to my son – in his best interest.
Copyright: Dian P. Wellfare, 15th June 1997
Copies (or part thereof) may only be reproduced with acknowledgement of the author and Origins Incorporated (NSW).
With greatful thanks to both Wendy Jacobs and Robyn for providing the psychiatric case studies and historical newspaper articles listed in this papers reference material, and with special thanks to the many hundreds of Mothers who shared their painful testimonies of oppression, abuse, and humiliation suffered at the hands of both the adoption industry and hospital staff – this is for us.