Forced adoption in Australia

Forced adoption in Australia was the practice of taking babies from unmarried mothers, against their will, and placing them for adoption. In 2012 the Australian Senate Inquiry Report into Forced Adoption Practices found that babies were taken illegally by doctors, nurses, social workers and religious figures, sometimes with the assistance of adoption agencies or other authorities, and given to married couples to adopt. Some mothers were coerced, drugged and illegally had their consent taken. Many of these adoptions occurred after the mothers were sent away by their families ’due to the stigma associated with being pregnant and unmarried’. The removals occurred predominantly in the second half of the twentieth century. It was a practice which has been described as ’institutionalised baby farming’.

In response to the Senate Inquiry, on 21 March 2013 Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia offered a national apology to those affected by forced adoptions; and outlined a range of other government responses.

Modern adoption is a peculiarly twentieth century phenomenon, with most adoptions taking place between the 1950s and the 1980s. For much of this period, adoption had two key features: the application of ’clean break theory’, and the framework of ’closed adoption’. Clean break theory involved the removal of a baby from the mother immediately after birth, often with no contact taking place between parent and child, followed by permanent placement of the baby with an adopting family usually within a period of several weeks. Closed adoption involved the sealing of the record of adoption. Records were thus closed, so that the parties to the adoption remained permanently unaware of the identity of others.

There are no precise estimates of the number of adoptions that took place in Australia, with estimates of around 250,000 being feasible. An unknown proportion of these adoptions involved the placement of the babies of single mothers.

Because of the stigma attached to being born out of wedlock, and the absence of any financial support for single mothers, there was a widespread view at the time that adopting out the babies of unmarried mothers was in the ’best interests of the child’.

Adapted from an article in Wikipedia

Subject headings

Aboriginal Children
Forced Adoption