I wish we could go back to 1927. Ive probably posted this here before, but
make no apology for doing so again as it is very relevant to what is
happening now. There have been a lot of false arguments about secrecy in
adoption and promises made, in the last few years of consultation processes
surrounding the Adoption and Children Act.
A reminder for some that at the outset of legal adoption in England & Wales
in 1927 it was not meant to be the ridiculously secretive affair that it
later became.
The secrecy was introduced largely at the behest of the Christian based
adoption agencies that grew under influence from the USA in the 1940s.
Certainly up until 1952 in most cases it would have been possible for the
birthmother to know the names of the adopting parents, as it was recorded on
the paperwork that she would signed to give consent. Though I am told agency
and moral welfare workers often illegally covered it up.
Until 1958 all adopting parents would have a received a copy of the adoption
order from the Court which would have shown the name of the birth mother, it
was entirely up to the adoptive parents whether or not they passed that
information on to their adopted child. Since 1958 Adoption Orders have still
shown the original name of the child, making it quite possible for an
adoptee to obtain a copy of his own original birth certificate with
birthmother's name and address at time of birth, if his adoptive parents had
passed on that information.
So it has always been possible for some adoptees and birth relatives to find
each other in England & Wales. Yet strangely neither the institution of
adoption nor society its self ever collapsed as a result.
The following is a letter from A.E.A Napier (one of those who drafted the
Adoption of Infants Act 1926) to a Mrs. Hubback of the National Union of
Societies for Equal Citizenship, 11/1/1927.
ґ... It is not intended that the name of the proposed adopter should be
concealed from the natural parent It is essential... that before a legal
adoption takes place, the natural parent should have sufficient knowledge
with regard to the proposed adopter to give a real consent... and it would
not be possible for the Rules made under the Act to prescribe that the
natural parent might purport to consent to the adoption without knowing who
the proposed adopter is ...ג
Quote taken from, Struggle for Identity: Issues Underlying the Enactment of
the 1926 Adoption of Children Act by Dr Jenny Keating
These letters in the National Archive show that the government still did not
consider adoption to be as secretive as some would have liked even the 1950s
Robin Harritt
This is a very good site to visit and post these details. There are a large amount of adoptees in it and they are very controversial.
You could get much support from these folk.
Thanks Rowan,
As a support worker for you know who!! I have to tread a delicate political path.
I am rather sorry to see the squabbles going on over there on ForgottenMothers at the moment, it's beginning to look a bit like alt.adoption.issues which has been invaded by a bunch squabbling idiots who are just making each other look stupid and unprofessional.
Unlike those who run ForgottenMothers I have no objection to anyone copying my articles to anywhere where they may be found useful, so long as my name remains attached to anything that I have originally authored. And that it is made clear that it has been copied with my permission rather than posted directly by me. Pat Basquill , should be aware of what I have posted as it also appears on The Forgotten People MSN group of which she is a member.
And of course anyone can always use the web address of this page as link.
Thanks robin for the reply Woops! - I thought you might be able to point them in a useful direction.
Never mind - sorry
No need to be sorry.
I think they'll manage without me. Pat after all makes a lot claims for Trackers etc, despite being nowhere to be seen during the Adoption and Children Bills in 2001 and 2002. If more people had taken more notice then and done their bit at that time perhaps we would have got the kind of law that we all would have liked :~) Same with Civil Registration.
The other problem I have is that I am not anti-adoption per se as they all seem to be, because I've experienced other types of child care and know that far worse thing happened to some kids than adoption. The group shows its Origins roots I can almost hear Dian Welfare, as I read there. I don't think I'd last long there
I am extremely anti-closed records, and anti closed adoption except where no other alternative is posible.
BTW you're lucky to have got away with pluging the group on here, they are very much against that at I guess it shows just how little they are bothered about the UK, no big business to be drummed up as in the USA. No big business to be threatened. At least we get that bit right.
Anyway I will keep an eye on the group, and anything that I have to say that you think might interest them is ok to pass on.
Hi Robin
I think most MSN groups sites are (as far as I know) non profit based.
They are just free sites which you can open if you have a hotmail account. My adoption Scotland site is totally non profit and we are mainly a support group with some useful information re where to go if you are searching in Scotland.
It is just a place where Scots people can touch base as there is practically nothing specifically for Scotland as in message boards or the opportuntity for contact between people with similar experiences.
I think it is better that UK people who come here to surf actually join groups in UK as well. USA adoption is a totally different animal from UK adoption.
Majority of USA birthparents from my era whom I am in touch with are finding or have found their children. I am on the tail end and still no end in sight.
Anyway - nice to speak to you again, I will stay on the lookout for places for you to post your information.
Don't forget we have only until 31 July 2004 to let the government know what we want. Or we may find ourselves with a law that does places us back at 1975 atitudes.
Some adoption organisations would like birth family never to be able to find the adopted person no matter what the consequenses of that.
Some would like contact only to be posible if it is made through the adoptive parents, even if the adoptee is in his 60s or 70s and the adoptive parents in their 80s or 90s.
If we don't make our views known that is what we shall get.
NORCAP our only representitive organisation seems to be doing very little to get views accross.
The only way the views of adopted people are going to be heard is if we all make them known directly.
The whole document can be read online at [url][/url]
Consultation on Access to Information & Intermediary Services
Adoption and Children Act 2002 Implementation
Draft Regulations and Guidance for Consultation
* Access to information (Pre-commencement Adoptions)
* Access to Information (Post-commencement Adoptions)
* The Registrar Generals Functions
If you look at the article 'The proportion of adoptees who have received their birth records in England and Wales' by Rupert Rushbrooke, in the ONS's journal Population Trendsђ,
you will see the following.
'... From 1927 until 1975, out-of-family adoption was seen as having two main objectives. Firstly, the adoptive parents and adoptive child were to form a family that would appear to be as much like a natural family as possible. Secondly, the adoptee was to be given a new start in life, free of the taint of illegitimacy. In order to achieve these two aims, it was important that the adoptees natural family and adoptive family be kept entirely, and permanently, separate. This was achieved by giving the adoptee a new, adoptive name; arranging that the natural mother would never know this new name; and also ensuring that the adoptive parents and the adoptee would never know the adopteeҒs original, birth name. Thus, the philosophy was one of a new startђ for the child. The standard procedure was as follows. After the baby was born, his or her full name was entered in the birth register in the usual way. The mother chose the babys first name, or names, and the babyҒs surname was usually that of the mother. This information was recorded in the birth entry in the register where the childs birth was registered, which formed the legal record of the babyҒs birth, kept by the Registrar General. At the time of the adoption, the baby was taken from the natural mother by the Adoption Society (or other party) and placed with the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents and the natural mother did not meet. The baby was then renamed by the adoptive parents. They chose a new first name, or names, for the baby, and they gave the baby their own surname. These details were entered onto the Adopted Children Register, kept by the Registrar General. This new entry became the childs new birth entry Җ from which a birth certificate could be obtained for the rest of the adoptee֒s life. All adoptees therefore had two birth entries: the original entry, and the adoptive birth entry (which replaced it), each entry referring to the adoptee by a different name. Only the Adoption Society and the Registrar General, however, had enough information to link the two sets of records, and both of them kept that information entirely confidential.
While the above procedure was followed exactly for a great many adoptees, especially after the 1949 Act, which tightened up on confidentiality in adoption, it is important to stress that this was not always the case. Sometimes the adoptive parents learned the birth details of their adoptive child and, years later, passed this information on to him or her. In such cases, therefore, the adoptee did not need to apply to the Registrar General. In addition, there are several other ways in which adoptees can sometimes obtain their birth details without applying to the Registrar General. This area will be examined in more detail, but the general point needs making here that, for a variety of reasons, there are many adoptees who can, and do, acquire their birth details by unofficial means, and who are therefore not included in ONS statistics or in the subsequent analyses...'
The article's author thanks a; Dr. Alexina McWhinnie (University of Dundee) for her advice and information on the history of adoption. One has to wonder where Dr Mc Whinnie divined her information from certainly she had never looked at the sources quoted by Dr Jenny Keating in the article quoted in the first post of this thread. Nor I suspect has Dr Mc Whinnie or anyone else involved in preparing Rupert Rushbrooke's article ever consult either the Adoption of Infants Act 1926 or the Adoption of Children Act 1948, the main laws governing adoption prior to the Adoption of Children Act 1976.
So given that lack of 'home work' it is perhaps not so difficult to see why when called before the the Standing Committee on the Adoption and Children Bill, a civil servant from the Office of National Statistics tried to claim that prior to 1976 the only way for an adopted person to obtain access to his original birth record was seeking a judicial review. This was said in support of the governments attempt to overturn the existing law and deny adoptees access to birth records unless the birth relatives approved. Many people find it hard to believe that that was the government intention, but see this press release from Barnardos and other agencies.
If you ask why things have been as they have throughout the last few years during which adoption law has been being reviewed? The probable answer is, personal agenda.
It is time those of us whose lives have been so disadvantaged by the pointless secrecy in adoption stood up and made our views known, and asked for an inquiry into the way that the review in to adoption and subsequent changes in law have been carried out.
Ive finally managed to complete my Feedback form on the Consultation about Access to Information etc, and have e-mailed it off.
If anyone is interested it is in PDF format at [url][/url]
Remember if you havenҒt sent yours back yet, you have only until Saturday, the Consultation closes 31st July 2004
Now to write my letter to my MP which will be based pretty much on the comments that I make in my answers to Question 19 of the Feedback form, (General Comments) and Questions 7-11
Once that is done I shall be looking at the draft legislation on access to birth and death registrations, that at the moment we all rely so heavily on to trace those who we are searching for. I hope you will all have a look at that as well and tell me what you think. Has it improved from the suggested changes that ONS published last year, and that we all discussed here?
I have tried to make it more simple for everyone by picking out just the parts that are important to the adoption community and putting them on a webpage at
Please dont be lazy donҒt be apathetic dont be dim :~) have look at this before it is too late to do anything. Tell me and everyone else here which bits you think are good for us all and which are bad. Then perhaps if it is not right, between us we can get it put right, they have already made many changes suggested by the adoption community. You can see what my concerns were last year at
[url][/url] (very short PDF)
I think the latest draft has answered a lot of my concerns but not all of them, what do YOU think?
Robin Harritt
Id like to respond to the criticism in this thread that my article in Population Trends (104 (26-34), 2001) inaccurately summarised adoption from 1927 to 1975 as being typically and intentionally secretive. My critic refers to Jenny KeatingҒs article in the University of Sussex Journal of Contemporary History (Issue 3, September 2001), but in fact Keatings findings are similar to my own. Keating writes: ғThe [1926 Tomlin] Committee led to the beginning of an effective era of secrecy which would last fifty years.Ŕ Also: The adoption societies ... were single-minded in ensuring the rights of the adopting families to remove all trace of a previous identity from their new offspringӔ and the adoption societies obtained their wish concerning secrecy.Ӕ Its true that plenty of people didnҒt like the secrecy, but in the main their wishes didnt prevail.
The criticism of Dr Alexina McWhinnie was unfortunate. Not only is Dr McWhinnie a widely respected authority on adoption, but her research in the 1960Ғs was one of the main factors that led to the 1975 Act.
Lastly, I think my critic assumed that I work for the Office for National Statistics. Not so. I submitted my research as a member of the public.
On another issue, the question was raised as to who was behind the clause added late to the Adoption Bill (2000) that would have removed the legal right of adoptees to get their birth records retrospectively by giving their natural parents a veto. It was clear from the evidence given to the Select Committee by the representatives from adoption organisations that it didn't come from anyone in adoption.
The answer suspected by many people at the time, including senior figures in the adoption world, is that the fertility industry was behind it. The fertility industry has always been uncomfortable with the argument that donor-conceived people should have the same legal right to their records as adoptees, and clearly it would have suited it if adoptees had had this right taken away.
Using this clause as a precedent, the natural mothers (or fatherҒs) veto (in adoption) would have become the sperm donors veto (in DI), and the adoption societyҒs adjudication would have become the fertility clinic's adjudication.
Whether it was behind the clause or not, the industry was well aware of its significance for donor conception. In December 2001 the Department of Health, which works closely with the industry, published a public consultation document on donor anonymity in which they set out the arguments for and against removing anonymity. Section 2.7 (para 1) outlines the argument that donor-conceived people should have parity with adoptees. This is immediately followed by a description of the above clause, which at that time looked likely to be made law, and which would have made the argument inoperable.
Rupert Rushbrooke
I believe my criticism of Dr. Alexina McWhinnie to be perfectly well justified if what you have written in your piece for 'Population Trends' presents what she has said correctly.
I believe that idea that adoptive parents ever legally adopted a child without knowing its full original name (and prior to 1958 the full name of its mother) is simply untrue, except in the exceptional circumstances where the child was a foundling or was was being re-adopted after the breakdown of an earlier adoption.
I think it is easy to establish that pre 1949 adoptions required openness to the extent that birth mother of the child would have known who its adoptive parents were to be, unless there were circumstances in which she might endanger the child if she knew its whereabouts, that was the case until 1952. After the Adoption of Children Act 1949 a child placed in an agency adoption would not be placed with prospective adoptive parents until it was about six weeks old, it then had to spend another 23 weeks or more in the care of those parents before an adoption application could be made hence the vast majority of adoptions at that time were of children between six and nine months of age at the time the adoption order was granted. In the meantime the prospective adoptive parents had to register the child with their GP using its full original name as it appeared on the child's original birth certificate. When the prospective adoptive parents made the application to the court to adopt the child they had to fill out an application form stating the full original name of the child and attaching a copy of the child's original birth certificate. When the adoption was complete the clerk to the court that granted the Adoption Order would hand to the adoptive parents a copy of that Order to do with as they pleased. see [url][/url]
I would suggest that either Dr McWhinnie was mistaken or she was lied to by parents she interviewed, or the adoptions that she looked at were somewhat less than lawful adoptions. There should have been no adoptive parents other than in the exeptional circumstances I mention above, who did not know the full original identity of their adoptive child. No doubt many would have liked to pretend otherwise.
At one point the Houghton Committee reached a conclusion that adopted people should have unencumbered access to their original birth records, it was only later in the parliamentary debate that the ridiculous completely unspecified counsellings was introduced in to Section 26 of the Children Act 1975 supposedly on the basis that birth mothers had requested and could possibly ever have been given a guarantee that their child could not possibly discover its original identity.
If Dr McWhinnie was responsible for the false notion that adopted adults could not otherwise ever find out the identity of their birth mother, then we have little to thank her for. Whatever, it is a part of a mythology of adoption that I for one would far prefer not to see those who purport to be working for openness continuing to propagate.
Because many more than the 70,000? that have applied for Section 51 counselling through the GRO have had access to their Adoption Orders through their adoptive parents, the statistics presented by the ONS are fairly meaningless. I have seen estimates that more than half of all out-of-family adoptees already know the name of their natural mother from their adoptive parents or through happening upon their adoption papers. It would be very difficult to guess how many of them have followed up by tracing their birth families, but Feast And Howe's research published by the Children's Society suggested many more than have had Sec51 counsellings.
As for the idea that the clause in the second Adoption & Children Bill that would have introduced a veto was because of the 'fertility industry'. Though no doubt those in the assisted reproduction field had there own lobby, I do not believe that it was they alone who were behind this. But if you have any real evidence to back up your assertion I'm sure we would all like to hear it. I can show you a copy of the official Department of Health reasons if you like but I don't reckon you'd believe them any more than I do.
Robin Harritt
aka LegalZone & Disgruntled (adult post-adoption support worker)
Well this thread appears to have been looked about a 100 time since I last posted nearly a month ago. But no one has had anything to add. Rupert's not been back to further defend Dr McWhinnie and his reliance on her seemingly somewhat dubious findings given the realities of the 1926, 1949 and 1950 Adoption of Children Acts.
Is there really anyone out there in England & Wales or even Scotland from where McWhinnie comes, who would like to come forward and claim that they were given a child to adopt at any time in the last century and were not told that child's full birth name (foundlings and readoptions aside of course)? Is there anyone who was adopted prior to 12th of November 1975 who truly believes that their adopive parents really never were told what their birth name was?
Robin Harritt
It is a shame that we do not hear further from those who are so quick to defend the evidence of Dr Alexina McWhinnie. I have looked again at court documents from the post 1949 Adoption Act era. I am unable to see how that it would have been possible for adoptive parents in England and Wales to adopt a child at that time without knowing the child's previous identity (except in the unusual circumstances that I have outlined).
Perhaps we shall hear from someone who does work for the ONS or DfES, perhaps one of those who gave evidence to the more recent Committee on the two Adoption and Children Bills of 2001/2 would like to set the record straight. I would like to know why we still have a law requiring counselling for those adopted pre 12 November 1975 which appears to be based on incorrect evidence to a government committee in the 1970s
Robin Harritt
The article quoted in the first post above, Struggle for Identity: Issues Underlying the Enactment of the 1926 Adoption of Children Act by Dr Jenny Keating is no longer available as a web page but can be downloaded as a PDF from