The past practices of forced adoption have resulted in life-long consequences for the majority of those directly involved. This article distils recent research on these practices and discusses the implications for service delivery, particularly psychological practice.
During the mid to late twentieth century (1940s to 1980s), it was common practice for babies of unwed mothers to be adopted by married couples. Many of the infants were taken from their mothers at childbirth as a result of extreme pressure and coercion that they experienced from family, social workers and hospital staff. The practices sometimes extended to ‘undeserving’ married women. The adoptions that occurred in this way have been termed ‘forced adoptions’. Not all of the forced removals or separations between parents and children resulted in adoption; some children grew up in institutions. It has now been recognised that the separation of a child from its mother in this manner was neither moral nor legal – a practice for which the nation has offered its apology. Many of the practices have similarities with those to which Indigenous children of the Stolen Generations were subjected, with children forcibly removed from their families under acts of parliament and sent either to institutions or adopted by non-Indigenous families.
The past practices of forced adoption have resulted in life-long consequences for the majority of those directly involved, particularly for mothers and adopted persons, but also for other family members. This article distils recent research conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies and discusses the implications for service delivery, particularly psychological practice.