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Uniting Church admits forced adoptions 'highly likely'

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on Wed, 03/14/2012 - 12:41

About 300,000 babies have been put up for adoption in Australia since the 1920s.

THE Uniting Church in South Australia has accepted responsibility for the past practice of forced adoptions.

It has urged other welfare and church groups to prepare for a wave of victims seeking help for decades of suffering.

Church groups have previously denied the practice occurred but UnitingCare Wesley chief executive Simon Schrapel told The Advertiser yesterday the church now accepted it was "highly likely" that it did, so it was issuing an apology and asking victims to come forward.

Tens of thousands of unmarried pregnant women were sent to care facilities in Adelaide, particularly before single mothers could claim federal government welfare in 1973.

Mr Schrapel said that as the issue of forced adoptions emerged, there would be strong similarities with the crises which had affected the welfare sector in recent decades, such as the Aboriginal Stolen Generations and Forgotten Australians.

He said while the mothers and children were well cared for, suffering as a result of the forced separation continued.

"I'm surprised more organisations have not acknowledged this (forced adoption) was something they were involved in and made some sort of statement," Mr Schrapel said.

He said the decision to accept responsibility came after church leaders had read moving accounts to a current Senate inquiry into forced adoptions, which many victims said occurred at the Kate Cocks Memorial Babies Home at Brighton.

"Knowing what the practices and attitudes of the time were elsewhere, we have to say they are highly likely to have happened," Mr Schrapel said.

"I don't think you could have that many people telling these heart-rending stories for it not to be true.

"We weren't on our own in this in SA but I think it is the first acceptance here.

"I have no doubt that this will be the case for other organisations which were helping mothers at the time and hospitals it was the prevailing way the business was done."

SA-based National Council of Single Mothers and Their Children chief executive Terese Edwards said she was "ecstatic" with the acknowledgement by the Uniting Church and called on other groups to follow the example.

"We are ecstatic because it gives a precedent and sets the bar to start correcting the wrongs," she said.

"Records have not been kept, or they have been lost, people were told their babies had died sometimes; so this sort of validation and acknowledgement are the first important things that can happen."

Kangaroo Island resident Mireille Dreimanis said she was forced to give up her son for adoption through the Catholic Church in 1970 and after the birth was even refused access to him in the Manly Hospital nursery.

Ms Dreimanis, who was not reunited with her son for decades, welcomed the Uniting Church decision.

"I was drugged and I protested, but it was all the authorities against us," she said.

Since the 1920s, when church groups set up adoption services at homes to care for pregnant single mothers, around 300,000 Australian babies were adopted the vast majority before single-mothers' welfare support became available in 1973.

In SA, around 29,000 adoptions occurred but with churches denying women were pressured to give up their babies, there are no records of how many were forced adoptions.

Mr Schrapel said fire had destroyed all records at the Kate Cocks home, which was opened by the Methodist Church in 1937 and closed in 1976 because of a social trend for single mothers to keep their children and accept welfare payments until they could return to work.

The Uniting Church is the first SA group to accept responsibility for the problem, but in NSW the Benevolent Society has accepted responsibility, Catholic Health Australia and the Western Australian government have apologised.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Church could not provide details of adoption services provided in Adelaide and the Anglican Church said it could not find any examples of it practising forced adoption.

UnitingCare Wesley wants women who suffered because of past adoption practices to contact them at 10 Pitt St Adelaide, or on 8202 5886.

Read more:
By Miles Kemp
The Advertiser
November 30, 2011 12:30AM


Tragedy of forced Adoption

Tragedy of forced adoption
20 Dec, 2011 04:00 AM
Phil Evans obviously has no recollection of the day he was born.

What he does know, however, is that on November 14, 1950, he was born to a teenage, unwed girl at The Women’s Hospital in Crown Street, Sydney. The young girl named her baby Arthur and was forced to give him away.

But Arthur – renamed Phil – would spend the following five decades oblivious to the fact he was adopted and would only meet his birth mother after dementia had taken hold of her.

Mr Evans, now 61, is one of the 150,000 children separated from their mothers because of adoption practices between 1940s and 1970s.

And when the federal Senate inquiry into the Commonwealth’s contribution to forced adoption policies and practices is handed down early next year, the Maitland life coach will be waiting.

“I think the inquiry is very real and, to be brutally honest, most of the questions have to be answered by the churches,” Mr Evans said.

The Senate standing committee on community affairs last year launched an inquiry into the forced adoption policies. The final report will be handed down on February 29.

“I think every individual mother who gave birth and had that child taken from her will react to the findings in their own way,” Mr Evans said. “Some will be elated, some won’t feel any different, some will be glad if someone says they’re sorry, some may even feel a sense of closure.”

Mr Evans also strongly supports the Newcastle branch of Origins NSW, an adoption lobby group which has spent the past 15 years calling for an inquiry.

“A lot of these young women were abused in a place where they were supposedly being cared for and many of their stories are

horrific,” Mr Evans said.

“They were physically and mentally abused, they were forced to sign a piece of paper and they never saw their babies.

“A lot of stuff went on that somebody has to be accountable for.”

Read Mr Evans’s story in the weekend edition of the Maitland Mercury.

Facebook contact complicates adoption

BRENDAN TREMBATH: It's a modern dilemma, should parents who gave their children up for adoption use social media sites such as Facebook to track them down?

In the United Kingdom, hundreds of children have been contacted by their birth parents.

And one adoption support group in Victoria says it's seen dozens of cases.

Liz Hobday reports.

LIZ HOBDAY: Adopted children can sometimes spend their whole lives wondering about their birth parents. The search process through official channels can take years, so imagine the fallout when an adopted teenager receives a message like this, on Facebook.

VOICEOVER: Hello, I am your father. I have been searching for you ever since you were stolen by social services. You look beautiful. I love you so much.

LIZ HOBDAY: This is a real case of contact through Facebook from the UK. The father who wrote the message is a registered paedophile, whose children were removed by social services and later adopted.

HELEN OAKWATER: Actually it's an enormous surprise it's hijacking, it's an ambush when it - just an email, arrives via Facebook or some other social networking site that says, "hello do you remember me? I think I am your birth mum."

LIZ HOBDAY: That's author Helen Oakwater, a mother of three adopted children, one of whom was contacted by a birth parent through Facebook. She says the consequences were devastating and there are hundreds of similar cases in the UK.

She's written a book about the experience called 'Bubble Wrapped Children'. It says unexpected contact with birth relatives has re-traumatised children. And she's seen some run away from home and others drop out of school.

HELEN OAKWATER: Facebook allows access from the age of 13. And I certainly know of cases where people have been contacted within a year or two of that, certainly 15-year-olds.

LIZ HOBDAY: The manager at Victorian adoption support group, VANISH, Colleen Clare, says she's aware of dozens of cases in Australia where parents have contacted children through Facebook and vice versa.

She says unplanned contact is a problem for children who already know their birth families, as well as children adopted at birth who are desperate for more information about their birth relatives.

COLLEEN CLARE: And the problem with that is that is can lead you down a lot of false trails or it could expose somebody who is not prepared for that. I mean some people, as an example, may never have told their partner or their children that they have given up a child for adoption. So information comes out in a haphazard way and that can be very hurtful and damaging.

LIZ HOBDAY: Colleen Clare says the relevant legislation is outdated and support groups are under resourced. She also says birth relatives who make contact through Facebook may not know they could be breaking the law.

COLLEEN CLARE: Personally I think if you were to do it publicly, in a way that was not acceptable to the person then they probably do have protections that they could call upon under the privacy laws.

LIZ HOBDAY: The Department of Family and Community Services in New South Wales says it's seen isolated cases.

But the chief executive of adoption agency Barnados in New South Wales, Louise Voigt, says the laws in News South Wales mean contact with birth relatives is much more open than in other states, so Facebook is less of a problem.

LOUISE VOIGT: In New South Wales we have a system of open adoption, that is children, you know, that are adopted have opportunity to see their parents, or their parents have opportunity to see them.

LIZ HOBDAY: The Department of Human Services in Victoria says it's had no reported cases of children being contacted via Facebook.

I found my daddy on facebook

Yes, yes, yes,

Parent x 2. Lets just be nice people who support the kids not angry about past relationships that did not work out.

Matilda met dad at 18, she is 21 now, we found him on facebook. They have a relationship that is getting stronger and stronger and she has a step mom and a heap of new siblings, what a blessing.

Restoration of families, blessing on many households.

For her life she was sad that she did not know her real daddy, she felt unloved so much it didnt matter what I did or what her siblings dads did, there was a hole there in her heart. Now she has a wonderful relationship that is being built up with dad constantly.

Dad and Step Mum are wonderful amazing people, I love them for loving her. Who amongst us can not do with more love in their lives in these times. The bible tells us, love one another as I have loved you.

Facebook can be a great thing when it is not used to manipulate and destroy others souls.

In Good Faith