The issue of adoption without consent in the UK

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WikiTribune is looking into the issue of adoption without consent. This is a story in progress. Please add interview requests and key facts below.

Britain frequently participates in so-called “forced adoption.” Also known as contested adoption, or non-consensual adoption, the practice sees local authorities forcibly and permanently removing children from their parents to be adopted without consent.

While other EU member states also have mechanisms to carry out adoption without parental consent, England and Wales exercise the power to resort to such orders more often and on a larger scale than the rest of Europe.

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The forced adoption of the children of unmarried women during the 1950s, 60s and 70s was common in the UK, Australia and Ireland. MPs have called on British Prime Minister Theresa May to apologise on behalf of the nation to the women involved (The Guardian).

But push back against the practice is rising in Britain today, as more mothers claim to have had their children removed unfairly and without consent. However reasons for non-consensual adoptions are different now to the widespread forced adoptions in the 20th century. Many cases of adoption have the best interests of the child in mind and it is not always best for a child to stay with their birth family, for reasons ranging from neglect to substance abuse in the home. But critics say forced adoption is an enormous injustice and damaging to both parents and children.

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A seminar at the House of Commons on September 11 aimed to gather evidence of “the significant harm caused to children by separating them from their mothers and families, and which families are targeted for child removal and forced adoption,” according to Legal Action for Women (LAW).

LAW is a grassroots women’s organization that offers legal support and advice to low-income women and campaigns on issues affecting them. It’s based in London and San Francisco.

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WikiTribune will be looking at the rise of campaigns against non-consensual adoption and speak with charities and authorities that both oppose and support the practice.

Key facts

  • Approximately half a million British women had children forcibly removed in the 1950s-1970s.
  • The practice is ongoing, with low-income families and mothers who are victims of domestic or sexual abuse most affected.
  • Under law in England and Wales, children can be forcibly removed from their birth families’ homes if they are at risk of “significant harm.” But critics warn the law is vague and gives social workers too much leeway to remove children.
  • Once a child is placed for adoption, the process is irreversible.
  • According to the most recent government statistics, the number of children in care in the UK is on the increase. As of March 2017 there were 72,670 children in care, 2,220 more than the year before.
  • However, the number of adoptions has fallen, with 4,350 children being adopted from care, down from 5,460 two years earlier.
  • Most countries in the European Union obtain consent from parents before adopting children.
  • The adoption of children from children, particularly young children, from neglectful homes or from parents who have substance or income problems is seen as advantageous. Protecting children is the priority of social services in the UK.
  • But critics say forced adoption is inhumane and can endanger and traumatize children further.
  • A Lancaster University report from October 2017 revealed a high number of the women who appear in family courts and lose many children into public care or adoption because of child protection concerns were in care themselves as children.

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  • Anne Neale, Legal Action for Women
  • Professor Karen Broadhurst, Lancaster University Centre for Child and Family Justice Research
  • Joe Smeeton, Director of Social Work Education at the University of Salford
  • Jo Ward, a principal lecturer in Social Work and Professional Practice at Nottingham Trent University
  • Alison McGovern, Labour MP for Wirral South, who has been vocal on historical forced adoption
  • Department for Education
  • Nadhim Zahawi, Children and Families Minister
  • CoramBAAF, adoption and fostering academy
  • AdoptionUK chief executive Dr Sue Armstrong Brown – interview done
  • Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Shadow Children’s Minister – interview declined

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