Forced adoption: Mothers say national apology 'not enough'' and call for deep reforms to heal 'atrocities'

Scottish mothers who endured the forced adoption of their babies have said an national apology for their losses was “not enough” and called for deep reforms to allow them to heal from the “atrocity” of being separated from their children.

The Movement for Adoption Apology in Scotland has stressed calls for much-needed mental health support for mothers and changes to the management of adoption records, which remain closed for 100 years to parents.

The campaign has also called for a permanent memorial to those affected, with adoption often presented as the only option, both by many families and health professionals, given social attitudes of the day towards unmarried mothers. Many women have spoken of a lifetime of shame, trauma and secrets that followed.

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It is estimated around 60,000 women in Scotland were affected by such adoptions, with the period between the 1950s and early 1980s now in sharp focus.

Jeannot Farmer became pregnant aged 22 and was separate from her son shortly after she gave birth. The retired teacher is now campaigning for reforms to help mothers and children affected by forced adoption. PIC: Contributed.
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Jeannot Farmer, 65, of MAA Scotland, spoke out as the Scottish Government announced it would start collecting experiences of women with a view to establishing support and action required.

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The campaign has worked closely with mothers in Australia where a national apology was issued in 2013, but only after similar reforms were agreed and millions of dollars freed up for mental health support.

Ms Farmer, a retired teacher of Glasgow who lost her son to forced adoption aged 22, said she “fundamentally disagreed” with a view the Scottish Government should move quickly towards an apology, given discussions have been quietly held with mothers over a number of years.

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Jeannot Farmer, now 65, says a national apology for forced adoption must be met with mental health support and reforms on access to adoption records. PIC: Contributed

Ms Farmer said: “If you get a quick apology, it just disappears. You get an outpouring of sympathy but it doesn't address the fundamental problems faced by those involved in forced adoptions.

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“A very fast apology without these reforms is not enough.

"If we accepted an apology with no specific help for mental health, it would be cruelty for the women who emerge from the shadows and then have nowhere to go.”

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On a permanent memorial, Ms Farmer added: “We want something to communicate that an atrocity happened."

The campaign has drawn up five recommendations, including an independent body to manage adoption records and the creation of a national database.

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Ms Farmer said: “We don't have any rights to access information regarding our children. You have been through this horrific experience and you can't rationalise it. Records are one of the ways you can try and disentangle what happened.”

Ms Farmer became pregnant while a student and made inquiries with social services regarding adoption, but no agreement was made before the birth.

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She described the birth at now closed Bellshill Maternity Hospital in 1979 as abusive – and says she believes “policy and culture” towards unmarried mothers underpinned her experience.

Within hours of asking where the nursery was so she could see her son – a request which was refused - she was transferred to Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride without her baby.

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Children’s Minister Clare Haughey offered her “sincere sympathies” to those affected and said: “It is heart-breaking that in the past there were practices which resulted in some women feeling forced to give up their children.

“Listening to these voices will help us to understand what support and action is needed. I hope we can work together to explore next steps.”

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