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Cruel forced adoptions are still happening today

Tue 1 Jun 2021 17.51 BST

Nina Lopez points to adoptions occurring against the wishes of birth families, while one reader recalls how their sister was forced to give up her baby. And John Peniket says it was the prevailing social attitudes to sex and childbirth that were to blame

‘Of about 3,500 adoptions a year, 90% are against the will of the birth family. They are hidden by a closed family court system.’ Photograph: Wander Women Collective/Getty Images

Gaby Hinsliff (The UK’s forced adoption scandal was state-sanctioned abuse, 27 May) draws an important parallel between the adoptions forced on single mothers between the 1950s and 1970s, the Rochdale, Windrush and Grenfell scandals, and preventable Covid-19 deaths. She points to “state-sanctioned abuse” of people “dehumanised in the eyes of officialdom”.

But she seems unaware that forced adoptions have not stopped. Of about 3,500 adoptions a year, 90% are against the will of the birth family. They are hidden by a closed family court system that was found to be ridden with sexism, racism and classism by the government’s review of harm in the family courts’ treatment of domestic violence.

One grandmother in our network who lost her grandchild to adoption describes the process: “If you are poor, working class, in need of support, services, housing, or have been in care, it can be used as proof that you are not fit to be a parent. They had all the power. We had only our pain and anger. And our fear for her. She had no choice, no voice, no comprehension.”

We recently celebrated the reunion of a family whose children had been destined for adoption after their single mother, an asylum seeker who spoke hardly any English, was accused of having lied to the authorities. Social workers and the police had been parked outside the hospital waiting for the court order to take the newborn. This time we were able to stop it. The Movement for an Adoption Apology is well aware that the past is in the present – that’s why it is part of our coalition. Nina LopezSupport Not Separation

Gaby Hinsliff’s article reminds me powerfully of what happened to my sister in the early 1960s. Condemned as a whore by our mother, she was spirited off to a Church of England hostel in London so that the neighbours would never know. To make matters worse, my sister was able to trace her baby to an address in the city that we grew up in, and she began leaving anonymous gifts for the baby, no doubt causing some anxiety for the adoptive parents. She had depressive bouts for many years, all caused by the brutality of a system that ignored her feelings. Some 40 years later, she and her daughter met for the first time and kept in touch until my sister died a few years ago. Name and address supplied

Gaby Hinsliff quotes several instances worthy of an apology from the state, but forced adoptions is not one of them. People growing into sexual maturity in the 1940s and 50s faced an ethos where illegitimate births were severely frowned on. I have memories of a friend having to leave school without sitting his O-levels because he had to marry his pregnant girlfriend and find work to support her.

In 1960, a fellow student had to give up her medical studies because she became pregnant. At that time, Marie Stopes clinics only gave advice to women who were married or “about to be married”, causing many girls to buy a cheap ring from Woolworths before attending.

The change in social attitudes to sex and childbirth came about due to the invention of oral contraception. Governments have no need to apologise for this. Indeed, UK governments deserve congratulation for introducing free oral contraception in 1961. It was six years later before the same privilege was extended to unmarried women. John PeniketBurnham, Buckinghamshire

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