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Forced adoption: Daughter says her mum is owed apology

By Paul Martin Wales Live

A woman who was adopted as a baby in the 1950s wants recognition that older women as well as "young mums" were coerced into forced adoptions.

Anne Jones's birth mother, Katie Green, had her outside marriage aged 36 and had "no choice" but to give her up due to "shame" and no financial support.

Anne is part of a campaign demanding a formal government apology for the "injustice".

The Welsh government expressed its "deepest sympathy" to those affected.

An estimated 250,000 women, mostly unmarried and under 24, were affected by forced adoption in Britain in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

"I feel there is a great emphasis on young, unmarried mothers who were taken away and put in mother and baby homes etc and that is dreadful," said Anne.

"But there were other people like my mother who were in a totally different situation.

"I don't want older mothers to be forgotten."

Anne said her childhood was unhappy as her adoptive mother made her feel she "couldn't do anything right".

Katie Green was 36 when she had Anne, but had to give her up

She always wondered who and where her birth mum was and whether her life could have been different.

When she heard in 1977 that a change in the law meant she could find out her birth mother's name, she took the opportunity.

Her mother was Katie Green and her address was in Caernarfon, 30 miles (50km) away from where Anne had been raised in Llandudno.

But before she visited, her social worker found out her mother had died in 1973, something that "still hurts".

When she knocked on the door in Caernarfon, she met her aunt Blodwen, Katie's sister, who still lived there.

Anne says it is important for the inquiry to understand that forced adoptions also affected older women

Blodwen told Anne that Katie felt forced to give up her baby daughter.

"No-one had stepped in and said 'we can do this for you' or 'there's this benefit you can have, the state will help you', nothing."

Blodwen also told Anne she had an older brother called Ken who had also been born outside of marriage.

Katie was able to keep Ken when he was born in 1938 as she was living with her parents so had support.

But, by 1951, her parents had died so when Katie got pregnant again by the same married man, the situation was different.

Anne said: "She already had one illegitimate child and was seen as a completely fallen woman."

Anne's older brother Ken was kept by their mother as she was living with her parents when he was born

Anne added that Blodwen never really wanted to discuss the adoption and got the feeling she felt "a little bit guilty".

"She always said she regretted it, that they didn't want it to happen," said Anne.

The only formal information Anne has are the basic facts on her birth certificate and adoption certificate she was given in 1977.

She has since been unable to find out more information about her adoption despite contacting several organisations and has "absolutely no idea" who arranged it.

Katie Green (right) and her sister Blodwen in the 1950s

A particularly emotional thought for her is the memory of her 21st birthday: "All I could think of was somewhere there is a lady who knows that her baby is 21 today, it just seemed so wrong."

Years later she discovered from a friend of her mother's that on that morning of Anne's 21st, Katie had broken down crying in the street on her way to work saying "my little girl is 21 today".

Anne feels an "injustice" was done to Katie, while the "secrecy and lies" that surrounded her adoption had negative consequences for her as her "whole sense of identity" was lost.

Anne is now one of many mothers and adoptees calling for a formal apology over historical forced adoptions.

"It's about secrecy and it's about shame," Anne said.

"I feel there's discrimination that has not been addressed. The parents who were giving up the children, all their rights were waived."

Westminster's joint committee on human rights is looking into the factors that led unmarried mothers between 1949 and 1976 "feeling forced" to give their children up.

The committee believes these may include "societal stigma", inadequate levels of welfare support, a lack of information about where to get help and pressure from "family, peer groups, medical practitioners, and other social or religious institutions".

Anne, pictured here as a baby, also had a full older sibling, but he remained with his birth mother

Committee chairwoman Harriet Harman told Wales Live she has received "incredibly heartfelt" testimony from mothers and people who were adopted about "the lasting effect it's had on them," and urged others to get in touch.

Ms Harman said it was hard to think of a more "important" human right than "the right of a mother to be able to be with her child, or the right of a child to be brought up with their mother".

"This human right was violated for hundreds of thousands of people because it was regarded as a matter of shame and stigma for an unmarried woman to be pregnant."

Movement for an Adoption Apology (MAA) wants a formal apology from the UK and Welsh governments, similar to one made by the Australian government in 2013.

Women who got pregnant outside marriage were often sent to "mother and baby homes" to give birth.

MAA's research has found there were 24 of these in Wales, mainly run by religious institutions.

Diana Defries from MAA has urged Welsh ministers to look to Australia and at action the Scottish government is taking.

"The same issues will be present, the same issues will be festering behind closed doors and the Welsh government needs to acknowledge that this happened, they need to acknowledge that there will be women and their adult children who are suffering.

"And that something needs to be done to show that it was an injustice and to apologise to these women."

Ms Defries called for "concrete measures", such as counselling services and help for people to become reunited with relatives, to be put in place alongside an apology.

Anne Jones said her mother Katie Green had matters "taken completely out of her hands"

The Welsh government said although forced adoption happened before Wales had its own government, it acknowledged there were people "who are affected and their feelings of loss, grief, anger and pain remain".

"We cannot change what has happened and understand the suffering many families went through," a spokesman added.

"We want to express our deepest sympathy to all those affected by historic forced adoption and provide our reassurances that adoption legislation and practices have been significantly strengthened to prevent this happening again."

  • Wales Live, BBC One Wales, 22:30 on 2 March or catch up on iPlayer

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