top of page

Forced adoption: 'My baby was taken'

Women who were historically forced into giving up their children for adoption are being asked to share their experiences. An estimated 60,000 mothers in Scotland had babies adopted simply because they were unmarried.

Lisa Rolland was living in Edinburgh in 1982 when she became pregnant at the age of 16.

Still a schoolgirl, she remembers her GP's reaction to her pregnancy was to say: "Who's been a silly girl then?"

"I felt so shamed," she said. "[I thought] I have obviously been bad, I have done something bad. I felt very isolated."

She was unmarried and says the pressure on her to give up her newborn son for adoption was so great, she could not stop it.

"I didn't choose adoption, it was presented to me as the only available option," she said.

"There was an implication that I wouldn't be able to have a career, it might ruin my life."

Lisa spent three days with her baby before he was taken away.

"I handed him over and then I went into the toilets and cried for about two hours. It was just dreadful," she said "I just felt this massive pain and hole and grief, and just empty really."

Asked whether she gave up her baby or whether he was taken, she replied: "My baby was taken."

'Shame and guilt'

Lisa was finally reunited with her son, Chris, about 10 years ago and they had a "wonderful relationship".

"It was really special, it was like a fairytale," Lisa said.

Tragically, he died in a car accident two-and-half-years ago.

"At that time the grief was so hard," she said.

"It made me realise that I'd never grieved the baby, I'd kept all of that inside.

"I felt such shame and guilt that I hadn't fought for him. Would I have been such a bad mother?"

In the 1950s, 60s and 70s up to 250,000 women across the UK coerced into handing over their babies. Many were denied access to housing and social benefits which may have allowed them to have kept them.

Some of the women never had more children and said the loss caused them a lifetime of grief.

In 2013 Australia issued the world's first government formal apology for forced adoption, taking responsibility for the practice.

Four years ago, the Canadian senate recommended the federal government issue an apology to 300,000 Canadian women.

  • Forced adoption apology 'would heal' women's shame

  • Mothers demand apology over forced adoptions

  • 'They call us fallen women, bad women'

And in January last year, the Irish Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, apologised to former residents of mother and baby homes in Ireland for the way they were treated over several decades.

Months later Labour MSP Monica Lennon tabled a motion on historical forced adoption, calling the Scottish government to say sorry on behalf of the nation. She asked that ministers should speed up the work being done to reach the point of making the apology.

The UK parliament at Westminster has launched its own separate inquiry into forced adoptions.

The Joint Human Rights Committee began taking evidence before Christmas and is due to report later this year.

Scottish ministers have now launched an online questionnaire for those who wish to share their stories and views.

A formal apology has not been issued by the Scottish government, but it said the survey would allow people to share their "views and insight" and inform the support process.

A dedicated helpline has also been set up with the mental health charity Health in Mind, with staff who have understanding of trauma.

Children's Minister Clare Haughey said she offered her sincere sympathies to families with experience of forced adoption and that the issue "deserves to be looked at properly".

Apology 'long overdue'

She said: "Listening to these voices will help us to understand what support and action is needed. The last thing I want to do is to ask those affected to revisit the trauma it caused them, but, if they feel able, I would encourage them to give their views and share their experiences.

"I hope we can work together to explore next steps."

However, Ms Lennon said the survey would tell the government "what women have been telling them for years".

She said: "An apology to the women who were historically forced into giving up their babies for adoption is long overdue. Time is running out for many of these mothers and others have already gone to their graves after a lifetime of grief and guilt.

"Hearing 'we are sorry' from the first minister will help to end the stigma and begin to heal the burden of shame that the women have carried for decades.

"Nicola Sturgeon was not to blame for this historic injustice but the gift of an apology is in her hands and she should do the right thing."

14 views0 comments


bottom of page