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Forced adoptions: Welsh government to apologise

One Welsh woman who was forcibly adopted she had felt "robbed" of her culture

By David Deans & Teleri Glyn Jones BBC Wales

The Welsh government is to formally apologise to mothers forced to give away their children.

Thousands of unmarried women were subjected to forced adoptions in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

Speaking in the Senedd, Deputy Social Services Minister Julie Morgan will say sorry for the failures in society that led to the practice.

The move was welcomed by campaigners who said the UK government should follow suit.

One Welsh woman who was forcibly adopted said she felt "robbed" of her culture after she was taken from her Welsh-speaking mother.

It is likely that thousands of children in Wales were forcibly adopted, with a UK Parliament inquiry estimating that 185,000 babies were affected across England and Wales.

The joint committee on human rights of MPs and peers found many women were shamed and coerced into giving up their children.

The Welsh government's decision comes a month after Scotland's former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's apology on the same issue, and 10 years after Australia said sorry for the practice.

Ann Keen - who later became an MP - was forced to giver her baby up for adoption at age 17.

Ann Keen, is a campaigner and former MP, who was sent to a Swansea mother-and-baby home and forced to give her baby up for adoption at age 17.

She was told she could spend 10 days with her son after giving birth in January 1967, but she says that on day eight he was taken away because she had become "too close" and she never got to say goodbye.

She told Radio Wales Breakfast on Tuesday: "Today's people [in charge] were not involved, but the consequences of how it happened will always stay with us and it's not right. I am so proud of the Welsh Labour government coming to apologise to this, and I really urge the UK to do the same. Because why not?"

Ms Keen is travelling to Cardiff on Tuesday to hear Julie Morgan's apology in person.

She added that she felt overwhelmed, adding that she and other women were talked about in terms of giving up their baby, when in fact they were taken from them.

"In a way it clears the name for both of us, and for many thousand of other mums who maybe haven't been part of this campaign because they kept silent, because you're told it's so shameful, that you mustn't tell people and you must never talk about it," she added.

"I so commend the Welsh government. They weren't involved, but they understand the trauma I went though in Swansea. I am shaking now, I don't know quite how I'll be, but I know I will have feelings of some sort of justice for all of us."

Anne Jones was adopted as a baby in the 1950s.

Anne Jones, from Glan Conwy, was adopted as a baby by a family in Llandudno in the 1950s. Her birth mother, Katie Green, from Caernarfon, had her outside of marriage at the age of 36.

She told BBC Wales last year that her mother had "no choice" but to give her up due to "shame" and no financial support.

She said her adoptive family made her feel that she "was illegitimate and therefore wasn't good enough".

Although she located her brother, who had stayed with his mother, she was only able to find out who her mother was years after she died.

'You don't know who you are'

Ms Jones, 71, has been among those campaigning for a formal UK government apology.

She welcomed the Welsh government's decision but was disappointed that it was not happening at the UK level.

"One of the things that every adopted person will tell you is: you feel you don't know who you are.

"You don't know whether there's anybody else in the world who looks like you."

Ms Jones, who grew up in Llandudno, said she had been "robbed" of her culture.

"My mother was Welsh, and because she lived and was born and brought up in Caernarfon, she was Welsh speaking. That's something I missed out on."

She added: "I feel sorry for the people in England who have not had their apology yet, because I feel they are being discriminated against."

"[The apology] matters because it was institutional prejudice, institutional shame."

Ann Keen - who later became an MP - was forced to giver her baby up for adoption at age 17.

Former MP and campaigner Ann Keen was sent to a Swansea mother and baby home and forced to give her baby up for adoption at age 17.

She told Radio Wales Breakfast that the birth of her son in 1967 was "such a traumatic experience".

"I begged to be able to see him, eventually I was able to do so. It was then said that I could have him for ten days, but no longer, and not get too close - that's impossible, of course, as any mother would tell you."

"Some of the people in charge were not unkind, but some were deliberately unkind because it made you feel like you didn't have any rights.

"In fact, we were told we didn't have any rights, which wasn't true. Society treated us badly, but so did government. We've got academic research on that now, to prove that."

While the people in charge today were not involved, she said "the consequences of how it happened will always stay with us and it's not right".

"I am so proud of the Welsh Labour government coming to apologise to this, and I really urge the United Kingdom to do the same. Because why not?"

Anne Jones, pictured here as a baby, said forced adoption was a "stigma"

Mothers told the joint committee inquiry they felt their treatment during and after giving birth was deliberate punishment for their pregnancy while unmarried.

Young women were sent away from home to conceal their pregnancies and spent weeks in mother and baby homes.

Many women said they were abused by social workers, nurses and other staff, and denied pain relief.

The Welsh government and the Senedd did not exist at the time forced adoptions were taking place.

The UK government, which fully governed Wales until 1999, rejected the committee's calls for a formal apology in its response to its findings.

While it said the treatment of women and children was wrong and should not have happened, ministers said an apology would not be appropriate "since the state did not actively support these practices".

However it said it was "sorry on behalf of society to all those affected".

'The state was involved'

Veronica Smith, the founder of the Movement for an Adoption Apology, welcomed the announcement.

She said the UK government "should now follow the example of Welsh and Scottish governments".

"They claim that the state weren't involved but we have lots of academic research that the state was," she said.

Family acceptance remains an issue she said.

"Few people in Wales have come forward but we expect many more to be out there. It's still a very painful thing and shame is involved."It will be a great relief to those affected that it's being talked about publicly at last," she added.

Julie Morgan gave an apology in a personal capacity in January.

The deputy minister said that while forced adoption practices predated devolution in Wales, "they have a lasting legacy on all those who experienced them - for both the parents and the children".

"We cannot change what has happened, but I can provide assurances that adoption legislation and practices have been significantly strengthened since and we will strive to provide as much support as we can."

Ms Morgan will deliver her statement in the Welsh Parliament late afternoon on Tuesday.

The UK government said: "We are sorry to all those affected by historic adoption practices. We are sorry on behalf of society for what happened.

"Whilst we cannot undo the past, lessons of the time have been learned and have led to significant changes to legislation and practice."

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