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The Violation of Family Life: Adoption of Children of Unmarried Women 1949–1976: Government Response to the Committee’s Third Report

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On Friday 3 March, the Government published its response to the powerful and troubling report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights about The Violation of Family Life: Adoption of Children of Unmarried Women 1949–1976. 

We have written about the inquiry here and here and have called for practical actions to address the failings highlighted and the resulting human suffering.  

The Government response acknowledges the need for action but also has clear limitations. It is also noticeable that the Government does not go so far as to formally apologise to those affected by adoption practices at the time.  

“The Government agrees with the Committee that the treatment of women and their children in adoption practices during this period was wrong and should not have happened. Whilst we do not think it is appropriate for a formal Government apology to be given, since the state did not actively support these practices, we do wish to say we are sorry of behalf of society to all those affected.” 

We have been contacted by a number of adult adoptees who are disappointed by this response. We are also disappointed that a formal apology from the Government has not been provided. Many of those negatively impacted by adoption practices during this time have called for an apology; whether that be mothers, their children or others who have been affected. We also asked for a formal apology.  

Previously, we called for practical actions to be taken to address the failings of the past. The Government has responded to a number of recommendations in relation to post-adoption support, access to records, access to health information and intermediary services to name a few. It is also disappointing that the Government response does not include further resources to address the clear demand and need for these services for birth parents and adoptees that the report has highlighted. We will continue to urge the Government to ensure that adequate funding and resources are made available for post-adoption support.