Where it all Began
Responsibility towards the unwed mother
Without going as far back in time to 1923, when the Child Welfare Act was first introduced, and the unmarried mother received
a benefit of ten shillings a week to enable her to care for her child for the first three to four years of it's life: and
without lingering on the League of Nations recommendation in 1938 that:
"It may therefore be regarded as an axiomatic principle of child care that no child should be removed from
the care of an otherwise competent parent when the granting of material aid would make such removal unnecessary".
As this inquiry is concentrating on adoption practices between the period 1950 to 1998, this submission will begin from
the time adoption professionals were introduced to take over the control of unmarried mothers, putting themselves above the
law - and damned us all to hell.
As the unmarried mother was so insignificant to the adoption industry, other than to be used as merely the provider of
a commodity that allowed the adoption industry to remain a viable service to the community, perhaps the best way to begin
this submission is by doing what the adoption experts never bothered to do for over 40 years - and that is to actually read
the Child Welfare 17 regulations regarding the treatment of unwed and unsupported mothers - which had been introduced in the
early 1950's to protect her and her child from exploitation.
These regulations were put into place to ensure the unmarried mother was able to make a free and informed decision about
her babies fate - one that she could live with for the rest of her life without regret and without redress.
Mace v Murray
The legal responsibilities in the treatment of unwed mothers began as a consequence of the famous legal case of Mace v
Murray in 1952, where an unwed mother tried unsuccessfully to reclaim her child from its foster parents who had refused to
return the child to its rightful mother. This case resulted in a sensational legal battle which split the nation.
As a consequence of that legal case: to prevent the cluttering of courts with similar cases, and in order to protect adopters
from the disappointment of having to return the child, new regulations were introduced to ensure that in future any mother
forced to consider adoption was to be made fully aware of the consequences of her actions. Simultaneously The New South Wales
Government endorsed recommendations made by the World Health Organisation in Geneva Switzerland in 1952, to offer provisions
to care for homeless and maternally deprived children languishing in institutions.
World Health Organisation
According to a report by John Bowlby, M.A., M.D. On behalf of the World Health Organisation as a contribution to the United
Nations programme for the welfare of maternally deprived and homeless children, in 1952:
"If a community is to remove this source of deprived children, it will have to be more realistic in its
handling of the problem, both by providing economic and psychological assistance to the unmarried mother to enable her to
keep her child, and by providing skilled services to arrange for the adoption of those children who cannot be so cared for."
Regulations were thus implemented by the New South Wales Government making provisions available to protect children from
maternal deprivation by assisting the unwed mother in keeping her child out of institutions and foster homes by the provision
of financial assistance to unmarried and unsupported mothers.
Although John Bowlby has been given the credit throughout the industry for instigating the concept of traditional adoption,
insofar as his research determined that if a child was to be adopted it should be placed with adoptive parents as soon after
birth as possible - his recommendations however, have been entirely misinterpreted, as he did not imply that the child should
be adopted in preference to remaining with his own mother.
Bowlby recommended early adoption in cases where the mother could not or was unwilling to care for her child after support
provisions had been made available to her to care for her own child. Adoption was only ever second best to nature.
Bowlby is also quoted in the same text as saying:
"Finally let the reader reflect for a moment on the astonishing practice which has been followed in maternity
wards - of separating mothers and babies immediately after birth - and ask himself whether this is the way to promote a close
mother-child relationship. It is to be hoped that this aberration of western society will never be copied by the so-called
less developed countries".
Understanding the New South Wales Regulations
By 1956 the book titled Children In Need by Donald, commissioned and endorsed by the then deputy Premier of New South Wales
The Honourable R.J. Heffron, Deputy Premier and Minister for Education in New South Wales, to outline the prodgies and advances
made by the Department of Child Welfare in the care of deprived children of New South Wales, explains very clearly the responsibilities
of the district officer toward the unmarried mother. These regulations explain that:
"A mother giving a consent must be fully aware of the import of her action and, must be emotionally and
mentally able to appreciate all the implications of such consent. A consent should not be taken if there is any suggestion
of indecisiveness or that she has not given sufficient consideration to the matter". "To avoid any misunderstanding or any
suggestion that the mother was misled or uninformed, District Officers are instructed to explain fully to the mother, before
taking the consent, the facilities which are available to help her keep the child. These include homes licensed under the
Child Welfare Act for the private care of children apart from natural parents, financial assistance to unmarried mothers under
section 27 of the Child Welfare Act, admission to State control until the mother is in a position to care for her child, and
assistance to affiliate the child and obtain a maintenance order against the putative father."
"When all of these aids have been rejected, the officer is expected to explain to the mother the full implications of the
act of surrendering her child. (this included warning her of the risk of dire future regret if she decides on adoption). Only
when a mother has considered these, and still wishes to proceed with the surrender for adoption, should the consent be accepted."
"However, having taken all the steps referred to previously to ensure that she is aware of the alternatives to surrender
for adoption, the officer advises the mother that the decision must be her own. Fortunately, the majority of unmarried mothers
decide very definitely for themselves either that in no circumstances will they part with their babies or that they have no
doubts about their desire to have them adopted."
"If there is any sign of uncertainty or vacillation the officer will insist that the mother consider the question further
before signing the surrender. A consent is never accepted from a mother until she is quite firm in her decision."
"The vast majority of adopting parents prefer to take a child from birth. When professional agencies have strictly adhered
to later placements, in parts of America, a black-market in newly born babies has sometimes developed. Placement from birth
was forced on many American agencies under war-time stress, and the departure from the former practice was successful."
Adoption - A Panel Discussion
The Committee on Adoption Academy
United States - 1956
"The mother of a child born out of wedlock is, of course, young, frightened, and very much alone when she
is forced to make the momentous decision about her future life and that of her child. The provision of proper medical care,
casework service, a plan for her child, full and honest disclosure as to her legal rights and the consequences of surrendering
her child for adoption are essential if the substance rather than the mere form of her legal rights is to be secured. It is
when this is not done, when she is not helped to work through to the right decision, that decisions made under duress may
and often do lead to unresolved conflicts that may shadow her life and also the lives of the adoptive parents."
Child Welfare of NSW 1958
Social Work Training Manual
By 1958 the Child Welfare of New South Wales social work training manual (meant to be followed during the 1960's) - explains
"The Department provides an adoption service which is administered by the Dependent Children Branch, for
married couples and others who desire to adopt children. This service which is provided free of charge, has three phases;
(1) the location of suitable children (mainly babies) for adoption; (2) the placement of such children with specially selected
adopting parents; and (3) the preparation and submission of the necessary documents to the Supreme Court for consideration."
"Most of the babies come from large public hospitals where the mother has indicated that she does not desire to keep her
child. In these cases the mother is visited in hospital by a specialist Lady District officer who explains to the mother the
facilities (assistance) which the Department can offer to affiliate the child."
- To assist with monetary allowance (section 27 aid. Child Welfare Act).
- Or by admission to State control until the mother is better placed to resume custody and control of the child.
"When all of these aids have been rejected and the mother still desires to surrender the child for adoption the full import
of surrendering her child is explained (this included warning the mother of the risk of dire future regret if she should decide
"Only when the mother still INSISTS does the department's officer prepare a form of surrender. This form must be
witnessed by a Justice of the Peace who in turn must furnish an affidavit to the effect that the instrument of consent was
read and explained to the mother and in the belief of the Justice was understood by the mother."
But these regulations were never complied with.
In this State the mere signing of a consent does not remove parental rights - which remain until the order is made.
"Adoption is one of the most satisfying of the Departments activities. And it is a constant source of pleasure
to officers of the Department when adopting parents proudly bring their children to Head or District offices, and enthuse
over their progress. It is highly gratifying to note that the baby has grown up as much the child of the adopting parents
as though he has been born to them naturally. The fact that applications for a second child are so rapidly increasing clearly
establishes that adoption is meeting the needs of both child and adopting parents in a very real manner." Unmarried Mothers
"A special service to unmarried mothers has been established and a lady district officer, holding the Diploma of Social
Studies, is attached to head office to deal with this matter. Many approaches are made direct, and others are referred by
hospitals and social agencies. Advice is tendered in many cases, before birth. Assistance is given in regard to waiting time,
arranging confinement, employment of the mother in such capacity as will enable her to retain and care for the child, financial
assistance, admission of the child to a home or to state control, surrender of the child for adoption, and reference to the
"This work calls for the greatest tact and sympathy, when one remembers the great emotional and physical stress under which
the unmarried mother labours at such a time."
N.B. Although adoption professionals still claim that no provisions were available to support unwed mothers until 1973,
an article found in the Daily Telegraph on 25th March 1965 promoting the new upcoming adoption laws had district officers
reassuring the reading public of the mothers above mentioned rights, including how she had to insist upon adoption before
the adoption procedure could commence, plus all facilities available to the unwed mother who keeps her child was clearly outlined
at the eleventh National Conference of Social Workers in 1968, disproves the ignorance adoption professionals now claim to
have about the availability of such facilities.
When explaining today, why unmarried mothers were not being told about financial help that had been available, adoption
workers now explain that before an unmarried mother could obtain financial assistance under section 27 aid, she had to put
herself through an embarrassing affiliation procedure in the Courts before benefit would be granted. (see Lateline video Jennifer
Burns `Birth Bond' 21st October 1997). That does not seem to be entirely true. It seems that even the long term adoption experts
do not know their own regulations.
According to their training regulations, the benefit was available to her, and if the mother was also to press for maintenance
from the father as well, she would then have to endure the possible embarrassment of proving the paternity of the father of
her child, through the Court.
Enforcement of maintenance orders under
the Deserted Wives and Children Act.
of NSW 1958
When a deserted wife, or the mother of an illegitimate child, receives an allowance under Section 27 of the Child Welfare
Act, she is required to give control of any maintenance order against the father of the child to the Department. If such orders
are not complied with, application is made to the Court for enforcement. At the Metropolitan Children's Court an officer attends
daily to present evidence in support of such applications. At Courts other than the Metropolitan Children's Court this work
is undertaken by a Field Officer.
Adoption of Children Act 1965 - Legislation
The new Adoption of Children Act 1965 then added offences clauses into legislation against coercion, duress, and undue
influence to prevent exploitation of mother and child by unscrupulous baby traders.
BUT EVEN LEGISLATION COULD NOT PROTECT MOTHER AND CHILD.
Coercion does not always require overt bullying tactics. Realising they could get just as many babies with honey as with
vinegar, the adoption experts had mastered the art of undue influence and coercion in many cases simply by denying her information
about legally available assistance to make keeping her baby a viable alternative. Making her believe she had made a decision
although no option had been offered, and insisting that adoption was in her child's best interest, was in itself coercion
- railroading the mother into the only direction offered to her.
Section 27 aid - Allowances for Children 1968
Available since 1939
Additionally, in 1968 the Department of Social Welfare reported on benefits available to unmarried mothers - under Allowances
for Children. Section 27 aid, explained that:
"Not all unmarried mothers wish to have their child adopted and in many cases have no family at hand to
help with the care of the child. This embryo family group has an important mother-child relationship that needs both support
and nurture and the Department assists the mother by acting for her in affiliation proceedings and by the granting of regular
allowances once the mother's eligibility has been established. The services of the social aid branch are also used in special
cases to supply a layette, special foods and milk. Many unmarried mothers call upon the services of the Dept to act for them
in court to obtain an affiliation order. There is no charge for this service."
That having been said, we are yet to meet any mother who has been aware that such provisions even existed. And yet these
documents are clear evidence that financial assistance and other provisions have always been available to assist the unmarried
mother to keep her child.
N.B. An article in a Social Work manual written in March 1977 by Elspeth Brown, explains that in her time, between 1958
and 1963, 60% surrendered and the bulk of 40% of babies kept by their mothers were born either to mothers in stable de-facto
relationships or to very young mothers, in particular those emanating from Child Welfare Department institutions.
Although it has been generally assumed that financial assistance to unwed mothers was first introduced by the Whitlam Government
in 1973, finally enabling mothers the option of keeping their babies, that wasn't historically true. It seems that all Whitlam
did was to advertise the already available but unknown benefit to single mothers, gave it it's own title, and brought it into
line with the CPI.