Mothers forced into adoptions want an apology for the past 16



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Single mothers in New Zealand who were forced into adoptions during the 1950s to 1980s want the government to apologise for past policies.

Mothers from Australia and New Zealand were routinely made to adopt out so-called “love child” babies born before marriage.

Debra Harris was just one of these mothers, and still remembers the trauma of giving up her daughter for adoption in 1971.

“It was very degrading and demoralising”, Ms Harris told media outlets in New Zealand. “It left me with a lot of feelings of lack of self-esteem, lack of self-worth, lack of self-respect”.

“The social worker that was responsible for the adoption of my child told me in a very stern voice with a wagging finger: ‘If you are irresponsible enough Miss Harris to get pregnant, then what makes you think you’re responsible enough to raise a child?'”

As a teenager, it would have been socially unacceptable for Ms Harris to raise her own child. There wasn’t single parent support payments in either Australia or New Zealand.

Whilst Australian mothers receive an official government apology in 2013, many mothers would like similar recognition in New Zealand.

What’s more, New Zealand’s adoption laws haven’t changed since 1955 and the legislation is still seen as discriminatory towards women.

Forced adoptions are still an emotive topic for Starts At 60 readers, many of whom survived this shocking government policy themselves.

Some readers believe an apology is necessary to offer “recognition of the suffering and heartbreak it caused”. Whilst others described love children as “the other stolen generation”.

Do you think that mothers in New Zealand deserve a government apology?

Were you affected by forced adoptions? Was someone in your family adopted?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. A apology is not good enough. Mothers were forced to give up their babies for adoption as there was no help or advise to keep the baby. Many mothers and their adopted babies have suffered (50 years) for the loss of baby and / mother. I do not accept the apology given here in Australia. I would of preferred some counselling and support at the time of adoption

  2. That was how it was at that time. All over the western world. When I was about 15 or 16 abour 1960 a neighbours 18 year old daughter got pregnant. Her mother threw her out of the house. My mother was horrified, so much so, that she sat me down and told me that while she didn’t want it to happen but that she would be there for me and I shouldn’t be afraid to come to her with a problem. I guess I was lucky to have parents like that. It happened to my best friend but not to me.

  3. I was 16 when I had my daughter in 1974 at Paddington women’s hospital , yes I was unmarried, I took the name calling even our parents trying to force us to get married, I weathered all that but, I will never forget the hospital nun trying to force me to sign adoption papers on every doctor visit, as soon as I had the examination it was straight to the office where I was told I was unfit, to young to be a mother I wouldn’t be able to bring her up, my family wouldn’t support us, she would shove the papers towards me and demand I sign them, I DIDNT, that was almost 42 years ago and I’m so proud of my girl, who’s now a grandmother herself I fought to keep her and I believe I did a bloody good job bringing her up

    1 REPLY
    • Are you sure the hospital was in Paddington? I doubt that there were any nuns there. Was it St Margaret’s in Darlinghurst?

  4. They do deserve an apology. I can remember being a student nurse doing ‘Maternity’ in a Christchurch hospital and watching a young girl go, leaving her little boy behind. She was so distressed and what made it more terrible was she was made to breast feed her baby while she was there and she had bonded with him. I was left in no doubt it was meant to have a punitive effect on someone who ‘got herself pregnant’. I can still remember her name and the name that was given to her baby by the hospital. Both names began with the same letter – ‘H’.

    1 REPLY
    • This same thing happened to my mother, breastfed her daughter for one month then she was taken for adoption….barbaric….

  5. I gave birth to my first son , out of wedlock…1971. I couldnt have kept my son , if I hadnt had the support both financial and emotional from my family.i am now at age 62 and married to the father of my first and second son.

  6. And then there we us strong women that refused to give our babies up for adoption against the odds
    Refused to give in
    It could be done
    Very proud I kept my baby when I was 17
    He is now a wonderful man with a family of his own

  7. And then there we us strong women that refused to give our babies up for adoption against the odds
    Refused to give in
    It could be done
    Very proud I kept my baby when I was 17
    He is now a wonderful man with a family of his own

  8. It was indeed the saddest day of my life. I had no say in what became of my little girl and even though She made contact in 1993 and it was a beautiful reunion, because she wasn’t raised by me there is no bonding between us which adds to my sadness. So now at 71 even though I know where she is and who she is I am left empty. I have met her Mum and we are best friends. But that even hasn’t helped. I have been on anti depressants for many years but have never been able to come to terms with my little girl being snatched away from me. I did go on and marry and had 5 children of whom the eldest is now 50, I still feel the loss and that emptiness that was felt with my first little girl.

  9. As an adopted child 74 years ago & having 2 adopted children as well as natural born children I can see both sides & always I am thankful for & appreciate the heart rendering effort by all mothers who had no choice in keeping their child.
    I was fortunate I had a great family, have since had & still enjoy contact with my natural mum now 93 & the love of all my children. An apology is not going to change what a lot of people believed was the right thing at the time.

  10. i was also one of those mums in the 60s my mum made me give my baby up and t o this day regret it met her few yrs back but wasnt the same im nearly 70 and the sadness remains had two children since then to my partner but always think about first born ,and yea it was a disgrace at time remember one nurse she was so mean because i was single mum and u know i was engaged at time. and told best thing to do

  11. I am over all this apology crap. Does an apology put things right – NO. Why should people apologise for something that occurred probably before they were born. Sorry not PC.

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