NSW Parliamentary Inquiry Into Adoption Practices

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Origins Inc.

Origins Response

to the Inquiry

Inquiry Evidence

Everyone who has made a submission to the NSW Standing Committee Inquiry will automatically receive a copy of all evidence that has been given. Please be patient, it may take quite some time.

If you did not make a submission but would like to receive a copy, please contact the Committee Director Jenny Knight (phone 9230 3435 or e-mail sociss@parliament.nsw.gov) and ask to be put on the list.

Evidence will be available from the Committee web site later in the year but the address is not established as yet.

In the meantime we have included a little of the evidence given by Dian Wellfare speaking for Origins.

Standing Committee on Social Issues - Legislative Council Inquiry into Past Adoption Practices Witness and Representative for Origins: Dian Wellfare Secretary.



Question No.1

Please explain the background to the establishment of your support group, Origins, including details of the number of members you have across NSW and the nature of the support provided.


Answer.

Witnesses - Representatives for Origins
Ms Christine Cole - Chairperson
Dian Wellfare - Secretary
D.W - Q.1-7
C.C - Q.8

Origins was founded in April 1995 by a small group of women who saw the need to provide an alternative support service which focused on two issues that we felt were pertinent to our healing but were being ignored and dismissed. These issues included our need to address our past adoption experiences and to stop post adoption counsellors and the health profession from minimising and invalidating the severity of damage created by adoption separation.

We recognised that almost all post adoption workers set up to counsel mothers were the very same social workers who had been involved in taking our babies - which we saw as a continuation of our abuse through professional control.

As an organisation with a New South Wales membership of 620 mothers already, not including interstate membership, we have a combination of 28 support groups and phone support services Australia-wide, with 14 service providers in NSW, and are affiliated with groups in the U.K and New Zealand.

We are entirely self funded and offer confidential support and assistance through regular and out of hours emergency telephone services 7 days a week, We hold monthly support group meetings and provide information and support in the search and reunion process including redirection to alternative search services when the need arises.

We provide mediation where required and offer our members and informative quarterly newsletter as well as access to a comprehensive reference and research library of historical documents literature books videos and audio cassettes. We also provide information kits to health professionals, who seek a wider understanding of adoption trauma to accomodate their patients needs as required - and have recently sought funding to mass produce and distribute a booklet to all health and referral services in NSW on this issue.


Question No.2

Has the Origins group collected any statistical data on the number of women affected by past adoption practices and the nature of those practices?

Answer.

The Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages asserts that from 1950 - 1997, 76,453 adoptions took place in New South Wales. The Registry was unable to provide us with the actual breakdown of step parent adoptions and of older children placed for adoption. Non traditional adoption statistics are believed to be relatively small and in the low hundreds per annum as during this period and especially from the late 1950's, as this was where the emphasis changed in adoption from it being a service for children in need to providing a service for infertile couples - the emphasis concentrated almost entirely on infant placements with infertile couples generally refusing to adopt any child other than a newborn - the promotion of traditional adoption having been based on the premise of alleviating the emotional distress of infertility by providing an infant young enough to be "as if born to the adopting couple" rather than its own mother.

While we have conducted no empirical research data as such we have provided questionaires to our members through our newsletters and have tabled those questionaires pertaining to their adoption experience as part of our submission to this inquiry.

We have gathered an enormous amount of literature dating back to the 1940's - including psychiatric case studies, clearly outlining the over-representation of adopted children in mental health facilities, outlining the emotional harm and confusion created by adoption separation. I refer to Origins Submissions 3, 3a, and 3b, researched by Wendy Jacobs with assistance from Lily Arthur - presented to this inquiry.

We have observed the high incidence of suicide in adopted males and attempted suicide in the mothers, and although no research has yet been conducted into this issue it has not gone unnoticed that the peak suicide in Australian women coincided directly with the peak adoption period.

I have spoken to over two thousand callers (some being one off calls, others becoming full members) during the last three years and have observed that in general and almost without exception the mothers interview and confinement process have followed a routine pattern almost without exception.

A coincidence I have also observed is that those mothers who tell me that in their drugged state, upon signing a consent, were told to get married and have children of their own - have done exactly that. Whereas those who were told they were young enough to forget and to get on with their lives generally had no further children. An estimated 50-60% remain childless as a consequence of their experience.

The treatment was systematic Australia-wide, with only a few slight variables depending on the hospital concerned.

According to their own documentation, the adoption agency's main concern was the effect of infertility within marriage, with the overall success of traditional or newborn adoption, being based solely upon meeting the needs of childless couples, not to mention the worker's own personal satisfaction of playing God (their words) by using a child as a placebo to provide a family where before one did not exist.

This fact was compounded in more recent years by the adoption industry seeing itself as being in "crisis" as a result of adoptable babies being in short supply.

Their minor concern (again using their own words) was in locating enough babies, and finding ways of getting the unwed mother to accept the required separation from her child in order to meet their demand. It meant the implementation of psychological abuse and mind control.

In relation to her treatment, and irrespective of both the law and mother nature, by 1967 according to McLelland's unresearched theories, it was decided that to enable an unwed mother to live for the rest of her life without her child, it had become "obvious" that during pregnancy:

"she must come to see her child as being a separate individual from herself with needs of his own".

To do this her foetus would be referred to as "the baby" rather than "her baby" at all times.

Using abusive psychological cruelty, if the she remained ambivalent to the pressure and/or asked to keep her child, common practice was to remind the out of line mother that she was simply carrying the foetus for its "real parents", if she dared speak of keeping her baby at all. Upon taking a consent, she was told she could have "children of her own" when she married.

She would be told not to be selfish when she had nothing to offer the child, made to pity the infertile couple, told she was depriving a poor infertile couple of the only chance for a family of their own, how disappointed they would be as their heart was set on her child - how heartless it would be to disappoint them. She would be told her child would be made a ward of the state if she didn't sign, accused of being a bad mother for wanting to keep her child, who did she think she was - she couldn't care for a dog (in one case), and of course, given that she had never been made aware of available assistance, would be asked how she intended to care for the child should she keep it - her answer would invariably be "I don't know".

Further deceit was warning her, (if the baby's father remained on the scene - and many did) that he would come to hate both her and the baby if she forced him into marriage - and worse - she would end up hating her own baby if she kept him.

Perhaps the most common of all coercive practices was to convince the oppressed and unsupported young mother that it was "in her child's best interest" to be surrendered for adoption - and any mother who really loved her baby would want what was best for the child.

The message was clear. To want to keep the baby would be selfish and would indicate that she was a "bad mother". She therefore did not deserve her child and her baby would be seen to be at risk.

With no alternative avenue offered to them, and having to believe the perfect adoption myth for the sake of their sanity, the vast majority of mothers quietly fell into line and succumbed to their fate.

Other tactics were not as subversive. Mothers were tricked into signing, being told the document she was to sign was a hospital release form, a milk voucher, or birth registration form, lied to - told her baby was dead, or her baby would not receive the medication needed to save it's life if she didn't comply, kept isolated until she acquiesced, and generally coerced and bullied into signing blatantly obvious, uninformed consents.

As one mother put it:

"You didn't see the Jews trying to run as they filed into the gas chambers either - because they had nowhere to run to."

Consents were often taken prior to - and immediately upon birth and post dated to accommodate the legal requirement of leaving three clear days before signing. Others signed empty documents that would be typed in by the officer at a later date.

Using oppression, fear, trauma, isolation, and sedation to acquire signatures, and without an informed decision anywhere in sight, made for easy pickings to enable this grand baby larceny.

None were ever warned of the emotional consequences that would befall them after their baby had disappeared forever. No mother was permitted to see or hold her baby upon delivery. Their baby's were always taken from the delivery room and hidden from them somewhere in the hospital or they were transferred to other locations by ambulance. Only after signing the consent were some permitted to see their babies. Most were forbidden to see their babies at all.

Their lactation was routinely suppressed with either Stilboestrol (known only to those who have obtained their medical records) or by the method of breastbinding. Many say they can't recall too much about their hospital confinement and upon obtaining their records realise they had been given high levels of mind altering barbiturates.

Some mothers were shown the wrong baby after signing a consent to ensure no bonding takes place. Mothers were told their babies had died at birth - when they had in fact been adopted.

Consents were taken from mothers prior to or upon birth and post-dated to accommodate the required legal time of five days, or made to sign empty documents and filling them in at a later date. Signatures were forged.

Forbidding mothers to leave the hospital until they signed a consent - their records were marked with the term "socially cleared" which was an indication that they had signed a consent and could then legally leave the hospital. Forcing mothers to sign a consent on day five when she could legally take time to recover from the birth before making a decision. Day five was only the earliest time her signature could legally be taken. They were taking unenforceable (and therefore invalid) consents from minors - who had no adult advocate present - unbeknown to the mothers their consents only becoming valid upon reaching the age of majority which was 21 years of age - reducing in the early 1970's to 18 years.

Many were not informed of the 30 day revocation period, while others attempted to revoke only to discover that in effect a revocation period did not exist but had been used as a ploy to extract a consent from them under false pretences, with the usual dismissive advise being that their child had already been adopted, although it had only been placed in an interim placement that was not legally binding.

No professional counselling facilities were provided either prior to or after confinement. Any anguished mother who would phone up fretting days, months and years after her loss would be told she was the only one who hasn't gotten on with her life - implying that something must be wrong with her. Only a few years ago a young mother phoned the Catholic adoption agency still in distress seven years after losing her daughter only to be told if she hadn't put this behind her she needed to go to a psychiatrist.

Most say they were not allowed to read the document they were signing and the vast majority explain that the document of consent was not read to them. None had an adult advocate present to help her understand the legal meaning of the document she was signing.

Some say they did not know how permanent adoption was. Some young mothers believed that adoption meant that an adult would help her raise her child, that she would only be giving up her parental rights. Many had no idea that they would never see their child again until they contacted the agency, or went to get their baby upon leaving the hospital after signing.

More recently these so-called open adoptions are being arranged by promising the mother open access to her child without warning her that the adopting parents of her child were under no legal duty to comply with any promises they made to her in order to acquire her child when open adoption is still not legislated upon through parliament in 1998. And although it is well recognised that a child is more at risk of abuse by a non-biological step parent, mothers are not being warned of the known risks to their child in being placed in an alternative family environment where neither adoptive parent is biologically related. Nor are the mothers or their families being warned of the severe mental anguish to the mother in being permanently separated from her child through adoption.

It must be made very clear that until 1967 two thirds of all adoption arrangements were carried out by the state government agencies. The other third were made up of what was known as independent baby traders who were ultimately outlawed when the state took over control of all adoptions in Australia in 1967 by licensing only reputable agencies to arrange adoptions.

We are not speaking of those privately arranged baby traders, although they are included. We are speaking of the abuses carried out by the licensed adoption agencies and the hospitals to which they were associated.


Question No.3

With regard to past adoption practices, what are your members telling you about:

  • (A) the practice of not allowing the mother to view the child after delivery, and the use of a pillow or sheet to ensure the mother did not see her child.
  • (B) the use of drugs before during and after delivery
  • (C) the process involved in the consent taking process
  • (D) the invasion of privacy before, during and after delivery


Answer (A)

Probably the best way to begin this question is to quote from a woman who was the head social worker in charge at the Womens Hospital Crown Street between 1964 - 1976, policy maker for NSW adoption regulations, Chairperson of the Standing Committee for Adoption in the early 1970's, Mrs Pamela Thorne (Nee Roberts), as witness for the State in the recent case of 'W' vs the State of New South Wales, who explained under oath that the routine adoption practice was to "forbid eye contact between mother and child to prevent bonding".

Mrs Thorne then went on to explain how the unmarried mother's medical chart would be marked with the codes UB-, and BFA, meaning "baby for adoption".

Unbeknown to the mother this code was used as a routine guide for labour ward staff. Mrs Thorne explained that this code had three functions:

  • The first being to ensure the mother did not see her child -( as policy dictated that eye contact between mother and child was forbidden to prevent bonding).

  • The second was regarding the location of mother and baby postnatally (where the mother would be kept separated from her child by being transported heavily sedated by ambulance to another hospital without her baby).

  • The third point pertained to the type of medication to be administered to the unmarried mother. (Specifically 200mgms of Pentobarbitone was routinely administered almost immediately after birth and Stilboestrol was administered to begin suppressing lactation).

Mrs Thornes explanations coincides directly with the experiences routinely conducted on every unmarried mother in Crowns Street and routine in almost every other hospital in the state.

We are aware of no mother who was advised of the medication or treatment she was to endure and therefore she was denied her legal right as a patient to refuse such treatment.

It was routine adoption practice to interfere in the birthing process between the mother and child by snatching the newborn from its mothers womb while she was entering the third stage of labour and whisked away to be hidden while the mother was still bound by stirrups, heavily sedated, some being shackled by the wrists to the bed, and awaiting the expulsion of the placenta.

To prevent the mother from having eye contact with her newborn the measures used to prevent bonding included placing a pillow on the mothers chest or at her face, holding a sheet up to obstruct her view, turning lights down or off, blindfolds, turning mothers head away, standing in way of vision, rushing baby out of labour room immediately upon birth, using heavy sedation during labour, holding shoulders down to prevent mother from lifting herself up, pushing mother back down if she sat up, shackling mother to bedhead as per the 1971 video included in Submission 1. To this inquiry.

The baby would then be hidden from its own mother. Within the confines of smaller hospitals, it would be in staff rooms, in linen closets, in locked or hidden nurseries, denying mothers free access to their own babies, or transporting mothers by ambulance to other locations - at a time when she was still the sole legal guardian of her child and could not legally be denied access to her child.

During this post confinement period methods of keeping the mother at bay varied. Directives came from a collusive agreement between the adoption agency and the hospital to which the unmarried mothers home was affilliated. During the 1960's the mother was usually forbidden to see her baby at all. Although some were permitted to see their babies once - But only after they had signed a consent although they were not allowed to touch or feed their babies. By 1970's the adoption industry decided the mother could cuddle the baby once to say goodbye but only under strict supervision and guarded by hospital staff in case she got any grand idea to run off with her child. Mothers would pushed out of the nursery, one being dragged back to her bed by the hair. One young mother managed to grab her baby only to have it wrenched from her breast with the nurse running down the corridor while the mother was injected with a sedative. If a mother was found loitering around the nursery window she would be chastised and sent back to bed.

Upon obtaining their prescribed information many mothers have come to realise they had been shown the wrong baby after signing a consent to prevent bonding, as their records indicate the baby was not at that location at all.

Others were told their baby had died at birth - only to have their dead baby turn up decades alter having been adopted. Mothers recall being told their dead baby was buried in the rose garden in the hospital grounds. One ask to see her dead baby a day after birth to be told the baby was "too decomposed" to view. And on it goes.

Ironically, it is interesting to note that (although we were treated as animals with no human instincts) at a Sydney hospital staff meeting in the late 1960's, a psychiatrist had to remind the staff that unmarried mothers were not a lower order of human beings or animals who lived by our instincts. But we were "just human beings like themselves."


Answer (B)

Many women claim they don't recall to much about their hospital confinement period and it isn't until they obtain their medical records that they realise their lack of memory is caused not only by the mind blocking the trauma of the separation but also by the heavy level of sedation they had received.

Mothers were usually heavily sedated during labour with what was known as lytic cocktails (used medically to obliterate feelings) consisting of a combination of pethidine, codeine, and psychotropic hypnotic barbiturates such as pentobarbitone, Sparine, Largactyl. Phenobarb, Sodium Amytil, Morphine, Heroin, Chloral Hydrate, and Bombadon, would be administered during the post confinement period until a consent was taken. The letters PRN stamped on the patients medical drug sheet indicated that the listed drugs had been authorised by the doctor and could be used for sedation "as was required."

Lactation was suppressed by using the synthetic hormone DES Stilboestrol, administered usually in three time the legal dosage and known since 1971 to be carcinogenic, and/or by the method of breast binding. The process of suppressing lactation was routinely commenced without asking the mother if she was keeping her baby, indicating a preconceived presumption and plan to remove her baby from her. All hospital treatment was carried out without written authority or consent from the mother. Most mothers would still not know they had been administered this hormone nor would they be aware of the now known potential life threatening health risks to themselves or their subsequent children in having been administered Stilboestrol.

Dr Ferry Grunseit explained in 1973 how it was difficult to determine the suitability of a newborn to be adopted because of the level of drugs that would be in the infants system. And proposed that a child should not be placed until it was three months old to stop adopting parents from returning the child with minor flaws as too many such returns could give the medical staff attached to an adoption agency, a bad name.


Answer (C)

According to their manuals of adoption practice it was and still is the responsibility of both the social worker (or almoner) who counsels the mother prior to delivery, and the allotment officer, who takes the mothers consent after delivery, to counsel her wisely on her options and alternatives to adoption. And according to a report presented to the then Attorney General Mr Frank Walker from the then Minister for Community Services Mr Rex Jackson this included warning the mother of the risk of dire future regret if she is considering adoption. In 1965 Hansard reports how the unmarried mother is to be warned of the psychological consequences inherent in adoption back in 1965, yet the adoption industry continues to systematically disregard their duty of care today in 1998. The most damning of our discoveries is that the adoption industry has never been ignorant - but has been fully aware of the psychological harm their industry has inflicted upon its clients with Pamela Roberts declaring under oath in her written statement that health authorities were fully aware of the potential for harm in forcing a mother to surrender her child to adoption during 1960's.

The Child Welfare regulations clearly emphasise that only if a mothers insists upon adoption after all available alternatives and warnings had been made clear to her was the adoption process to commence. Her consent was not to be taken unless she was quite firm in her decision. Those regulations have never been repealed.

However none of the above mentioned regulations have even been read let alone followed.

Instead, mothers were systematically denied all knowledge of their legal rights and options with adoption being promoted as the only course of action available to her - effectively denying her her legal right to make any choice, and although her baby had already been taken at birth and hidden from her, the routine consent taking process dictated that at some time after the birth, although she had still been forbidden to see her child, a mother would be visited by a social worker, while she remained conveniently traumatised and sedated, and if it was then `indicated' that the baby (she had been forbidden to see or to bond with), was to be adopted, an unknown district officer from the Department of Child Welfare would then be called upon to take the mothers consent to make the process look legal, although the baby had already been stolen and hidden from her at least five days earlier.

Put simply - you cannot deny a mother her legal right to make a choice, forbid her to see her own baby, hide her baby from her within the confines of the hospital, keep her sedated until a consent is signed - and not call it abduction!

The Women's Hospital Crown Street, would mark the unmarried mothers chart with the term `socially cleared' upon having signed a consent, or, `awaiting social clearance' prior to a consent being taken. This term was an indication that the consent had been signed, the mother had been socially cleared, and was then free to legally leave the hospital and resume her place in society. She would be forbidden access to her street clothes until her consent was signed.

If she attempted to discharge herself from hospital prior to being socially cleared, she would be threatened with police arrest for abandoning her baby, although by law, she could not legally be charged with abandonment unless she had had no contact with her child for a period of twelve months.

Police would be called to remove a persistent mother who tried to get her baby back from the agency within the legal time. One such example was a 17 year old mother in 1967 who explained how she had been thrown into the back of a paddy wagon and threatened with jail if she bothered the adoption agency again. The agency was the Catholic adoption agency.

Police were also used to extract the young fathers from the hospital, although he had the same legal right to see his child as any father had the right. Many were warned to keep away, and others even bashed up by police for good measure.

If the mother refused to sign, as many did, unless she had parental support, her baby would be taken to institutions like Scarba House where it would be kept until the mother could be harassed into signing, or until the twelve months were up and her consent dispensed with anyway. If the unsupported mother could not be controlled and managed to leave the hospital with her baby, the departments literature explains that if they provide support for such a girl she will come to see how difficult raising her baby will be and it should then be possible to eventually get the baby off her later.


Answer (D)

Marking the unmarried mothers medical records with a code to announce her marital status and that her baby is to be adopted.

Although the secrecy Act in 1967 dictated that no party to an adoption was to have knowledge of the other parties to the adoption, the adopting parents have always been entitled to know the mothers name whereas the mother was not given reciprocal rights. Adopting parents have sometimes kept a watchful eye on the mothers progress through life and could make contact whenever they wished.

Mothers used as specimens for teaching purposes and could be called up from waiting patients at any time if an intern needed to clock up another induction as part of his training schedule - even though the mothers labour had not begun.

Mothers were usually forbidden visitors in hospital.

And most importantly mothers who did manage to see and hold their babies after signing a consent were never permitted to do so without being heavily guarded by hospital staff.



Question No.4

Does Origins believe mothers received adequate counselling or information regarding alternatives to adoption before signing consent to adoption?

We have never come across any mother who had any idea that alternatives to adoption had been available prior to 1973 until they heard it from us. Nor have we come across any mother who has been warned of the psychological harm inherent in adoption separation. Quite the contrary. Because quotas had to be filled all counselling centred around giving the baby up "in it's best interest! "

If a mother was audacious enough to ask to keep her baby she would be swiftly reprimanded for her cruelty and reminded not to be so selfish.

It has been generally assumed that financial assistance for unmarried mothers first became available when Mr Whitlam introduced the sole parents benefit in July 1973. But that isn't historically true. All Whitlam did was advertise the already available benefit, gave it its own name and brought it into line with CPI.

So contemptuous is the industry of the mother's rights, even the NSW President of the AASW Ms Jill Davidson disputed one month ago in the Newcastle Herald that any benefit was available until the early 1970's.

And yet Origins discovered the availability of financial assistance in their own literature, although varying depending on circumstances but was always apparently one dollar less than the widow's pension.

Not only did we discover our rights to such assistance in the Child Welfare regulations from 1956 (which clearly no-one has bothered to read for over forty years), but in the social work and district officers' training manual of 1958, the Daily Telegraph 1965, the social service statistics for 1968, the 1969 Social Service's eleventh national conference papers presented by Pamela Roberts, but also in their own Social Work journals which outline the financial assistance, available day care facilities which gave the unmarried mother priority to enable her child to be cared for while she works, temporary accommodation, and the right to apply for housing commission accommodation (although there was a three year waiting time in 1968), assistance with obtaining maintenance from the child's father, a layette, special food and formula where required, and state wardship or foster care, until the mother was better placed to care for her child.

As we managed to discover our rights in their own literature it was obviously known to the Department, but none of this information had ever been made known to the unsupported mother prior to 1973.

Given that even the Law Reform Commission of NSW in reviewing the Adoption of Children Act 1965 and every other historical document ever written blames contraception, abortions and the introduction of the sole parents benefit as reasons why the baby market began to dry up during the 1970's, our rights have been a very well kept secret.

Although the apologists will defend themselves by declaring that either 60% or 40% of unmarried mother kept their babies (depending on who is telling the story) of those who kept, the majority were older mothers in stable de-facto relationships and the very young who came from child welfare institutions and possibly knew their way around the child welfare system and/or were supported by their parents. Whereas these provision were implemented specifically to provide for the unmarried mother and her child who had no family support and yet they were the very mothers who were being denied these options.



QUESTION 5.

The Committee has been asked to consider whether past adoption practices involved unlawful or unethical practices. What practices do you consider were:

(A) unethical
(B) unlawful. Please give examples.

I believe the first big mistake the Adoption industry has made is that it has entirely misinterpreted its own regulations and the law for almost fifty years.

Firstly - under the Child Welfare Act it was in the childs best interest to remain with its own mother and provisions were introduced in the early 1950's to enable an unmarried mother to care for her child.

Therefore in having promoted adoption over assisting the mother to keep her baby - and not warning her of the potential harm such a course of action may cause her - the Department of Child Welfare and its adoption agents have committed an offence which not only breaches their own regulations and adoption legislation but also constitutes: a breach of duty, unconscionable behaviour, and is in breach of statutory law.

The next point that needs to be fully understood is that the reason very little is mentioned about the natural mother in either the Child Welfare Act 17 or the Adoption of Children Act 1965 (other than the protection clause which explains how the mothers consent cannot be obtained by coercion, duress or undue influence) is because, in law, the Adoption Act does not actually come into play until a mother has signed a consent to adoption.

This means that the period prior to signing a consent i.e. process surrounding the mothers' pregnancy, birth experience or post confinement period, does not come under the jurisdiction of the meaning of any adoption Act.

The natural mother, by law, what ever her age or marital status is the sole legal guardian of her child and had the same legal rights to her child as any other mother giving birth and could not legally be separated from or denied access to her newborn child.

Therefore under Administrative Law any hospital which introduced practices that discriminated against the unmarried mother has gone beyond their powers - which constitutes - not only malpractice - but is also a breach of ULTRA-VIRES law. (to go beyond ones authority)

In relation to the question of what is Unethical vs. Unlawful practice: it is difficult to differentiate as we understand that while it is unethical to deprive a mother of her alternatives and options to adoption, it then created the unlawful situation which denied the mother her legal right to make a free and informed decision based on her legally available options as regulations and the law dictate.

With regard to the Department of Community Services a few examples are:

  1. To systematically deny mothers all knowledge of their legal rights and option contravenes ultra-vires law, and constitutes breach of duty of care, unconscionable behaviour, breach of statutory law and element of conspiracy to defraud.

  2. Using both overt and covert methods of coercion to obtain consents by acts of misrepresentation i.e. using the term that adoption is in the child's best interest constitute undue influence, coercion, duress, unconscionable behaviour and are criminal offences.

  3. Not informing mothers of the 30 day revocation period - constitutes unconscionable behaviour, fraud, breach of duty of care, breach of statutory standard.

  4. Expecting young unskilled mothers (minors) to sign legal documents without an adult advocate present and without her understanding the meaning or interpretation of the document she is signing - constitutes breach of statutory law.

  5. Preventing mothers from exercising their legal right to revoke their consent within the legally permitted time by advising them the baby had already been placed - constitutes element of conspiracy to defraud, unconscionable behaviour, ultra-vires law.

  6. Promising that which never can, in effect, be guaranteed i.e. an ideal life for the child in being adopted into a two parent family - constitutes misrepresentation, unconscionable behaviour.

    Re hospital practice - a few examples are:

  7. Introducing the inhuman practice of forbidding eye contact between mother and child to prevent bonding - constitutes a violation of human rights. Breach of duty of care. Contravening ultra-vires law.

  8. Interfering in the primal act of giving birth between mother and child by removing the child prior to the completion of the birthing process and hiding babies from their mothers even though she was the sole legal guardian of her child constitutes unconscionable behaviour. Element of conspiracy to defraud, violation of human rights, conspiracy to defraud, criminal offence under A9 1 NSW Crimes Act 1900 (taking child with intent to steal), violation of statutory law, violation of natural law, breach of duty, violation S90A kidnapping and contravening ultra-vires law.

  9. Forbidding mothers to see or touch their babies until a consent is taken constitutes breach of ultra-vires law, coercion, violation of human rights, violations of statutory right, duress, element of conspiracy to defraud.

  10. Sedating mothers during labour and post confinement period with mind altering psychotropic barbiturates - constitutes a criminal offence under A.38 Crimes Act, unconscionable behaviour, conspiracy to defraud.

  11. Preventing lactation by using the synthetic hormone stilboestrol or breast-binding without prior consent from the mother constitutes common assault, trespass to the person, violation of natural law, violation of human rights.

  12. Transporting mothers by ambulance whilst heavily sedated to a different hospital without their babies and without their permission - constitutes false imprisonment (common law offence) element of conspiracy to defraud.

  13. Informing the mother her baby had died when it had in fact been adopted constitutes fraudulent misrepresentation, unconscionable behaviour, element of conspiracy to defraud, A9 1 taking child with intent to steal, A9 1A, kidnapping, violation of human rights, intent to deprive owner permanently.

  14. Social worker failing to inform mothers of conflict of interest in her dual role of serving the mother and the prospective adopters simultaneously constitutes a breach of professional ethics where no statute of limitations in the Court of Equity applies. Failing to have any proper regard for natural law, and prevailing domestic and international principles concerning the advancement and protection of human rights.


Question No.6

The Committee has been told that mothers were not encouraged to speak of the loss of their child through adoption and were advised to 'get on with their life'. While it has since been acknowledged that this advice was inappropriate what do you understand to be the long term impact of this advice?

It is understood that when a person is subjected to an unnatural trauma, the sound mind protects itself by manifesting a false self in order to essentially remain sane. And although it is correct that we were encouraged to get on with our lives and forget what had been done to us, our silence has not necessarily been a voluntary response. But an involuntary reaction where it becomes impossible to speak about - because it has become unspeakable.

The loss of a living part of one's self creates in the mother a level of trauma and anxiety so great that the mother must manifest a false self in order to survive. The experience essentially becomes "something that happened to someone I used to be". The mother dissociates as soon as the baby is taken at birth. She remains suspended and therefore silent until and unless a trigger event occurs and forces her mind to face her loss.

This is why it is known (as with every reaction to trauma) that the mother regresses back emotionally to the age she was when she lost her baby. In many instances her hormones and body react in the same way as they were meant to had her birthing experience not been interfered with. The found child connecting to his or her reality does exactly the same upon reunion.

During this period of dissociation the mother is trapped into a pathological way of coping with the affects, and remains distracted and distanced from her emotions. She exists on a level of anxiety created both by the loss of her child and out of her unconscious terror and the fear of annihilation she will suffer if she is forced to face her loss. Her ability to remain sane relies on her minds' ability to keep the secret of her experience from herself.


Question No.7

What measures might assist people experiencing distress as a result of past adoption practices?

While we believe that no mother has ever been provided with her legal and human rights in relation to her adoption experience, we do not profess to speak on behalf of every mother with regard to their requirement for justice and for personal healing.

There will be some for whom a sincere apology and acknowledgement of past practices will be sufficient. Others will find some relief to know their children are made aware of the separation practices from their mothers, Others for whom that will not suffice may wish to take action through the Supreme Courts, while some may wish to take up their right to lay charges under the Crimes Act bypassing the Statute of Limitations, and others wishing to overturn their child s adoption based on improper consent.

This is a very serious legal issue with potentially very serious consequences for many, and so for the sake of the mothers contributing to this inquiry, their displaced children, the mothers waiting for the outcome of this inquiry in other states who seek their own justice, including those future mothers who remain too traumatised to yet speak. It is one we cannot and have no intention of taking lightly. We therefore request that avenues be made available for discussion with Origins committee members and other appropriate parties for discussion in the implementation of our following requirements:

  1. Arrange to provide regular seminars and workshops accredited by the Department of Community Services and The Health Department to educate and inform all mental health workers of the nature of emotional implication resulting from the mothers experience.

  2. Provision of weekend, weeklong and monthly de-programming, Trauma recovery, research, and respite centres to be made available for those in need of in-depth recovery where required.

  3. Provide state-wide financial and material support to enable the development of self-help organisations in city, regional and outer lying areas around the state.

  4. A review into, and improvement of all counselling procedures.

  5. A statewide/national campaign to remove the stigma put on mothers who surrendered children to adoption in the past, including the removal of the stigma inflicted upon our children in having been classified as unwanted.

  6. A full National Judicial Inquiry into adoption practices and/or

  7. A Statewide Criminal Investigation under the New South Wales Crimes Act 1900 Kidnapping clauses.

  8. Overturn the Statute of Limitations.

  9. A full and sincere apology to all mothers and children who have been separated by adoption from the Australian Association of Social Workers, charitable organisations, licensed adoption agencies, the medical profession, the Nursing Association, the Department of Community Services, and the N.S.W. Health Department.

  10. Reparation.

  11. The reinstatement of all original Birth Certificates.

  12. Full disclosure of the truth regarding adoption practices as an Act of Parliament to begin the official rewriting of adoption history.

  13. To have the separation of mother and child at birth officially recognised as a severe trauma to both.

  14. Full research and disclosure into adoption consequences, including:

      a. Suicide rates in adopted children and mothers.
      b. Mental health implications in both mothers and children.

  15. Disclaimer stickers posted on all past historical adoption literature and case work studies found in state libraries which depict improper adoption facts based on the promotion of adoption mythology - to ensure that such inhumanity is never allowed to be repeated.

  16. The de-registration of all adoption agency and agent licenses for non-compliance with the terms and conditions of their professional license issued by the Department of Community Services for their failure to comply with the terms of the Child Welfare Act 17, the Adoption of Children Act 1965, failing to comply with their own regulations, failing to apply a professional standard of duty of care as a professional adoption service to the community.

  17. Accountability in the failure of the relevant Director Generals of the Child Welfare Departments (and its alternative and subsequent names), to police the goings on of its own Department and licensed private adoption agencies as licensing regulations dictate.

  18. Accountability on the part of the Health Department and/or other responsible persons in its/their failure to police negligent and criminal hospital Administration regulations and practices carried out by licensed hospital staff.
    Copyright Dian Wellfare, Origins Inc, 1995

 

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