A Guide to Adoption in England and Wales by Pam Hodgkins MBE There was no legal adoption as we know it today before the implementation of the Adoption Act 1926. When this bill was passed by Parliament, many felt it was unwise and would lead to “futility,” as single mothers could override responsibility for their “bastard children.” Others argued that severing the legal relationship between biological parents and their children would “protect the investment of the adoptive parents and prevent the biological parents from recovering the child once he or she reaches earning age.” Before legal adoption, some charities, fearing that people raising a child would lose their investment, had already introduced an “adoption clause”. It was a legally binding contract very similar to apprenticeship. It cost one guinea (£1.05) and each party had to pay half the cost – this resulted in an elderly woman sending me a copy of her adoption agreement with a cover letter that said: “You will see my parents bought me for 10/6 at Waifs and Strays.” 10/6 (ten and six) is 52.5p and the Waifs and Strays was a national charity later known as the Church of England Children`s Society and now simply The Children`s Society. Many people do not realise that it was perfectly legal to organise adoption until the Adoption Agencies Regulations 1983 came into force in May 1984. Many of these people who made such arrangements were professionals such as doctors, clergymen and lawyers, but in reality, anyone could do it, and there were reports of door-to-door craftsmen such as bakers or milk rounds learning that a baby whose parents – or probably grandparents – wanted it adopted. and also a couple in the group who wanted to adopt and therefore presented both parties. The local council was to be informed by potential adopters and carry out a welfare assessment, but this was only done after placement. Although adoption became legal with the Adoption of Children Act (for England and Wales) in 1926, not all adoptions took place through local authorities or voluntary adoption agencies, and private adoptions by individuals were legal until 1983. Since no agency was involved in these adoptions, it can be much more difficult to find information about them.
In England and Wales, although some women report similarly, the law made it clear that a mother could not consent to adoption until at least 42 days after giving birth and, in most cases, would have her baby in a mother-child home or return to a home shortly after giving birth until the 1970s. Pregnant women were usually admitted to mother-child care if they were between 24 and 28 weeks` gestation – many say before their pregnancy became apparent. Mothers were expected to take care of their babies, albeit in a regulated setting, including encouraging breastfeeding, as this was recognized as the best for the baby. It should be noted that although there is a huge amount of literature and academic writing on adoption as it relates to the UK, it is mainly written from a contemporary social and sociological perspective; Surprisingly, little relates to the history of adoption and promotion in the UK, and no one has written a well-researched overall history or a “manual” or “encyclopedia” on the subject. Although not about adoption, the detailed two-volume history of childhood in England by Ivy Pinchbeck and Margaret Hewitt (Pinchbeck and Hewitt 1969 and Pinchbeck and Hewitt 1973) is relevant, as is Hendrick 1994, an account of attitudes towards children and their well-being in England. Heywood 1978, a history of the development of child welfare services in the United Kingdom, is also useful background reading. Until recently, most historical records on adoption appeared as chapters in social work or law books, or in stories about other areas such as child abuse or the position of single women. Kornitzer 1952, a book on the practice of adoption, contains a chapter on the history of adoption, as McWhinnie did in 1967 in a study of the outcomes of adoptees as children in Scotland.
More recently, Montgomery 2010 is a snapshot of adoption in the UK. O`Halloran 2009 is a useful introduction to the whole issue of adoption, as it addresses it in an international context, but contains a lot of material about the UK. Readers should also refer to relevant entries in Oxford Bibliographies Online, particularly Adoption & Fostering; Adoption; History of social work in the United Kingdom and history of social work in Northern Ireland. The first provides a useful introduction to the most important issues of adoption from a social, cultural and historical perspective, with a wide range of references dealing with adoption around the world. The second examines adoption from a social work perspective and deals with contemporary adoption, sometimes with historical bias; It focuses primarily on the United States, but many issues are common to most of the countries involved in adoption. The third and fourth entries deal with the history of social work in the UK, and many references are relevant to adoption, which social workers were already dealing with to some extent before the Second World War. Since the 1990s, there has been a growing interest in the history of adoption and more has been written about specific periods and topics described in this article. Results Before the law was passed, the term “guardianship” was the closest. A guardian is given custody of a child by the Court of Chancery, but parental rights are not transferred. After the First World War, organized adoptions multiplied and the pressure on legislation increased. In 1926, the first law was passed for England and Wales, and similar laws soon followed for Northern Ireland and Scotland. Over the next few decades, new laws were introduced to further regulate the process.
Before the 1960s, most adopted children were abandoned by single mothers or stepparents who adopted their new partner`s children. Since then, social, cultural, economic and legal changes have meant that children who are now adopted are primarily cared for by the community because their birth status has put them at risk. The introduction of the Sexual Orientation Regulations on 30 April 2007 was controversial and a dispute arose between the government and the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales over exemptions for Catholic adoption agencies.  Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham opposed the law, saying the legislation contradicted the “moral values” of the Catholic Church. He supported efforts to exempt Catholic adoption agencies from sexual orientation regulations, which eventually resulted in a March 17, 2010 ruling.  Pam kindly agreed that after a conversation about the government inquiry, we would publish the following: The Right to Family Life: Adoption of Children of Unmarried Women 1949-1976 Read on for a biography of Pam, who founded NORCAP.