Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Impact of past adoption practices: Summary of key issues from Australian research

A report to the Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Table of contents

Executive summary

1 Introduction
1.1 Prevalence estimates and historical background information
1.2 History of adoption laws and policies
1.3 Societal attitudes

2 Key themes
2.1 Range of people involved (see below)
2.2 Grief, loss and trauma (see below)
2.3 Solving three social problems: Illegitimacy, infertility and impoverishment
2.4 Choice and coercion
2.5 Secrecy and silence
2.6 Reunion experiences
2.7 Time (does not) heal all wounds

3 Current needs of women affected by past adoption practices

4 Adequacy of the evidence base
4.1 Research based on individual records
4.2 Reclaiming motherhood: Reunion experiences
4.3 Fathers and other family members

5 Conclusion


Appendix: Taxonomy of selected literature on past adoption practices
Table A1. Analysis of historical practices
Table A2. Case studies
Table A3. Expert opinion
Table A4. Parliamentary inquiries
Table A5. Unpublished reports
Table A6. Published empirical studies

2.1 Range of people involved

The range of people involved who played a role and who are potentially affected by past adoption practices include:

  • mothers;
  • the adopted children;
  • fathers (although the father was not always known, anecdotal evidence from case studies suggests they often were, and included not only boyfriends, but also husbands; however, there is a dearth of research looking at their role and any impact of past events on them and their lives);
  • the relinquishing mother's family (failing to provide support, actively demanding relinquishment, silence and censure);
  • management/leaders of the organisations involved with adoption (hospital administration, leaders of churches or religious orders);6
  • individuals within these organisations (social workers, nurses, doctors, nuns);
  • state/territory governments (responsible for enacting child welfare legislation, operating the statutory welfare department, and funding/regulating other non-government organisations to operate adoption services);
  • the adoptive family;
  • doctors treating infertile couples (creating demand for babies to be given up for adoption);
  • political and social structures available to support single mothers (absent or inadequate - the Supporting Mother's Benefit was not introduced until 1973, coinciding with a rapid decline in adoptions from the peak of 1971–72);
  • psychological and social work theories that were used by proponents to support various aspects of the practice of relinquishment (including the 'clean break' theory); and
  • broader societal attitudes (such as: the role of women; sex and illegitimacy; poverty and the capacity of single women to effectively parent and raise good citizens; the silence that descended on pregnancy outside of marriage; closed adoption).

The range of people involved suggests therefore the potential for wide-ranging impacts, including the possibility of the effects of past adoption practices on these individuals in turn 'rippling' through to others, including other children and family members. The trauma experienced by one individual can have effects on others, for example, by affecting their emotional availability, relationship skills, sense of identity and self-efficacy, or by affecting the quality of their own parenting skills.7 Although these issues are sometimes identified in case studies, there has not been explicit examination of the nature and extent of such impacts.

It is also important to consider the role of the parents of the young unwed mothers affected by past adoption practices. For example, one of the women from Kate Inglis' (1984) ground-breaking Australian compilation of personal testimonies, 'Joy', described her emotional reaction when she thinks back on the actions of her own mother:

The longer I'm a mother the more amazed I am about what she [my mother] did to me. I mean after what you go through with kids you'd fight for them, wouldn't you? (p. 31)

[ top ]

2.2 Grief, loss and trauma

Very few research studies on relinquishment are based on theoretical models. The two theories that have been used to understand the impact of relinquishment (see Winkler & Van Keppel, 1984) are:

  • grief/loss (in comparison to other bereavement experiences); and
  • as a stressful life event (focusing on specific stressful aspects of the experience, including pregnancy, shame, moving towns, lack of social support, and isolation from family, as well as the event of relinquishment itself).

In discussions about these frameworks during the consultations with key stakeholders (see footnote 3), some stakeholders felt that both of these frameworks underestimate the impact and do not fully capture the experience of relinquishment. They preferred to describe their experiences within a trauma framework.8 Social science researchers have used a trauma framework to understand the impact of similar phenomenon (e.g., the effects of child maltreatment or adult sexual assault), but this has not explicitly been posited or tested empirically in relation to relinquishing mothers (Connor & Higgins, 2008).

Read it all here

1 comment:

Von said...

Good you've posted this.Hope it's useful.

RussiaToday Apr 29, 2010 on Russian Adoption Freeze

Russi Today: America television Interview 4/16/10 Regarding the Return of Artyem, 7, to Russia alone

RT: Russia-America TV Interview 3/10

Korean Birthmothers Protest to End Adoption

Motherhood, Adoption, Surrender, & Loss

Who Am I?

Bitter Winds

Adoption and Truth Video

Adoption Truth

Birthparents Never Forget