Kiwi women share their adoption stories

  • 21/03/2016
Kiwi women share their adoption stories

More Kiwi women have come forward about their difficult experiences as young unmarried mothers, as part of a push for an overhaul of our adoption laws.

The women's stories add to growing calls for an apology from the Government, following last week's Human Rights Review Tribunal condemnation of the Adoption Act.

Several women called Mark Sainsbury on his Morning Talk show today, describing a variety of negative and positive experiences they had decades ago.

"I had to adopt out a child in 1962 because my family were very middle class," a woman known only as Frances said. "It was all very hush-hush. No family members knew, and I was sent to Bethany in Wellington."

The home was run by the Salvation Army.

"Nothing about it was pleasant. We had to work, yes, but we had a wonderful major and captain in charge of us. They were wonderful people.

"They were good people, and for two weeks [after giving birth] we were allowed to hold those babies and love them. I watched a young girl one morning hold her son in her arms for the last time. You'd never forget it.

"She was an innocent young girl. It was the first time she'd had sex, and I watched her heart break. And when my own child was to go on this particular morning, we were allowed to clothe them.

"I knew he was going. I fed him in the morning and went to get him for the next feed, and they said to me: 'He's gone.' And I know they were doing it for me, because that last holding of your child is too heart-breaking," she said.

Frances said in her experience, babies were not taken by force.

"No one was having their children taken from them. There was a wedding -- a young girl, 15, had a boyfriend, and he came from Nelson and they got married at the Bethany home. So you could keep the baby if you wanted to."

Another caller, Judith, was able to keep her son.

"I look at my son and think, 'Thank God I was able to keep him,' because I often wonder what happened to all these other babies," she said.

She said in 1956, being an unwed mum was "absolutely dreadful".

"I was the talk of the town, and it was just dreadful. Even now when I go back to where I came from, I feel lost."

Mr Sainsbury said one of the assumptions under New Zealand's Adoption Act 1955 was that closed adoptions were the way to go.

"This was where a child was uprooted from their biological family, and they were passed off to a family that had no biological connection to them at all."

"I think one of the ways our understanding how raising a child has changed in the last 60 years is that it's now acknowledged that it's really important that there is some connection with biological relatives."

A woman named Lynne described her experience as a baby who had been given out for adoption.

"I was adopted in 1951. My mother had me and gave me to her aunty. But I never found that out until I was about 55.

"She died and when I went and got my birth certificate, both father and mother had vetoed my birth certificate. The parents can put a veto on my birth certificate after they changed it; I couldn't find out who my parents were.

"I even asked her if she was my mother, and she said no. But I got my birth certificate and sure enough, she was my mother."