History of Adoption in England And Wales 1850-1961
Adoption is one of the most emotive and complex subjects in social and family history. Gill Rossini's social history of adoption between 1850 and 1961 uncovers the perspectives of all those concerned in adoption: children, birth relatives, adoptive families, and all the agencies and organisations involved. Rossini charts the transformation of the adoption process from a chaotic informal arrangement to a legal procedure.
Set against the backdrop of the moral, cultural, and legal climate of the times, the contemporary voices of those who played a part in an adoption give real insights into this often turbulent period in their lives. Discover how shocking stories of baby farmers and unwanted orphans fuelled the campaign for change, and hear previously untold stories. For those who wish to conduct their own research into an adoption, Rossini has compiled a comprehensive guide to resources.
In this slim book there are five historical chapters, the first of which is an overview up to 1850 introducing various alternative definitions of the subject. The next one covers the horrors of baby farming at a time when infant mortality was around 50%, and the development of private institutions and fostering. The third takes the topic from the end of WW1 to the surprisingly belated Adoption of Children Act that attempted to end the private free-for-all. The last two chapters take the reader to the end of WW2 with the effects of evacuation, then the post war adoption boom to 1961 by which time adoptions were running at about 13,000 a year.
Many readers will be astonished by some of the revelations here. For instance, that the death rate among "farmed" babies seems to have been met with official complacency for so long, that all UK adoptions were private until the Act of 1928, that an Mental Deficiency Act as recently as 1913 could effectively put a mother of more than one illegitimate baby into life imprisonment, that what amounted to baby trafficking was still going on after the First World War (some organisations making outrageous charges to the mothers), and that for several decades single professional women were considered highly suitable as adoptive parents.
The sixth chapter and other material to the end of the book should be helpful for family researchers, with a discussion of sources, an appendix showing the procedures of one adoptions association in 1950, further reading, websites, glossary. It proceeds mainly from the point of view of knowing somebody was adopted and attempting to trace birth parents.
Friends of The National Archives.