Welcoming space for adoptees

FEATURE: Bobby tells of cold history

A NEW group that hopes to bring comfort and support to those who experienced adoption will form in Bendigo.

VANISH, the Victorian Adoption Network for Information and Self Help, has been offering support groups for 25 years and now extending that service to regional areas.

Manager Coleen Clare said the group offered a space where people who experienced adoption could feel safe, be honest about how they feel and express emotions without embarrassment.

"They value being listened to with empathy and understanding, and realising they are not alone,'' she said.

"This is particularly important for those individuals who have felt isolated by their experience.

"They say that hearing other peoples stories and how they feel also helps participants more fully 

understand their own experiences and feelings.''

The group will welcome adoptees, mothers, fathers and adoptive parents.

The Senate Report ‘Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption’ focussed on forced adoption, where a child's mother, or parents, were compelled to relinquish a child for adoption or faced circumstances in which they were left with no other choice. 

It was found that many mothers were subject to coercion and had their child forcibly and illegally taken from them and were denied information about consent and their right to revoke. 

The National Research Study on the Service Response to Past Adoption Experiences report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies documented the impact of past adoption experiences and strategies for support. 

The period covered concerns adoptions that took place between the 1950s and the mid-to late 1970s although is not strictly confined to this period. Adoptions during this period were ‘closed’, meaning the child’s original birth certificate was sealed and the birth was re-registered in the new name of the child and the adoptive parents.

An amended certificate was issued, effectively hiding the identities of the mother and child and establishing the child's adopted identity and relationship ‘as if’ they were born to the adoptive family. Closed adoption was permanent, with legal mechanisms put in place to prevent contact in later years. 

It is believed between 210,000 and 250,000 adoptions occurred during this period. The senate report documents the manipulation, mistreatment and malpractice involved in the removal of babies.

VANISH states that mothers of children who were adopted out were stereotyped as irresponsible sometimes even promiscuous, yet the AIFS report found that 70 per cent of the mothers who responded were in a relationship with the father at the time of their pregnancy.

Fathers were also often stigmatised as irresponsible, yet in many cases they were purposely removed from the adoption process so as to ensure they did not influence the outcome.

The fathers’ name was often left off the original birth certificate in preference for ‘unknown’. 

Ms Clare said mothers who were separated from their infants say the "pain, trauma, sorrow and grief does not go away''

"It is a lifelong trauma that they have struggled to live with, many reporting the adverse effects recurring regularly, even daily,'' she said.

"For the mothers and fathers who were separated from their child there are no ceremonies to acknowledge this loss. Grief is therefore conducted in secret and without support, or it is buried and denied. 

"For adopted people they might not fully appreciate the impact of their losses until their adulthood. 

"Repressed grief may lead to deep sorrow, feelings of anxiety, relationship problems, depression or addictions”. 

In October, 2012, the Victorian Parliament offered an apology for past adoption practices and in March, 2013, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered the national apology for forced adoptions.

The Bendigo support groups will meet from 2pm until 4pm on the following Saturdays at the Bendigo Neighbourhood House in Neale Street, Kennington:

Adoptees only (adults over the age of 18): June 14 and Sept 13.

Mothers only (also known as birth mothers or natural mothers): July 12 and October 11

Mixed group: (adopted persons, mothers, fathers, adoptive parents): August 9 and November 8.

* For information about the new support group, contact VANISH at www.vanish.org.au, email groups@vanish.org.au or phone 9328 8611 or 1300 VANISH.

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