An interview conducted by freelance journalist Bonnie Sumner with her mother Barbara who was forcibly adopted as a baby, explores her lived experience of non consensual adoption and her belief that the adoption system is built upon a series of myths and fabrications.

The discussion between mother and daughter looks at the history of forced adoption in New Zealand during the fifties through to the seventies. Barbara mentions that more than 100,000 women had their babies taken from them during this period, with many women telling her that their babies had been “removed directly from their wombs and hidden in a separate part of the hospital.”

The stats for the number of adoptions during this period, as Barbara explains, means that a significant number of people in the country today have a link to the adoption process, making the phenomenon a part of the social fabric in New Zealand.

The interview is heartbreaking, but a must-read for anyone interested in the nuances of adoption. While not everyone’s experience of adoption is the same, at Researching Reform we are aware that many children in the UK who have been adopted have struggled with this part of their life journey, which continues to impact them long after the adoption takes place.

Of the adoption process, Barbara says, “The idea that adoption is a win-win is a form of state sanctioned gaslighting. We rarely consider it as commoditising a child. We’re told that one set of arms is as good as another, and that a pre-verbal child does not experience anything.”

“We hold onto the idea that a mother without support is making a selfless sacrifice. We’re told we’re gifts. Or that the womb is a benign place that does not impact on the child; that once a baby is taken from their mother there is no connection.Then there’s the idea that you are lucky and must be grateful because the myth says your mum didn’t want you,” she adds.

Barbara also sees the adoption process essentially as the commoditisation of children to satisfy demand. “Another [idea] is that you’re chosen when in fact you were just the next on a conveyer belt of children removed from their mothers to meet a market demand. Adopters often say you were really wanted but what they wanted was their own child – you were ‘a’ child not ‘the’ child. I think this is an important distinction.”

Bonnie’s mother, who is an award winning columnist, has written a book about her experience of adoption. Barbara says in the interview with her daughter that she needed to write the book to find her voice.

She goes on to say that in the process of trying to discover her past, her adoptive mother severed all ties with Barbara after being invited to go on the journey with her.

While these periods of discovery for adopted individuals must be deeply painful for adoptive parents, it is essential that these carers stand by their children when they make these journeys of self discovery.

And while we feel adoption must always be the method of last resort, when adoptions have to take place, prospective parents need to be fully aware of the awesome responsibility that goes with loving an adopted child. This process is not for the faint of heart.

You can buy Barbara’s book, “Tree of Strangers” which is a little on the expensive side at £26.99 (though it is also available on Kindle for £8.99 if you have the app), on Amazon or at Foyles.

Goodreads also has reviews of the book, and includes one review submitted by an adoptee. The book was published on 10 September, 2020.

You can follow Barbara on Twitter @barbara_sumner