The government said in a report published today that it would not apologise for forced adoptions which took place in England and Wales during the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s, after being asked to do so by the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The committee, which recently published its report into the practice, called on the Government to issue a formal apology to unmarried mothers who had their babies taken for adoption over a period spanning 40 years.

The committee found that the Government had “ultimate responsibility for the pain and suffering caused by public institutions and state employees that railroaded mothers into unwanted adoptions.” It also urged the Government to do more to to support people dealing with the life-long consequences of those adoptions.

Responding to the committee’s report, the Government said, “Whilst we do not think it is appropriate for a formal Government apology to be given, since the state did not actively support these practices, we do wish to say we are sorry on behalf of society to all those affected.”

The response has been met with disapproval and outrage by adult adoptee movements in the UK trying to hold the government to account for state-approved policies enabling forced adoption.

A brief statement issued this morning by the Adult Adoptee Movement (AAM) criticised the Government for failing to bring about meaningful change to its adoption policies.

“We will continue to campaign for real change. We will stand united with birth mothers. Younger adoptees will face the same challenges post 18, unless our voices are heard and change is made. Shame on the adoption industry!”

Tweeting with Researching Reform this morning, the movement said it would issue a full statement in the coming days.

The Scottish Adult Adoptee Movement also expressed their dismay in an email shared with Researching Reform, and which included a link to the Government’s response and the Adult Adoptee Movement’s reaction to the decision.

The Government’s refusal to apologise stems from its fear that to do so would create a wider debate around the current use of forced adoption in England and Wales. Research tells us that forced adoptions make up an estimated 90% of all adoption cases today, and that many of those adoptions are likely to be based on illegal and unjust grounds, and directly linked to historic Government reasoning for removing children from mothers living below the poverty line.

We are adding the AAM’s short statement in full below, as it deserves to be read as a whole:

“There is nothing new in the government’s response and even less of value. The only change they are proposing is one they are already consulting on. To say we have had the opportunity to have our voices and experiences heard and to then do precisely nothing to listen to our needs is a repetition of exactly what has happened to us in the past. Many of us were told that adoption was done to us for our own good and felt that we could not express our own feelings or have our needs met. This is not good enough. We have waited patiently but are no longer prepared to be quiet or to accept the gaslighting nonsense of this or any government.

One reason the government is too cowardly to offer an apology for state involvement in adoption—in their response they give many examples while simultaneously denying it happened—is that it would shine a light on today’s adoption practices, which still trample over the rights of parents and children.

We will continue to campaign for real change and we stand with birth mothers who have, after all their emotional labour, been insulted by this pathetic response.”