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Call for Evidence

The right to family life: adoption of children of unmarried women 1949-1976

Terms of Reference

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has launched a new inquiry to understand the experiences of unmarried women whose children were adopted between 1949 and 1976 in England and Wales. The inquiry will consider whether adoption processes respected the human rights, as we understand them now, of the mothers and children who experienced them, as well as the lasting consequences on their lives. 

The inquiry will cover a range of practices that led to the children of unmarried mothers being adopted. 

The scope of the inquiry covers issues arising from cases that took place during the time period between the Adoption of Children Act 1949 and the Adoption Act 1976.

We would welcome submissions which focus on one or more of the following issues:

  • Was the right to family life of unmarried mothers and their children, as we understand it now, respected at the time?
  • How the experience of being adopted, or having a child who was adopted between 1949 and 1976 impacted on the family life of the unmarried mother, child, and others?
  • How social practices at the time contributed to unmarried women not being able to keep their babies and what if any, other reasons contributed to women feeling compelled to have their babies adopted?
  • What, if any, information and support were provided to expectant mothers to help them make decisions or to enable them to keep their baby?
  • The role played by legal consent of the parents in any adoption, how consent was given, what effect it had on children whose parents did not consent, and how the standards of consent have changed since the 1950s?
  • How the lack of recognition of the impact of adoption practices between 1949 and 1976 has affected those whose child was adopted or who were adopted as a child during this time?


Important information about making a submission 

Please read this section before making a submission. This information is particularly important for people making written submissions in an individual capacity, and about their own lived experience. 

Written evidence must address the terms of reference as set out above, but please note that submissions do not have to address every point.Guidance on giving evidence to a select committee of the House of Commons is available here


Individual cases 

In line with the general practice of select committees the Joint Committee on Human Rights is not able to take up individual cases. If you would like political support or advice you may wish to contact your local Member of Parliament


How your submission will be treated  

The Committee has discretion over which submissions it accepts as evidence, and which of those it then publishes on its website. If your submission is accepted by the Committee, it will usually be published online. It will then be available permanently for anyone to view and may be found online by using search engines. It cannot be changed or removed. If you have included your name or any personal information in your submission, that will normally be published too. Please consider how much personal information you want or need to share.  

Your contact details will never be published. 

Evidence accepted by the Committee is protected by parliamentary privilege. However, if published evidence suggests that criminal behaviour has occurred, there is no bar on external bodies investigating that behaviour, which may lead them to find independent evidence which could be put before a court. 



Decisions about publishing evidence anonymously are made by the Committee. If you would like to ask the Committee to accept your submission anonymously (meaning it will be published but without your name) please tick the box when you make your submission. This lets the Committee know what you would like but the final decision will be taken by the Committee. 

If you would like to request that your submission be published anonymously then you are responsible for ensuring you cannot be identified from your submission. Please make sure you have not included information that would allow someone to work out who you are.  

We may anonymise or redact some of your submission if it is published, even where you have not requested this.  


Confidential submissions  

The Committee may decide to accept evidence on a confidential basis. Confidential submissions remain available to the Committee but are not published or referred to in public. 

If you would like to ask the Committee to accept your submission confidentially please tick the box when you make your submission. This lets the Committee know what you would like but the final decision will be taken by the Committee. 

We may treat submissions confidentially, even where you have not requested this.  


Information about other people in your evidence  

If you include personal information about other people in your submission (including your friends and family), the Committee may decide not to publish it. It is advisable to make your submission about your own experiences and to keep information about other people to a minimum. 



If your evidence raises any safeguarding concerns about you, or other people, then the Committee has a duty to raise these with the appropriate safeguarding authority. 

We understand that the issues raised in this work may be sensitive or upsetting and the following organisations may be able to offer support or further information:  

Samaritans - Call 116 123 - 24 hours a day, every day | Email

PAC-UK  - Independent Adoption Support Agency offering: Advice, Support, Counselling & Training. The advice line is available on 020 7284 5879 and 0113 230 2100.

Adoption UK Charity – For information on a range of adoption-related issues and campaigns for improvements to adoption policy and legislation. The helpline is available on 0300 666 0006.

If you have immediate safeguarding concerns about yourself or someone else, you should contact the Police on 999.

Legal cases 

We can’t publish submissions that mention ongoing legal cases. Please do not include details of an ongoing case, or details that are likely to be the subject of future proceedings, in your submission. 


*The deadline for submitting written evidence to the inquiry was 28th October. If you are interested in submitting evidence past the deadline, please contact*

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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