Fixed or shifting notions of ‘bad mother’? Considering past and future Australian adoption practice

Gair, Susan (2017) Fixed or shifting notions of ‘bad mother’? Considering past and future Australian adoption practice. In: Hughes Miller, Michelle, Hager, Tamar, and Bromwich, Rebecca Jaremko, (eds.) Bad Mothers: Regulations, Representations and Resistance. Demeter Press, London, UK, pp. 275-290.

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By the mid 20th century, the adoption narrative in Australia was portrayed in 'win-win' terms. Single women facing an unplanned pregnancy threatened notions of social morality, while childless, married women were seen as barren and unable to fulfill womanhood milestones. To maintain moral order, unmarried mothers deemed to be undeserving, incapable and unfit ('bad' mothers), were persuaded to 'consent' to the adoption of their illegitimate babies by 'good' (married, heterosexual, responsible, deserving, fit) adoptive mothers who would then undertake the relinquished mothering role. Twin social crises were averted and social redemption for all was available if all players in adoption performed their new roles without question. Decades on, condemned single mothers began to publicly challenge the accepted adoption narrative. Most recently, an Australian Inquiry into past adoptions confirmed that many single mothers had not consented, and forced adoptions were common practice. In Australian society the master adoption narrative had been unquestioned by most, including adoptive mothers who, post-adoption, featured as 'good' mothers raising 'unwanted' babies, while some more recent accusations identify these children as 'stolen babies'. The national Inquiry confirmed that many single mothers were coerced, or powerless to prevent their baby's adoption in a past era. Nevertheless, these mothers may continue to endure the 'bad mother' stigma, for the sin of 'abandoning' their babies. Equally, the good and bad mother dichotomy appears evident in intercountry adoption. Ideally, a reframed adoption story could acknowledge and value all mothers and babies. In turn, future Australian domestic and intercountry adoptions, and adoptions of children from State care, could promote more open and transparent processes where multiple mothers (and fathers) are not routinely excluded and labeled 'bad', but rather they are included in the care of children.

Item ID: 46261
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
ISBN: 978-1-77258-103-4
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2016 07:18
FoR Codes: 44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4409 Social work > 440999 Social work not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 100%
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