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By J. Keating

The heritage of adoption from 1918-1945, detailing the increase of adoption, the expansion of adoption societies and contemplating the expanding emphasis on secrecy in adoption. Analyses adoption legislation from legalization in 1926, to law and reform within the Thirties, with laws eventually being enforced in 1943 amid difficulty approximately informal wartime adoptions.

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Extra info for A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918–45

Sample text

As far as the custody of illegitimate children was concerned in the 1920s, one of the twenty-two women called to the Bar by the middle of 1923, Monica Mary Geikie Cobb, described the position: An illegitimate child, being at law filius nullius, has no legal guardians, but the mother has a right of custody, though this is more limited than the corresponding right of a father over a legitimate child. But the mother’s right is recognised as against the father’s, and if the child is of tender years and the father obtains possession of the child from the mother by force or fraud, the mother can regain possession by means of a writ of habeas corpus.

They came back again, if they had nowhere to go, back into the workhouse to do ordinary domestic work. 83 32 A Child for Keeps Not all gave their children up. It is impossible to make even a rough estimate of how many kept their children but the number of illegitimate births was always much greater than those legally adopted after 1926. Even allowing for informal adoptions and infant mortality (which remained higher than for legitimate births although it was halved during the interwar period) there must have been a considerable number of illegitimate children who remained with their mother or her immediate family.

The beginning of organised adoption Adoption was probably too closely associated with baby farming for the practice to meet with much enthusiasm among those involved with children’s welfare. However the main children’s charities did quietly organise some adoptions. The National Children’s Home and Orphanage organised a limited form of adoption from 1869. Although they concentrated mainly on bringing children up in residential homes, by 1892 they were ‘boarding out’ or fostering younger children with ‘approved families’.

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