A.R.M.S. Western Australia is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1982 by a group of mothers who had lost children to adoption. They had been devastated at the loss of their children and their only consolation was their belief that their children were safe and happy with wonderful adoptive parents. The succeeding years had demonstrated to them that this was not necessarily the case and that, no matter how good the adoptive parents might have been, young adolescent adoptees often experienced a need to know their origins and the facts about their birth and separation from their mothers. At that time the only people who had access to the name of the natural mother were the adoptive parents; it was clearly stated on the Order of Adoption. If they failed to pass on this information then adopted adults had no concrete starting point from which to begin their search. Many adopted people had a need to know who they were and this was no reflection upon the people who had raised them, rather it was a genuine human need to obtain information about their origins and genealogical background.
It was within this framework that mothers in several states of Australia formed the various ARMS’ organizations. They shared information and co-operated and helped one another. They were concerned with opening up adoption records so that both they and their children could learn about the welfare of one another. These brave women worked very hard indeed lobbying MP’s and offering support and help to each other in their difficult task. Adoption was legislated at State level so each organization had a different set of MP’s to convince of the validity of their views.
The Adoption Act 1994 was passed in Western Australia that finally acknowledged the importance of information to adopted people and since then the law has been reviewed several times and it has made access to identifying information easier. Since then reunions between mothers and their children have become increasingly common.
Reunions often release strong emotions that have been suppressed for many years by all parties. It is important for those involved to know the difficult issues involved for everyone so that good outcomes can be achieved. ARMS in WA offers support and information to mothers who have lost a child to adoption. The ongoing effects can be severe and long-lasting and it is a well-acknowledged phenomenon that for some people the pain and grief can become actually increase with time rather than decrease. Major life events such as death of a close relative, divorce, the birth of subsequent children, and/or reunion can trigger overwhelming and powerful emotions that may have been suppressed for a long time. At ARMS we recognise that living with the consequences of adoption are profound and life-changing and we endeavour to support mothers who are so affected.
A.R.M.S. was formed by a small group of mothers who, having lost their children to adoption were continuously traumatised when experts and health professionals minimised and invalidated the severe emotional anguish, trauma and grief they experienced as a consequence of the loss of their children. The common assumption appeared to be that mothers should accept the loss of their living babies — as if it were possible to do that.
The peak period for adoption was from the 1960s to 1970s when it is estimated approximately 150,000 children were illegally taken from their unmarried mothers and provided to infertile couples as a service. ARMS came into being as a consequence of conventional agencies not effectively addressing the needs of traumatised mothers.
ARMS is funded through donations and membership contributions by its members. We are Independent from any government, religious or other charitable organisations.
1.To provide emotional support and information via email and support meetings where mothers who have lost children to adoption have the opportunity to speak and be heard in an environment sensitive to their needs.
2.To promote community awareness and understanding of the long term consequences of adoption, separation and secrecy in order to dispel the myth that adoption is a benign practice.
3.To encourage recognition, authentication and culpability for unethical adoption practices and to work towards obtaining apologies for individual mothers from the institutions run by state and religious that illegally removed babies during the birth process.
4.We support the UN Declaration Relating to the Welfare of Children (1986)
The UN Declaration on Social and Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, with Special Reference to Foster Placement and Adoption Nationally and Internationally was adopted by General Assembly resolution 41/85 of 3 December 1986. The UN Declaration Relating to the Welfare of Children reaffirms principle 6 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, according to which "the child shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of his parents and, in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security".
Article 17 affirms the principle of subsidiarity in these terms: "If a child cannot be placed in a foster or an adoptive family or cannot in any suitable manner be cared for in the country of origin, intercountry adoption may be considered as an alternative means of providing the child with a family." Article 24 requires Member States to consider the child's cultural and religious background and interest. The Declaration encourages States not to hurry the adoptive process. Article 15 states "Sufficient time and adequate counselling should be given to the child's own parents, the prospective adoptive parents and, as appropriate, the child in order to reach a decision on the child's future".
In the case of children separated from their family and communities as a consequence of wars of natural disasters family tracing should be the first priority and inter-country adoption should only be contemplated for a child once these tracing efforts have proved fruitless and stable in-country solutions are not available.
5.To encourage and promote legislative, social and administrative reforms that address the needs of people already separated by adoption.
We acknowledge that there are circumstances in which it is not in a child's best interests to have anything to do with his or her parents. There are also cases in which, while the parents should not have primary care of their child they should have some role in his or her upbringing. What that should be must be determined on a case-by-case basis, each on its own facts. The test must be in the best interests of the child.
The current system of adoption should be replaced with parenting orders through the family law system in the same way that other issues regarding a child's best interests are treated. In order for this system to function States and Territories which presently have exclusive jurisdiction over adoption should refer their powers to the Commonwealth thus enabling such matters to be dealt with by the family law court.
Click here to download the 'Alternatives to Adoption' booklet