Frequently Asked Questions
AnswerA. Support meetings are informal. Mothers visiting for the first time can say as little or as much as they want to about their experiences. All our members have suffered the trauma, grief and pain associated with the loss of a child to adoption. It is helpful for new members to realise that they are not alone in their responses to this unnatural separation.
AnswerA. No. We have an annual membership fee of $20 or $10 concession but there is no charge for attending a meeting.
AnswerA. Our meetings are held on the third Monday of each month at Railway Parade, Bassendean. The actual meeting lasts for between one and two hours. We frequently take a plate and have morning tea because we like to try to keep the atmosphere as casual as possible.
AnswerA. If someone is there who does know you it will be because they have too have lost a child to adoption. One of the most positive things about attending a meeting is the discovery of just how many other women there are who have suffered the same loss and who have managed to lead a productive, useful life despite the huge trauma and loss they have sustained.
AnswerA. Everyone who goes to an ARMS meeting is there to share their knowledge about the different ways they cope with the pain and difficulties encountered in everyday living. Only people who choose to do so share details about their experiences at the time of the loss of their child because it can be an upsetting experience to revisit the events surrounding the loss of their child or children. Essentially the idea is for mothers to recognise and understand the depth of what has happened and why, even after so many years, it has been impossible to “go away and forget”.
AnswerA. The people in ARMS are a cross-section of very normal, very average human beings who have lost a child to adoption.
AnswerA. Yes. If you want to make a time for someone to phone you then say so in your email and offer a time when you are free to talk. All calls are treated as confidential or if you prefer you can be given a time to ring someone who will be happy to talk to you.
AnswerA. This is very common. The shock and trauma suffered by mothers at the time of separation and the cruelties to which they were subjected left many with a PTSD complicated by the fact that they did not just suffer the loss of their child but they were subjected to a range of inhuman and degrading treatment by doctors, nurses, social workers, their own families, and so on. In addition, those trauma responses may have been triggered repeatedly in the intervening years as they have experienced other stressful life experiences such as: the birth of subsequent children; or the secondary infertility which was experienced by about 30% – 40% of mothers; cruel and unfeeling responses to the grief and distress they may have tried to express at the time of separation; an inability to properly process grief reactions to the loss of significant people (a parent, spouse or child) in their lives. This can be further complicated by a pathological reaction to grief. Early research in WA showed that mothers who were totally lacking in social support and experienced a large number of stressful life events at the time of the loss of their child (Relinquishing Mothers in Adoption: their long-term adjustment, Robin Winkler and Margaret van Keppel, Commonwealth of Australia 1984) had more difficulties in adjusting to their loss than those who had some support.
AnswerA. ARMS’ members were instrumental in getting the birth records accessible for adopted adults and their mothers. Records are no longer sealed and obtaining information is a lot easier than it used to be. ARMS’ members can and will point you in the right direction about how to go about obtaining your records.
AnswerA. No. At the time of adoption an amended birth certificate is issued giving the name of the adopters as the mother and father of the adopted person.
AnswerA. Facebook is a public forum and it is certainly not a good idea to use it to make a first contact. It is important for all parties to make a first contact in a courteous and sensitive manner.
AnswerA. Yes on both counts. Both adopted people, their natural mothers and often the fathers do wonder about one another. For all parties it is a very difficult situation and they resolve their feelings in many different ways. Sometimes they state they do not want contact at all; others exchange information without ever meeting one another; many people acknowledge their deep-seated need to search for and discover the truth about how and why they came to be separated.
AnswerA. While in hospital, and prior to signing an Adoption Consent Form, you have the right to see, cuddle, feed and care for your baby. You may also have your baby "room in" with you. During a confused pregnancy you may think you will never want to know anything, that you just want it over and done with. Some mothers mistakenly believe that if they do not see their child they will not feel the loss. Your body, however, will not let you forget that you have given birth. Even if your baby does not seem real to you at first, or does not seem like your baby, eventually you will feel the loss. For instance, one mother who placed her child for adoption shortly after the birth described her feelings at three months after the adoption as "waking up as if from a nightmare and thinking-What have done!"
AnswerA. Don't allow anyone to pressure you into a hasty decision. You may take as long as you like with your decision. Research now verifies that you are very real to your baby. For nine months your child has been in intimate contact with you and knows your voice and heartbeat. Your child also feels the loss of you and all that is familiar when parted from you. To avoid future regrets and guilt, the choice you make should be based on reality, not on pretence.
AnswerA. Temporary fostering may be arranged to care for your baby while you consider your options. Did you know that in some parts of the world (e.g. Finland) it is illegal to sign an adoption consent form before the baby is twelve (12) weeks old? This is done to protect the mother from making such a serious decision before she has sufficiently recovered from the birth. It is also meant to protect the child from unnecessary separation from his/her natural family. Unfortunately, mothers and babies are not given the same degree of legislative protection in Australia. You need to be aware of this to protect the interests of your baby and yourself.
AnswerA. You have twenty eight (28) days from signing the Consent Form in which to change your mind. That is to REVOKE CONSENT. During this time you may visit your baby if you wish, as often as you like. You may also take photographs. If you change your mind after the twenty eight day period, you should still contact your social worker immediately. If the baby is not already placed in a new home it may still be possible to have your child returned without any further action.
AnswerA. After a child is placed in the care of the prospective adopter's, it still takes several months (approximately six months or longer) before an adoption is finalised. During this period the Director-General of the Department of Family and Children's Services (State Government) is the Legal Guardian of your child, not the prospective adopter's. Only after a judge of the Family Court has granted an Order of Adoption does the prospective adopter's become the new legal parents of the child. If your child has been placed, but the adoption not yet finalised and you, or your child's father or any other relative, decide that you do not want the adoption of your child to proceed, you should
1. Notify the Department of Family and Children's Services.
2. Contact the Adoptions Clerk at the Family Court and ask him to stop the adoption proceedings.
3. Obtain a lawyer as soon as possible.
If necessary, you should apply for Legal Aid. This process is far more difficult and uncertain than simply "revoking a consent". However, the Court may return the child to his/her natural parent or relatives if it can be shown to be in the child's best interests to be raised within his/her natural family if that is possible.
AnswerA. Providing this has been agreed upon in the Adoption Plan, you may know the name of the adopters. Alternatively you may only want to receive no identifying information about them. However you can have a say about the adoptive family chosen for your child, e.g. religion, ethnic background, living in the country or the city and whether other children are in the family.
AnswerA. An Adoption Plan is a legal agreement between birth parents and adoptive parents and sets out any arrangements for the exchange of information about the child. It may also set out arrangements for contact between the adoptive parents and birth parent(s).
AnswerA. ONLY if this has been agreed to as part of the Adoption Plan.
AnswerA. Only if the adopting parents tell him/her your surname which is written on the "Order of Adoption". Once the child is an adult, however, i.e. over eighteen years, he/she will have full rights to his birth certificate which contains your full name. He will also have access to your marriage certificate if you have married.
AnswerA. Some do, but many others are quite content just to have all the details of their birth and your name and leave it at that. Some wait until they are much older before they make enquiries. Some don't enquire at all. Others may be desperate to know their true parentage throughout their childhood years but are reluctant to discuss the issue for fear of hurting the adoptive parents’ feelings or appearing ungrateful. Adopting parents now days are encouraged to help their children search.
AnswerA. You may be allowed to know the identity of your child once he/she has become an adult. However, you should keep in mind that eighteen years of loss, grieving, uncertainty and anxiety about your child's welfare is the equivalent to a life sentence. We know that much damage to the natural parent's emotional health and physical health (from stress related diseases) can and does occur in that time.
Once the adoption is finalised, the adopting parent's will be issued with an "Order of Adoption" form. This form will state your child's original names, including the original surname. Therefore, the adopters will always know your family name. In addition they will be given birth details and background information on you and the father of your child.
AnswerA. A person who is part of an adoption can apply for a Court Order from the Family Court of Western Australia to prevent the release of identifying adoption information. The Court Order will only be granted if the Court believes that the release of the information will place the person, their marriage partner or children at serious risk.
AnswerA. An Adoption Order is a certificate issued by the Family Court of Western Australia and the adoptive parent's then become the legal parents of the adopted child. The Adoption Order is usually granted between six and twelve months after the child has been placed with the adopting parents.
AnswerA. The birth parent's is responsible for the child until he or she has signed the Adoption Consent Form. The Director General of the Department for Family and Children's Services then becomes the child's guardian until the Adoption Order is granted by the Family Court of Western Australia. After this, the adoptive parents become the legal parents and guardians of the adopted child.
AnswerA. YES. When someone wants medical information about another person in an adoption the Department will try to find the person and obtain the information. A letter from a doctor may be needed if specific medical information is sought.
AnswerA. YES. People over eighteen years of age can try and contact someone using the following services of the Department of Family and Children's Services.
* Contact Register
People can place their name on the Contact Register, a service managed by the Department's Family Information and Adoption Service. Anyone involved in an adoption (including relatives) can place their name on the Contact Register stating whether or not they want to be contacted. If two people who are part of the same adoption, place their name on the register requesting contact, each will be advised.
* Message Box
This is a service where a person can leave a written message with the Department. This message is kept at the Department until the person to whom it is written makes contact with the Department. The person to whom the message is written is always given the opportunity to decide whether to accept the message.
All messages are confidential
* Outreach Service
This is where the person involved in an adoption (including a relative) can ask the Department to try and find someone from whom they have been separated because of an adoption.
AnswerA. If you decide to give up your child for adoption, it is important for your own sake that you plan to attend for counselling for some time after placing your child for adoption in order to help you cope with the grieving process.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, you must realise that adoption is PERMANENT and LIFELONG and once adoption is finalised-the law is such that
YOU HAVE PERMANENTLY LOST ALL RIGHTS IN RELATION TO YOUR CHILD.
AnswerA. It is now socially acceptable to be a single mother in the same way as widows and divorced mothers are accepted.
You are a very important person to your child. Children benefit most by being raised by their OWN family. It is really important to recognise that there are some things that a child needs that only the natural parents can give. However, parenting can be a difficult task. Therefore, you should consider in advance what moral and practical support is available to you.
Even if adopted, there is NO GUARANTEE that your child will remain in a two parent family. The rate of divorce is now in excess of one marriage in every three. This applies to married couples who adopt children.
Secondary Infertility. Some women who have given a child up for adoption in the past have assumed wrongly that they would always be able to have other children in the future.
However, an estimated ten percent of relinquishing mothers have given up the only child they were ever going to have.
Recent research into the long-term effects of adoption on the natural mothers shows that many mothers continue to suffer feelings of loss and grief throughout their lives. Indeed, the sense of loss and grief can intensify with the passing of years. This contradicts the popular myth that mothers "go away and forget" or that they "Get over it with the birth of other children."
Adoption, be it "open" or "closed" is a serious step, and the long term consequences for you and your child need to be carefully considered.
A. Verrier, Nancy PRIMAL WOUND
Inglis, Kate LIVING MISTAKES
Harkness, Libby LOOKING FOR LISA
These and other books on adoption are all available from public libraries.
Support groups like ARMS and JIGSAW also have libraries you would be very welcome to use.
AnswerA. It is certainly a good idea to be prepared before making any major decisions such as searching or reunion. It helps, for instance, to understand that adopted adults have their own difficulties in relation to the fact that they are adopted. A frequently asked question is, “Why did you give me away?” Being adopted is often perceived by adopted people as having been unwanted by their natural family, therefore adopted adults are understandably wary of being rejected yet again. Others may be angry at what they see as a rejection. Mothers whose children were taken for adoption were under the impression that adoption would be a golden ticket to a perfect life with a perfect family. This has not always been the case and mothers need to be prepared for the idea that their children have not had a good family life and may not even have a family at all. People who adopt children can and frequently do divorce which means adopted children are then raised in a one-parent family, the very thing that adoption was supposed to prevent. There are difficulties for both parties in learning to adjust to the idea of contact with their lost family. It is not a good idea to take things too quickly. It takes time for new information to be assimilated by separated family members so it is preferable to take matters slowly and not go straight into information overload. In addition, a lot of suppressed emotion tends to be released at the time of reunion and it is important, therefore, to be prepared for such an eventuality.
AnswerA. This is not a question to which a generalised answer can be given. Some adopters are able to accept that it is normal for adopted adults to want and/or need to know their origins and others believe that the child who searches is somehow being disloyal or ungrateful. Sometimes adopted adults do not want to mix the two parts of their lives; others can and do. It is probably better, therefore, to contact the adopted adult, who has never had any input into the adopted status, and let them make that decision.
AnswerA. It is very normal for all sorts of suppressed emotions to come to the surface at this time. Adoption separation causes trauma to both mother and child and this is a difficult time for both of you. Feelings relating to that separation may have been suppressed or negated over the years by you and your child and those around you. A reunion is the start of recognition of that loss and painful feeling that have been suppressed for many years can surface at this time.
AnswerA. It is possible your child may not know themselves what they want from a reunion. Often they say it is “only curiosity” but the issues are much more complex than that. Just as people like to know their family history so too do adopted people and they only way they can do that is by meeting their natural family. They grow up with people to whom they are not genetically related and therefore people with whom they may not share any physical or mental characteristics which can create difficulty for them as they enter the identity formation phase of growing up. Some adopted adults have grown up believing they were “unwanted” or “given away” and they want to know why.
AnswerA. About 30% of parents go on to marry after the loss of their child. As the Federal apology has made clear many adoptions were not only forced but, in fact, illegal because babies were hidden from their mothers and if a signature on the adoption consent was obtained it was done so under extreme duress and/or the influence of drugs which were administered by medical staff at the time of birth. There is a clarification of the term “forced adoption” given elsewhere in this Web site.
AnswerA. If you’ve got this far and a time and place has been agreed you’ve done well! Of all the things you may or may not have discussed before this meet, try to not to expect anything. It will be enough just to look and listen. To be fair, for every question you are asked answer a little detail, as there may be many to come and your questions will be more likely to be answered too. There will be plenty of time to get down to details later and too much information is likely to bog you down unless you have a wide time-frame on this first visit. This will also leave plenty of reasons to make an arrangement for your next contact. Good Luck!
Additional support services
Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS)
ATAPS provides access to effective low-cost treatment for those with mild to moderate mental disorders that can respond well to focused psychological strategies. Speak to your doctor about access to ATAPS professionals.
Whilst every effort is made to check urls for validity please be aware that they frequently are altered. If you find a correction please email the and let us know!
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.