‘I HAVE NEVER MATTERED LESS IN THIS WORLD THAN DURING MY CHILDREN’S ADOPTION’: A SOCIO-LEGAL STUDY OF BIRTH MOTHERS’ EXPERIENCES OF ADOPTION LAW
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This thesis explores the experiences that birth mothers face in adoption proceedings within a socio-legal context. With analysis of data from interviews with 32 birth mothers synthesised with the relevant provisions of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, it is argued that ingrained unfairness and a lack of accountability exists in the legal and administrative system where birth mothers’ rights are concerned. The requirement for fairness in adoption practice is an underlying principle of jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights, with emphasis on the right to family life under Article 8 of the Convention. Analysis extends to the social problems of blame and stigmatizing of birth mothers which originates from those agencies involved in the adoptions. It highlights the perspectives and voices of birth mothers, who are seldom the focus in leading discourses of professional practice in this area. This research moves some way towards equalising this disparity by acknowledging their experiences and arguing that what they have to say should be noted by professionals involved in adoption practice. The findings demonstrate the interrelationship between birth mothers and the law, with critical examination of the results in relation to previous research and jurisprudence from the family courts. This is work by a researcher with ‘insider status’ of one who shares the ‘birth mother’ identity with the participants. In order to validate the study, the research methodology is underpinned with reflexivity which demands that the researcher examines her own feelings, reactions, and motives and how this influences the analysis and the findings. This approach lessens the risk of bias and authenticates research by ensuring transparency. The original contribution to knowledge required for a doctoral thesis is the socio-legal approach to the methodology, the primary data generated from interviews with birth mothers and the subsequent findings which demonstrate the inconsistency between the law and their experiences of adoption practice.
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