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 legislation and reform within the Nineteen Thirties, with rules eventually being enforced in 1943 amid problem approximately informal wartime adoptions.
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Additional resources for A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918–45
The NCAA was particularly influential in publicising the idea of adoption, and successful at fundraising for its activities. 14 She was born in May 1862 into a professional family in Exeter; her father Thomas was then High Bailiff of the Exeter County Court and subsequently an official at the Board of Trade, and her brothers Sidney and Henry became respectively a solicitor and surgeon. 15 It is unclear what exactly she did in the decades after that but she appears to have devoted herself energetically to ‘good works’ and committees.
They would not reach these levels again till 1943 when they jumped from 36,000 in 1942 to 43,000. In contrast, the general birth rate was at its lowest in 1918 (663,000 births) since 1858, and did not drop to that level again till 1927. During the earlier years of the First World War, the real numbers of illegitimate births had remained stable – as they had since the 1890s – at around 38,000 per year with occasional variations plus or minus 1000. 92 per cent). In 1920 there was a vast drop in the actual number of illegitimate births to 15,000.
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 only evidence during the interwar years is anecdotal.
A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918–45 by J. Keating