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Forced adoption victims share their pain

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/05/2017

When Sue Atkinson gave birth to her baby girl in 1962 her life was changed forever, but not in the way life does for most first time mothers.

Instead of being allowed to hold the little girl in her arms, to take her home and raise her with her boyfriend as she planned, the tiny baby was whisked from the room to be adopted without her consent and with heartbreaking effects.

Mrs Atkinson's experience is one shared by women across New Zealand including Maggie Wilkinson whose petition for a broad and full inquiry into the practice of forced adoption from the 1950s to 1980s returned to Parliament on Wednesday.

"The whole thing is totally and utterly wrong, it's criminal," Mrs Atkinson said, sharing her story with NZ Newswire.

Across the country there are women who she says were told would never cope with having a child, subjected to cruelty and abuse until they agreed to relinquish their rights or were drugged and had the child taken from the hospital.

For two weeks after the birth of the daughter she wanted named Soraya, Mrs Atkinson was able to hold out, refusing to sign the adoption papers.

But without the support of her mother and with even a lawyer telling her the adoption was final regardless of her signature she gave in, believing she'd been beaten.

Her arms ached for her baby and she even took to carrying the family cat around in her arms as if it were a child.

"I couldn't accept the fact that my child was gone and I went back to the lawyer and asked him to help me get her back," she said.

"He told me that the adoptive parents had already returned one child and that there was no way they would be returning mine."

It would be years before Mrs Atkinson would see her daughter again and she would finally get to tell that baby girl - who now has three children and four grandchildren of her own - how desperately she was wanted.

"I tried and tried to get my daughter back every which way I could and that's lived with me forever," she told NZ Newswire.

"I don't make a big show of being upset about it all but I think my [subsequent] children have suffered because of it, and I think that's wrong."

The first calls for an inquiry were to former National MP Trevor Rogers in 1992.

As well as wanting recognition that what they were forced to go through was wrong and assurances it will never happen again, the women and children affected by forced adoption have other issues they want resolved like easier access to their birth records.

Mrs Atkinson is hopeful that now, after Australia pursued in inquiry, it might be New Zealand's turn.

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