By J. Keating
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Extra info for A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45
In 1897 a second Infant Life Protection Act raised the relevant age to five. This was incorporated into the Children Act 1908, which took the age of supervision for children kept for hire or reward to seven, and prohibited life insurance for children (a controversial issue). Adoption at this time was often seen as either a synonym for baby farming or as akin to fostering, a form of social service for children from very difficult backgrounds, carried out by the rescue societies61 and the Poor Law Guardians (see below).
She had been placed there from the workhouse where she had gone after becoming pregnant following rape. 92 Thomson has looked at some case papers of those confined under the Act and confirmed that ‘control of sexuality could ... 94 He concluded that the [l]ack of thorough research has led to a series of confusions in the historiography. 95 The number of unmarried mothers placed in mental institutions remains unknown. It is not clear how far the practice was publicised but it seems to have become part of a general anxiety about the potential consequences of ‘illicit’ sex and the danger of ‘falling’ from respectability, which was so deeply ingrained in almost all layers of society up to the 1950s and into the 1960s.
This also extended the father’s liability to support his child until the age of 16 and enabled Boards of Guardians to assist mothers in recovering maintenance costs. It fixed the maximum weekly amount payable under affiliation orders at five shillings a week. In 1918 the Affiliation Orders (Increase of Maximum Payment) Act raised this amount to ten shillings and the 1923 Bastardy Act doubled the amount to twenty shillings. As far as the custody of illegitimate children was concerned in the 1920s, one of the twenty-two women called to the Bar by the middle of 1923, Monica Mary Geikie Cobb, described the position: An illegitimate child, being at law filius nullius, has no legal guardians, but the mother has a right of custody, though this is more limited than the corresponding right of a father over a legitimate child.
A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45 by J. Keating