By J. Keating
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Additional info for A Child for Keeps: The History of Adoption in England, 1918-45
86 Chinn considered that maintaining ‘respectability’ was as important an aim in most of these lower working-class communities as in upper workingclass and middle- and upper-class families but that the sense of familial loyalty was strong enough to ensure that the pregnant woman would be supported. He also suggests that as some of the poorer communities became more settled from the 1880s onwards, the stabilising influence of married women, in providing support and continuity was immense: It was this, together with the practice of a courting couple marrying if a girl became pregnant, which was as great an influence in the decline of the national rate of illegitimacy as was the increased use of contraceptives.
Under the Bastardy Laws Amendment Act 1872, the mother of an illegitimate child could obtain an order for maintenance against the putative father before the child was born. 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.
S. M. Peto told how she had adopted seven children herself since 1908, and during the years after 1915 had arranged about twenty permanent adoptions for other families. She had confined herself to dealing with illegitimate ‘children of the better classes’ and all had gone to families of similar background. Initially she and two friends had set up a society calling themselves ‘The Storks’, and had advertised for babies in The Times but had found the response (40–50 replies to each advert) too overwhelming, and had ended the society after a few months.
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