22 SEPTEMBER 1961, Page 15

SIR,—As a consulting pmdiatrician with charge of newborn children, I

would say that Mrs. Brenda Ley's description of the way in which an unmarried mother was treated by hospital staff gives a picture which is not exceptional—though this particular hospital stems to have had someone in authority who was actively sadistic. We have still a long way to go, in ridding ourselves of pharisaical attitudes.

The line taken by the adoption society is typical, and inexcusable. These societies were certainly pioneers in protecting children from hastily arranged and often inadequate adoptive homes, but they have outlived their usefulness. They are usually managed by' small groups of people with rigid con- ceptions of their 'moral' purpose and often with ideas about children and about society which have long been discarded elsewhere. They still try to preserve the fiction that it is 'better' for a child and his mother to defer decision about adoption until he is some weeks or months old. There is no sense in this. Pregnant wonien who have no prospect of

settled life with the child's own father should be en- couraged to have the child adopted at birth since the prospect for the fatherless child is bad, and subsequent adoption by a stepfather full of danger.

Adoption societies still insist on adopting parents declaring themselves to be members of a church. They will not accept for adoption the children of married parents. They delay for no reason except that they have established the custom, the actual possession of the child by adoptive parents, for several months, during which the child may be in the hands of more than one nursery or foster home. They still make inadequate provision for informed examination of the child in the presence of adoptive parents, and often rely upon inexperienced medical advice, given at too early an age to be useful. They still make use of the bad term 'suitable for adop- tion'; a child is 'suitable for adoption' if the adopt- ing parents can accept him, knowing as much as is to be known about him. And they have ridiculously naive ideas about genetics.

I would advise unmarried mothers to avoid adop- tion societies, and if no reliable 'third party' intro- duction were available, to go to one of the large local authorities—such as the London County Council or Kent County Council--which 'act as adoption agencies.