Keith Griffith, adopted soon after his birth in 1930, understood at first hand the serious harm inflicted on adopted people and their birth mothers by the law and practice of closed stranger adoption. He set about documenting the history of adoption and campaigning to change not only the law, but social and political attitudes. His work was a crucial factor in bringing about the world-leading Adult Adoption Information Act 1985. For many years he continued to support those caught up in adoption, help other researchers, and work tirelessly for further law reform.
Mary Iwanek’s personal experience of family loss and separation gave her deep insights into adoption. Working first as a nurse, she became Lower Hutt’s first qualified social worker, volunteering for the community adoption support groups set up by Keith Griffith. In the 1970s she introduced the innovative practice of open adoption, and later led national implementation of the Adult Adoption Information Act 1985. As head of Child, Youth and Family’s Adoption Information and Services Unit from 1992-2005, she managed to make the process much more child focused, with birth mothers choosing their child’s adoptive parents.