The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) was formed in 1980 to address the increased need to support children who had experienced significant neglect and abuse in their families. It brought together a variety of stakeholders – voluntary sector, local authorities, health bodies, social workers and others – to focus on the policy and practice for children who could not live with their birth families, and explore how to secure better opportunities for these, our most vulnerable, children.
BAAF evolved into an organisation that worked to help professionals to deliver services, support and interventions for children, young people and families who come into contact with the care system. Over the years, this has included activities such as producing forms for review or assessment, developing practice, and influencing regulations and policy in fostering and adoption. As the organisation evolved, BAAF introduced an advice line, ran training and conferences for practitioners, started publishing books and other resources, and established a peer-reviewed journal looking at childcare practice. At one point, BAAF was also an adoption agency helping to match children with prospective adopters.
BAAF pushed boundaries and opposed inequalities: campaigning for unmarried couples, LGBTQ+ couples and single people to be allowed to foster and adopt; setting up our Black Perspectives Advisory Committee and support groups for Black practitioners in 1984; raising awareness of children with HIV and AIDS in the care system; advocating for equal rights and the right support for kinship families; supporting adults to access their birth records; and raising awareness of private fostering.
It lobbied on bills and influenced regulation and policy - from the Children Act 1975, the Children Act 1989 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002, to campaigning for a Children’s Commissioner, shaping the National Foster Care Standards and supporting the implementation of the National Adoption Standards.
And BAAF has always been multi-disciplinary; bringing together the professionals around a child or family, helping them to work together and understand each other so they can better support that child or family. BAAF set up the Legal Committee in 1972 and the Medical Group was established in 1963.
We have had several names throughout our history, and offices in cities across the UK. We have run many things – the national adoption register, national adoption week, the Independent Review Mechanism for Foster Care and Adoption in England, published Be My Parent, run Adoption Activity Days and participated in research on Foster Care for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking and Refugee Children. To name just a few.
For many years, BAAF was very successful, but in 2015, like many similar organisations, it faced a series of challenges, including some financial shocks. The outcome of this was the formation of CoramBAAF.
After joining Coram, CoramBAAF went through a period of consolidation, and as the pandemic hit, we were ready and able to step up and play a vital and critical role during that difficult time, supporting professionals dealing with the drastic changes to policy and practice we all experienced.
Today, we are a successful organisation and remain a cornerstone of the childcare sector. Our forms and guidance underpin much of adoption, fostering and kinship practice and our advice line for practitioners is busier than ever. Our advisory committees, practice forums, training courses and events attract large numbers of practitioners, and we continue to influence policy and regulation.
We have a wide membership of local authorities, regional adoption agencies, independent fostering providers, voluntary adoption agencies, health bodies and independent professionals that we work alongside.
We stand firmly, and proudly, on the foundations created by those who did this work before us. And we will continue to evolve to reflect the changing needs of practitioners, children, young people and families, including incorporating kinship care into our work, as another key permanency route for children.