The new chief executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering comments on the serious issues affecting the sector.
Have you been watching Call the Midwife? Fortunately, in the children’s social care sector, we’ve come a long way from the mother and baby homes and orphanages of the 1950s.
Since the 1980s, the changes to the care system have centred on the concept of permanency. Permanency recognises the fundamental importance parents and a family life can play in a child’s development. Wherever it is decided that a child cannot live with their birth parents, it becomes a priority to establish an alternative family life, either with other birth family members or stranger carers. The legal order to support this is dependent on the specific circumstances of the child, but there are now many possibilities, including adoption, special guardianship and permanent foster care.
These issues are core to the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF). Its history is marked by its engagement in leading and forming current policy and practice framework for looked-after children. As the new chief executive of BAAF, I feel humbled to join an organisation that has been responsible for improving so many young people’s lives.
Although we are proud of the progress the sector has made over the years, there are a number of serious issues that need to be addressed – both those that are the responsibility of the current coalition government and, after May 2015, the new government. These include the challenges to adoption, the revised framework for long-term foster care, the further development of special guardianship and the provision of effective support including financial help for carers.
At BAAF, we’ve just published our strategic plan, which sets our four key aims. These include championing the importance for children of establishing a “family for life” and continuing to influence, lead and collaborate on child placement issues. Over the coming year we will be developing a range of placement options, reinforcing fostering as a major part of BAAF and further incorporating the voices of children and young people into our work.