Reading the 30-year overview in last year's special edition of this journal (Hall et al, Adoption & Fostering 34:3, 2010, pp 84-95) inevitably brought back a variety of memories. It also led me to look out my copy of the 1979-80 annual report of BAAF's predecessor, the Association of British Adoption Agencies (ABAA), which included a review of the previous 30 years. I wonder how many of BAAF's present members realise that the organisation goes back over 60 years.
It came to birth due to the efforts of some of the leading lights of the 29 voluntary adoption societies. They brought them together in 1950 to form the Standing Conference of Societies Registered for Adoption. There was no office and no staff but this new organisation was kept going and nurtured by two remarkable people: Tony Rampton, who took on the roles of secretary and treasurer, and Margaret Kornitzer, who produced and edited the journal. Without them I doubt whether the Standing Conference would have survived, let alone developed into ABAFA and then BAAF.
A small, personal example of the changes that took place from the 50s to the 60s is that in 1957, when I wrote to Tony Rampton asking if I could advertise in the journal my interest in working for an adoption agency, he replied that he didn't think this would be successful because the societies recruit 'by personal recommendation'! But in 1966, thanks to the good offices of Dr Hilda Lewis, who had graciously written the preface to my book Parents, Children and Adoption, I was invited to apply to the Standing Conference and brought over from America to be interviewed. As it turned out, the interview was limited to about an hour's chat with Tony Rampton and the Conference chairman, but I was duly appointed as their first-ever staff member and given an open remit to provide some training and support for the Conference members.
It really was a different world. When the government asked for information about difficulties arising from the 1948 Adoption Act, I sent the member agencies a simple questionnaire which all completed. I then asked a friend's children to form themselves into a primitive computer. They sat on the floor in a circle, and each kept track of a particular question while I read out the answers. Sustained by sweets and fizzy drinks, we analysed the responses and a report was duly supplied to the Home...