3. Adoption in Context
3.1 Adoption had no legal basis in the United Kingdom until the 20th century and children who could not live with their birth families were cared for an informal basis. The First World War saw an increase in organised adoption through adoption societies. In 1926 the first legislation relating to adoption was passed for England and Wales, and similar legislation rapidly followed for Northern Ireland and Scotland in 1930.
3.2 Since then almost every decade has seen new laws introduced that increasingly regulate the process of adoption in the United Kingdom, and although legislation for each of the three countries remains similar, there are some differences. The peak number of adoptions was in 1968, and in the following years there has been a decline in children placed for adoption. The main reasons for children being adopted had been unmarried mothers giving up their children for adoption and stepparents adopting their new partner's children. Since the 1960s, social, cultural, economic, and legal changes have meant that neither of these are now major factors.
3.3 Children who are now adopted are mainly from local authority care because their birth family situation placed them at risk; a few are adopted from overseas but the figures for this remain low. The numbers of children seeking an adoptive family have declined and many children are considered to be 'hard to place' i.e. they may have emotional or physical disabilities which require additional support which not all prospective adopters are willing to offer.
3.4 Adoption at one time was primarily restricted to married couples. Recent legislation, Guidance on the Looked after Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 and Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007 changed the guidance on who can apply including single people and same sex couples and there are now fewer barriers to being assessed. So more people within the community can apply to adopt.
3.5 One of the major contemporary concerns is how best to provide stability and permanence for children whose own parents are not able to care for them consistently or predictably. There is a complex legal process which can take many months to complete.
3.6 The challenge within adoption is to match the child with a family who can meet their needs over a lifetime. Adoption is one of the most life changing experiences to face a child and a family and how to decide which child should go to which family is one of the most professionally challenging decisions in social work.
3.7 For many years there has been concern about 'children who wait' and various strategies have been developed to speed up the process of finding the right family. Until recently written profiles were provided about children and prospective adopters rarely had the opportunity to meet the child or children.
3.8 Adoption Activity days are a recent introduction, originally from the United States the days were piloted in England in 2011. The Department of Education stated in 2012;
'Adoption Activity Days as pioneered by BAAF where prospective parents can meet children waiting for adoption and have the chance to make a real connection with a child. Pilot Activity Days have proved very successful, finding families for almost one in five children and evidence suggests they could be particularly successful in matching harder to place children.'
3.9 The 17 principles are set out in the BAAF handbook on how to organise and Adoption Activity Day.  There is list of principles and values which underpin Adoption Activity Days, the first is central to the process.
'Ensuring the safety and emotional and physical wellbeing of children are paramount and are at the heart of an Adoption Activity day - think child.'
A further principle states that it is important to be 'Acknowledging and supporting the anxiety and emotional intensity and impact of activity days on all.'
3.10 Matching child and family is complex and there are different approaches e.g. the work of the Hadley Centre at the University of Bristol  . We are still learning about what works and the long term effects of Adoption Activity Days will take time to become clear.
3.11 There are risks throughout the process of adoption, the highest risk being that the placement will fail. But also that children who do not have a permanent placement will 'drift' in care. Current research tells us that the majority of adoptions succeed in providing a stable home for a child. However the most recent and comprehensive study of adoption and adoption disruption concluded that;
It is probably safe to conclude that the proportions of adoptions that disrupt post-order lies between 2% - 9%.