Coram has this month published ‘A Lifetime of Difference’ report, celebrating 50 years of Coram Adoption’s pioneering work and lifelong support to adoptive families.
The report, which coincides with National Adoption Week, explores the Ofsted Outstanding voluntary adoption agency’s five decades of service to children and families. You can read some of the highlights below, or head to the bottom of this page for the full report.
- The journey to adoption – The Thomas Coram Foundation (1948-72)
- Eleanor’s story
- Pioneering practice – Coram Adoption (1972 to present day)
- Anthony’s story
Coram has a long history of offering care to children who cannot grow up within their birth families, starting with Thomas Coram who established The Foundling Hospital in 1739 to support babies who were at risk of abandonment and death on the streets of London as a result of the destitution and stigma facing their mothers. After placement in foster care, the children entered the residential school and were supported until they were 21.
When admissions to The Foundling Hospital ended in 1954 the retitled organisation, now known as Coram, permanently shifted its focus to community support providing a welcome alternative to mothers who did not want to give their babies up for adoption and who hoped that they might one day resume their care. Women who placed their baby in the care of the Thomas Coram Foundation in the 1960s retained their legal rights and responsibilities, many of them keeping in touch for news of their baby or even visiting foster families. In some cases mothers were later able to take care of their child when their circumstances changed. On occasion, the babies were later adopted by foster families but only with the birth mother’s consent if she agreed that this was in the best interests of her child.
Eleanor Allen was a pupil at the Foundling Hospital in the years surrounding the Second World War. She subsequently enjoyed a successful career as a music teacher and journalist and is now a great grandmother. She shares her memories of her early days and musical experience at the Hospital:
“At the age of 4, I was moved to live at the Foundling Hospital in Berkhamsted. I remember my first day really clearly. Being put in a line of girls and having our hair cut to the same pudding-basin shape. Then being thrown into the bath and all us of putting on the same prickly dresses. The school was very strict and regimented and we were called by our surname, so I was Prynne… During my time at the Hospital, we had a very progressive music master who taught me to play the oboe and my talent for music led to a Scholarship at Malvern College and eventually the Royal Academy of Music.”
Eleanor was able to reconnect with her half-siblings through Coram’s birth records scheme, which is open to anyone adopted through Coram, former Foundling Hospital pupils and their descendants:
“Eventually I met my three half-siblings. One of my sisters is only a year and a half younger than me. My mother had got pregnant again and went on to marry the father of my half-sisters. I was really happy for her and they said she was a brilliant mum. Sadly, I never met her as she died in 1994 and I only began looking for her in the early 2000s.”
Since being registered as an adoption agency in 1972, Coram has been at the forefront of the development of new approaches to enable the most vulnerable children to find loving permanent families, as well as providing lifelong support to its adoptive families.
Prioritising those who wait the longest
- Unlike other adoption agencies at the time of its foundation, Coram Adoption prioritised placing children from local authority care, either older children or babies with additional needs. Potential adopters were seen as a very special resource to meet the needs of the children.
- Coram has long championed ‘early permanence’, an umbrella term for certain types of adoption placements for babies or toddlers. These placements enable a baby or young child to find foster carers who are approved to adopt them later, if the courts decide they cannot be cared for permanently by their birth family.
- Coram worked with LGBTQ+ couples prior to the Adoption and Children Act 2002, which gave them the same rights to adopt, assessing and approving them to adopt as couples but with only one half of the couple applying to the court as a single adopter. In 2021-22, 17% of children adopted through Coram were matched with LGBTQ+ families.
- Coram has always understood the importance of finding adoptive parents who can reflect the backgrounds of all those children placed. This started with an early partnership with The New Testament of God Assembly Church in East London, which placed a significant number of black children in loving families. Recruiting and supporting adoptive parents from BAME families remains at the forefront of Coram’s adoption work and in 2021-2, 47% of adopters approved were from diverse backgrounds.
- Having pioneered the national adoption gateway first4adoption.org.uk, Coram has helped more than one million people to explore whether adoption may be right for them.
- Since 2011, Adoption Activity Days have matched more than 1400 children waiting across the country to adoptive parents who are right for them by enabling them to meet and play together. Exchange Day information events have also brought together potential adoptive parents together with social workers across agency boundaries to find new links for the children yet to find the loving home they need.
Support for adopted people
- ‘The Adoptables’ programme was the first and only national young ambassadors scheme enabling adopted young people aged 13-26 to share their voices and their experiences of adoption and participate in group social activities.
- Adoptive families also have access to Coram’s Centre for Creative Therapies providing art and music therapy, parenting skills and systemic family therapy, now available with the support of the Adoption Support Fund.
Regional Adoption partnerships
- Coram has partnered with local authorities since 2006 when the London Borough of Harrow commissioned Coram to provide its adoption service.
- In 2019, Coram became the first voluntary adoption agency to lead a Regional Adoption Agency for 9 local authorities in London and Slough.
Recognised quality and key milestones
- In their inspection report of January 2022, which found Coram Adoption to be Outstanding, Ofsted wrote that “The agency leads in early permanence and all aspects of adoption work.”
- The anniversary event on Coram’s Charter day of 17 October was hosted by LBC presenter and author James O’Brien, who was himself adopted 50 years ago.
- In 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron visited Coram and announced new measures to reduce the time children spend in care awaiting placement with an adoptive family.
- Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was greeted on behalf of adoptive children in her 2018 visit to open the Queen Elizabeth II Centre at Coram Campus, including baby Mia (pictured above).
Anthony, now aged 21, was adopted by his family through Coram at 20 months. He loves music and has appreciated his parents’ support for his ambitions. He says:
“In our family, there is no hierarchy between the birth kids and the adopted kids, we’re all one massive family. I remember feeling really loved and appreciated. Since being adopted, I’ve been so lucky to develop my music skills. My parents really supported me, taking me to concerts and practice sessions.”
“My parents are amazing. Their goals are realised through helping other people, and I find that really inspiring. I’ve recently fundraised for Coram as I wanted to give back to an organisation that gave me the life I—and all other children in care—should’ve had: a life with a loving family that enabled me to fulfil my potential.”
Coram CEO, Dr Carol Homden, says:
“Over five decades, Coram has delivered outstanding services as a voluntary adoption agency to support children who, despite changes in social attitude and support, still need that love and long term, legal security which only adoption can provide.”
“As we mark a historic milestone for Coram Adoption, we thank them all for their service and support and celebrate the adoptive families who have so generously shared their stories and the lifetime of difference they and all others make for our children and for our society.”
You can read the full report below.