Health for all Children

British Association for Adoption and Fostering

British Association for Adoption and Fostering

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) is the leading UK-wide membership organisation for those involved in adoption, fostering and child-care. We work to promote the highest standards of child centred policies and services for children separated from their families of origin.

BAAF’s Medical Group BAAF has a medical group, founded by doctors in 1963, which aims to further the interests of children and young people who are looked after by local authorities and voluntary agencies. Membership is open to accredited medical advisers to corporate member agencies, individual BAAF members who are medically qualified practitioners, and individual members with a special interest in the health aspects of adoption, fostering and related matters (e.g. nurses, health visitors, psychologists, geneticists, social workers and researchers.

Role of the GP in Adoption & Fostering GP’s may be providing primary care for families coping with infertility, adopted children and adults, birth parents, and looked after children placed in foster families. It is important to have some understanding of the needs of all of these individuals and families. Medical care of most looked after and adopted children is provided by a GP. These children have all suffered loss of their birth family, and many have been physically, emotionally or sexually abused or neglected prior to coming into care. Many have experienced multiple placements with subsequent disturbance in attachment. ADHD, behavioural and mental health problems are common and there are increasing numbers of children with special needs due to physical or learning disabilities or pre-natal exposure to substance abuse amongst this population. These children are very vulnerable and will most likely present considerable challenges in parenting for many years to come. GPs have a very important role to play in assessing the health of prospective adoptive parents and foster carers, who must be robust physically and emotionally in order to cope with the demands of parenting on a daily basis for many years. While the onus of assessing the parenting capacity of applicants and the stability of their relationships is on the social work team, applicants need to be assessed in all areas which impact on their parenting abilities, and the GP can contribute a great deal. The GP often has a long-standing relationship with one or both applicants, and in addition to assessing physical and emotional health, can flag up concerns about coping strategies, drug or alcohol misuse and marital or family difficulties.

The Role of the Agency Medical Adviser This role is most commonly undertaken by consultant community paediatricians, although GPs with a special interest may also undertake this work. Medical Advisers have broad responsibility for the health care of looked after and adopted children for which their agency has responsibility, providing consultation and assessment of individual children and ensuring delivery of services to the population. They also advise on the health assessment of prospective adopters and foster carers.

BAAF Publications BAAF publishes many books, guides and practice notes, of which the following will be most relevant to medical professionals – all are available from our publications department 020 7593 2072 or

  • Doctors for Children in Public Care is an essential resource guide for anyone dealing with health issues of looked after or adopted children and their carers. It includes a wealth of information on the health needs of this group, the role of primary care, confidentiality and record keeping and a comprehensive description of the role of the Medical Adviser.
  • Practice Note 39: Hepatitis and HIV – Provides information on issues related to substitute care, foster care, residential care and adoption.
  • Practice Note 30: Children and Smoking – Useful guidance to agencies stressing the need to balance the positive qualities of prospective adopters and foster carers who smoke against the adverse effects of smoking upon children.
  • Practice Note 23: Consent to Medical Treatment for Children – Covers children in local authority accommodation, children placed for adoption, children subject to emergency protection orders, and wards of court.
  • Coming soon. A rewritten and expanded version of our earlier book Bruised Before Birth(now out of print), which examines the implications of prenatal exposure to alcohol and drugs.

“the joint working party on child health surveillance”