chapter
9 Pages

INTRODUCTION

As the gap between rich and poor widened in the nineteenth century and a new middle class started to appear, children in the workhouses (whose numbers intriguingly equalled the number of children in care today at around 58,000) became more sought after. Various pressure groups like the National Committee for Promoting the Boarding-Out of Pauper Children, wanted to take girls out of the workhouses to train them as domestic servants. Following the loss of over 1,000,000 men in World War I, a generation of bereaved, childless women, for whom marrying again was often not an option, were keen to see an adoption law enacted, to satisfy their desire to bring up a child. While charity and compassion motivated some rescuers of poor children, children were mostly there to meet the needs of adults in one way or another. The economic worth of children had receded with rising incomes and standards of living and the coming of universal education. Children began to be seen more as individuals with their own needs and rights. A few generations later, towards the end of the twentieth century, the welfare of the child principle became the cornerstone of legislation concerning children and was famously enshrined in the Children Act, 1989. This effectively redefined adoption as no more and no less than the right of a child without a family to a safe and caring one.