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History of the Making Connections service

Barnardo’s Making Connections Service dates back to the time of Thomas Barnardo. Previously known as ‘After Care’, it was set up to provide continuing support to young people as they left the care of Barnardo’s and moved into the world. Later, the service pioneered practice in helping adults make sense of growing up in care, by providing information from case records about family history and early life, helping to trace relatives and organising reunions. In 2007, After Care merged with Barnardo’s Family Connections service which had provided a similar service for adults adopted through Barnardo’s, since 1947 when the organisation became an adoption agency. The merged service was renamed ‘Making Connections’.

Today the service works with an increasing number of relatives and descendants of people who were in the charity’s care; this genealogy work helps generate income for the service which receives an annual average of 1,800 enquiries.

From 1867 to the present Barnardo’s has cared for over 370,000 children in residential and foster care, and has placed approximately 6,500 children in adoptive homes.  Making Connections holds records for all these children.

Various recording systems were in operation over the years; for example records for the years 1867 – 1940 are mainly handwritten in ledgers, while after WWII an alphabetical card index system was introduced and individual records were held in files, later to be transferred onto microfilm and CD. This variation in storage media makes searches complex and time-consuming, and Barnardo’s has committed to exploring options for digitising the records over the longer term, making the search and reproduction process far more economical.

In addition to the archive of children’s records, Making Connections manages Barnardo’s Historical Photographic Archive, which contains approximately 500,000 photographs of children in care. This archive is now fully digitised. In many instances we are able to provide people with a photograph of themselves and / or the homes they lived in as children.

Making Connections also holds additional records for organisations that have closed, such as the Liverpool Sheltering Home, MacPherson Homes, Marchmont Home, Sharman’s Homes and the Children’s Aid Society.

For more information about the service, please take a look at the Making Connections' Statement of Purpose.