Find out more about who will be speaking at the 2022 Adoption UK Annual Conference

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Beverley Barnett-Jones MBE

Beverley Barnett-Jones is Nuffield Family Justice Observatory's Associate Director for System and Impact. She works on expanding the capacity of Nuffield Family Justice Observatory to make its evidence count on the practice front by making connections, developing conversations and fostering opportunities for innovations and activities that will unlock system change in the family justice system.

Beverley was previously on the frontline of children’s social care for 30 years, undertaking a variety of social work practice and management roles in local authority and family court settings. Always committed to making research count, she has spent the last few years bringing research and evidence into the design and development of new services. She is a member of the FDAC partnership, acting as a mentor and support to the expansion of this innovative family justice model. Beverley is a social worker at heart, practicing relational activism and placing relationships and connecting at the centre. She received an MBE in June 2018 for her work with children and families. 

This keynote talk will centre around post-adoption contact and will reference the recently published Modernising post-adoption contact: findings from a recent consultation

Experts by profession

Harriet Waldegrave - Office of the Children's Commissioner and panel chair

Harriet is a Head of Families and Care at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner; this is a statutory body responsible for promoting and protecting the rights of children as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The office has a particular focus on the most vulnerable children – those who are living away from their families in care, mental health institutions, or youth offending settings and those children who have a social worker. Harriet has worked in children’s policy for think tanks and charities, and also spent two years working as a child protection social worker.

Julie Young - University of East Anglia

Julie Young has been based at the University of East Anglia for over 20 years as a senior researcher in the Centre for Research on Children and Families.  Alongside Professor Beth Neil and others at UEA, she has played a key role in a number of important research projects in the field of adoption, foster care and child protection.

Much of her research has involved exploring the experiences of adoptive parents, children and birth families in different areas of family life, especially around contact with birth families, life story work and communication about adoption. Her latest open access paper Life story work for children and young people with care experience: A scoping review can be found here.

Julie Selwyn - University of Oxford

Julie Selwyn is Professor of Education and Adoption at the Rees Centre, Department of Education, University of Oxford. She is a qualified social worker who worked in residential, child protection, fostering and adoption teams before becoming an academic. She is the academic adviser to the National Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board, acts as an expert witness in the family courts, and has advised governments in the US, Canada. Australia, and the Netherlands on permanence policy and research. She was awarded a CBE for services to adopted children and children in care in 2015. Julie led the Beyond the Adoption Order study that led to the introduction of the Adoption Support Fund. She is currently working on a new longitudinal study Family Routes: growing up in adoptive and special guardianship families. The new study that is just beginning will follow young people aged 12-25 years and their families to get a greater understanding of the needs of families during the teenage years through to early adulthood.

Experts by experience

Sally Donovan - Chair

Sally is the author of the adoption memoir No Matter What and The Unofficial Guide to Therapeutic Parenting. She edits Adoption Today and collaborates with a group - The No Matter What, that holds events and training for therapeutic families. Her latest book, The Strange and Curious Guide to Trauma is written for children and will be published next year. In 2018 Sally was awarded an OBE.

Jackie Britzman

Jackie was adopted in the 1960s at the age of 18 months after being cared for by a foster mother. She traced her biological mother at the age of 18yrs old and they have regular contact with each other. Jackie’s adoption experience and feelings of 'loss' have had a profound effect on her life and on her biological mother’s life. This has influenced many of her life choices and decisions particularly her career choices. Jackie currently works as a counsellor and CRUSE Bereavement Volunteer drawing on her own feelings of loss to be able to empathise with others having experienced loss within their lives.

Nickie Burrows

Nickie is an adopted adult, from a closed adoption in the 1960s. She feels adoption has had an ongoing impact on her life. She had no contact with her birth family until a couple of years ago, when her birth mother traced her and her whole world changed.

Nickie currently works in a primary school as a SEND teaching assistant and a Thrive practitioner.  

Joshua Aspden

Joshua is a British-Ecuadorian intercountry adoptee, adopted at 6 months old. He lived in Ecuador with his adopted parents for 15 years. He has spent about 15 years in the UK in total and 5 years working, studying and living in 3rd world countries.

Siobhan Rhodes and Sian Booth

Siobhan and Sian are twin sisters and adoptees and Siobhan is an adoptive parent. They are experienced public speakers; Siobhan has presented a TED talk on adoption.

Siobhan and Sian like to talk about keeping siblings together, and the dual perspectives of adoptee and adopter. They also run a charity, Create You Arts, which provides artistic responses for adopted people. 


Phillipa Williams - Life Journey work: a never-ending story

Philippa has been managing the Learning and Development Service at Adoption UK in Wales for the past 7 years. Prior to this she was a volunteer for the organisation and worked for 10 years at The Fostering Network. She has been delivering Life Journey workshops for Adoption UK for many years both face-to-face and online. In this session Philippa brings together her professional experience of what everyone involved in adoption should expect of one another with her very personal perspective on what the journey has been like for her own family. You will learn why a tatty toy from Hypervalue and a stained baby grow are still so precious over 20 years later. Philippa will also share some of the approaches she has used over the past 25 years to explain her adopted children’s life journeys to them, warts and all. It really is a never-ending journey.

Carly Kingswood - Parenting Teens with a focus on social media and contact

Carly began her career as a Child Protection Social Worker. She retrained as a Play Therapist and then in Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP). She and her family fostered for 10 years. She currently works in private practice in the South West as a therapist providing DDP and Therapeutic Life Story work. She is a consultant and trainer in attachment and trauma and is writing her first book with Sally Donovan. When she isn’t doing any of those things Carly enjoys hanging out with friends, gin and tonic and running, but not all at the same time. 

The workshop will explore teens accessing birth family through social media and anticipating this with your child. It will explore the pros and cons of such contact and the potential complexities of teens being given information, however accurate or inaccurate, about their life story from birth families online. Other ideas around split loyalties, belonging and identity will be considered.

Dave Oates - Tracing: contact between adopted adults and birth family

Dave has been working as a long-lost family tracer and intermediary for 10 years, specialising in adoption over the last five years.

During this time he has built a wealth of experience to assist in the accurate tracing of lost relatives in the UK and around the world. His work has featured on several TV shows including BBC1’s Family Finders and TLC’s Separated At Birth. He has also been invited to speak on the subject on BBC Radio Five Live. In this time Dave has gained knowledge and expertise in the sensitivity around intermediary work and how individuals can feel through the process.

In this workshop Dave will outline the work of Joanna North Associates to reconnect birth relatives who have been separated through adoption. He will talk about the processes to reconnect people including tracing and contact birth relatives, and how they keep all parties safe and supported.

Ann Bell & Ans Aspden - Complicated Connections

In legal terms adoption is a decision by a court which changes forever the family connections of an infant. However strong the justification for that change, the impact is life long and profound. Ans and Ann – both adopted 50 plus years ago – will explore the impact adoption has had on their family connections half a century later. Using a series of typical family events – big birthdays, funerals, weddings and anniversaries they will provide opportunities for participants to put themselves in the shoes of adopted people and their family members and experience the complications that adoption brings to family connections.

Ann Bell is an adopted adult, an adoptive parent and the Director for Adoption UK in Wales. Over the last year, supported by an advisory network of over 100 adopted adults, Ann has been leading on the development of a new membership offer and support services for adopted adults in the UK. Through her work Ann has had the privilege of sharing her own experiences and listening to the experiences of dozens of adult adoptees.


Ann Bell                                 Ans Aspden

Ans was born in Cardiff and placed into foster care at birth; she was adopted by a loving family as an infant and grew up in Swansea valley.  At the age of 30, after 12 years of searching, Ans met both her father and mother’s side of her birth family – this was over 20 years ago.  At that time, she traced her mother with thanks to a taxi driver.

Today, Ans lives in Cardiff with her husband Dave; 5 children, 4 grandchildren and 2 dogs.

Charlotte Jenkins & Catherine Eveness - When there are no words: using play to connect (Therapeutic Parenting)

Parenting is stressful and sometimes we just don’t know what our child is feeling and thinking or how it links to their behaviour. These are often the hardest times to connect. Sometimes there just aren’t words that help and finding ways to connect that reduce stress can help. Actually, experts say as much as 93% of communication is nonverbal. We will explore what else we can do to soothe our own and our children’s stress. Expect some Theraplay, some sensory activities and thinking about the brain body connection using the Beacon lighthouse model with the Beacon Family Services Theraplay team.

Charlotte is an experienced social worker who believes that relationships are unique.

She believes passionately in supporting children to experience connection in their relationships at home and school in order that they thrive. Play is a really powerful way for them to do so. She is a certified Theraplay® Practitioner and supervisor becoming accredited in Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP).

Charlotte set up Beacon Family Services, a not-for-profit, therapeutic family support service, in Birmingham, where she and her team deliver therapeutic support through the Adoption Support Fund and run Theraplay groups for parents and children, funded by the National Lottery. 

Catherine has been a Social Worker for over 15 years and is a parent to neurodivergent children. Since becoming Certified as a Theraplay Practitioner. Catherine’s specialism is working with neurodivergent families and is also trained in Sensory Attachment Intervention. Catherine is a Theraplay UK supervisor and CoTrainer in Training. Catherine delivers the Safe and Sound Protocol and The Just Right State Programme.

Catherine is passionate about children and their families being able to access high quality therapeutic support with a preventative focus and values centred in positive neurodivergent identity. She believes in prioritising building supportive relationships for families. 

Contact with the wider birth family - Jo and Louise

Jo is an adoptive mother of three and Secondary School Teacher.

Between her children there are nine birth siblings, some of which her children have regular contact with, and some, none at all.  In this session Jo will discuss how contact was initiated, the benefits it has brought her family and some of the potential pitfalls that lie ahead.

Louise is married to James; they have 2 adopted sons in their late teens. In the last couple of years they have started to develop a relationship with wider members of their sons' birth family. This has been an emotional, yet positive, experience for the whole family. Louise will share her experience and how this has worked for them.

Chance to Thrive - Youth support programme

The workshop will be led by a group of young people and young adults who have been actively involved in promoting the voice of adopted children and young people with the support of Adoption UK’s Chance to Thrive Youth Support Programme. This interactive and participative workshop will illustrate the complex web of connections and relationships that many adopted children live within and the impact that is has on their lives.

Building Resilience in Families: Knowing when to put your oxygen mask on first – Rachel Swanick (Chroma)

This workshop will focus on why having emotional resilience is a good thing for families, especially parents, and how the arts can help build positive wellbeing for parents and children. The workshop will be a mixture of theory, discussion and practical creative activities.

Rachel Swanick is Training Lead at Chroma, where she undertakes specialist assessments, training and development and line manages therapists. She specializes in attachment and trauma work with children and families of all ages. Rachel is a trained APCI assessor and trainer, having also co-authored the APCI training manual. When working with families, Rachel works developmentally and psychologically to support them as a whole.

Rachel has published several papers, reflective music therapy blogs, and is currently studying for PhD by Portfolio at the University of South Wales.

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