I joined Adoption UK in 2008 when our foster child became our adopted son. As an adopted adult and now an adoptive parent, becoming Director for AUK in Wales was a job match made in heaven. It meant I could provide for my own family by working in the Wales adoption system while also providing much needed support to families like my own.  

Twelve years later, the opportunity has presented itself to lead on developing a new piece of work in Adoption UK aimed at adopted adults and I am absolutely delighted to take up the challenge. 

I was adopted at 6 months of age, and I knew the word adoption applied to me before I understood what it meant. As a young adult I spent a decade tracing my birth mother and getting my head around what it meant to have two or even three sets of parental relationships - my adoptive parents, my birth mother and her family and my birth father and birth siblings on his side.   

It was only once I started to work for Adoption UK that I thought much about adoption as a way that the state chooses to respond to parents who, for a range of reasons, didn’t feel able, or were not considered able to raise their birth children.   

Over the last twelve years I’ve been really struck by how much change the lived experience of adoptive parents has brought to the system. Adoptive parents have played a significant role in those changes by speaking out and sometimes shouting out very loudly. Adoption UK has gathered evidence, spoken to enquiries, met with civil servants and politicians and little by little, between us we are changing adoption support for the better.  

The National Adoption Service in Wales has a framework for adoption support and a good practice guide. It is about to launch a core offer of support which will be guaranteed for all families. All adoptive families living in England have access to the Adoption Support Fund. In Scotlandthe ongoing review of the Care system has acknowledged the importance of including adoptive families in discussions about family support. And right now, new legislation is making its way through the Northern Ireland Assembly which will give families the right to an assessment of needs, and services that acknowledge the needs of adopted children throughout their childhood. Across the UK the understanding of the impact of early trauma and neglect on child development is developing fast.  

In all of these debates, I think the voices of adopted adults have been too quiet for too long. They have a unique perspective on the adoption system, and sufficient distance and maturity to make sense of what they have experienced.  

When we listen to adopted adults, one of the things they tell us loud and clear is that the impacts of trauma can last a lifetime. Support in childhood can be transformative, but it can’t wipe the slate clean, and many adopted adults face significant ongoing challenges with relationships and mental health. I think we need to start talking about lifelong support for people who are adopted. When a child is placed for adoption, we should think about the adult they will grow into, not just about their childhood.  

The Trustees of Adoption UK have made a commitment to develop new services and a membership offer for adopted adults in their new three year strategy and I applaud them for that decision. If you are an adopted adult and would like to help us shape the future please consider joining in the conversation which starts on the 23rd September at 8pm.  You can register here: Adopted Adults Ideas Factory with Adoption UK Tickets, Thu 23 Sep 2021 at 20:00 | Eventbrite 

Author: Ann Bell, Director of Adoption UK Wales