A year ago, I joined Adoption UK as chief executive. Beyond a doubt, the best part  of the last 12 months has been the opportunities to meet adopters and hear your stories, which never fail to inspire and motivate me. I’m privileged to work with exceptional colleagues and volunteers, who are constantly coming up with new ways to support and speak up for adoptive families. Despite some big challenges and tough decisions, over the past year the Adoption UK family has made every day the most rewarding I’ve ever felt at work.

I started the week of the 2017 General Election, thinking that it would be helpful to begin at the start of a political cycle. As it turned out, I’m now on my third Westminster children and families minister, the second in both Wales and Scotland – and I’m still awaiting my first in Northern Ireland. As this issue of Adoption Today goes to press
I’m heading for a meeting with DfE minister Nadhim Zahawi about how we can work with government to improve outcomes for adoptive families. But despite some good progress in various areas – the DfE adding £1m to the Adoption Support Fund in England, and Scottish Government supporting the provision of our attachment materials to every school in Scotland, to name two recent examples – we still have a big job ahead to secure the many policy and practice changes adopters need.

The need for this was driven home to me recently when I was asked what amounts to the same question by two different adopters on two consecutive days. The questions were both versions of: How should we move forward when our problems aren’t recognised and support isn’t available? One was tweeted into BBC2’s Victoria Derbyshire show by a desperate adopter who was getting no help with their child’s attachment disorder. The other was asked by a parent at our packed-out FASD conference in Edinburgh.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Of course, the stock answers are: work with your adoption agency, become your own expert, and tap into peer support. For some, private support might be an option, although this is out of reach for many (and I would argue shouldn’t be required at all). Our helplines and members groups dispense this advice and signpost callers to sources of support every day. But there’s another part to the answer, which is becoming ever more important. And that is: be heard.

Even though we now have more than 5,000 adoptions a year in the UK, adoptive families are a minority of families in need of help. We need to make the case ever more clearly that adoptive families and kinship carers are parenting the country’s most vulnerable children, and that planning to provide a high level of long-term support is a far cheaper and more effective approach than failing to provide sufficient help in time.

Parents who are struggling just to get through the day with a traumatised child cannot do this alone. But together, adoptive parents are a formidable, articulate and expert force. We can make the case on behalf of each other. Adoption UK’s advocacy is as strong as its members – and I’m delighted that our numbers are growing every day.