Fifty years ago…

The yearly number of adoptions had just passed its peak, and adoption, society’s solution for children born out of wedlock, was starting to change.

I was three years old and making mud pies on the doorstep to the sound of my mother’s Carpenters records.

Two adopters set up an organisation for adopted children which they ran from a converted chicken shed.

Five decades later, the organisation in the chicken shed is Adoption UK, and the mud pie child is proud to be its CEO.

Adoption UK at 50 is an inspiring and challenging place to be.

These are tough times for every family – but particularly for those who are parenting children who’ve experienced trauma. Today, the average age for a child to be placed for adoption is three, by which time most will have had grim early years in their first families.

In the 1970s the legacy of early childhood trauma was poorly recognised and even more poorly understood. Since then we’ve learned so much about the need to support parents and professionals, mostly by listening to adopters and adopted people. We know early intervention is better than responding to crisis. We know families need peer support from a community of parents like them. And we know the children at the heart of our organisation deserve everything we can do to give them an equal chance after the most unequal of starts. We must speak up for them and help them to speak out for themselves.

I want our 50th year to be a clarion call for better support for adoptive families.

I don’t know any adopters or social work professionals who still think that a safe and loving home erases past trauma. But the system still behaves as if the need for support is the exception, rather than the rule.

In recent AUK research, a third of established adoptive families were facing severe challenges which had placed a great strain on their family. Almost half of families with older children were dealing with crises such as their children being drawn into child sexual exploitation or county lines activities.

Despite all this, the majority of families would encourage others to adopt. Every day I hear people describe their love for their children, their joy in being their parents and their commitment to helping them heal. These are extraordinary families, and we have a moral duty to make sure they have what they need to help their children thrive. It’s time for governments to invest in giving families the right support at the right time, every time.

We’re planning a busy anniversary year.

We’re marking our milestone with a bold new look to signal that we’re ready to redouble our efforts to help crack the challenges facing adoptive families. You’ll see our new branding on some of our digital channels immediately, with a rollout on our printed materials following – we’re not wasting any money by throwing out old materials.

We are open, determined and stronger together, and our new brand reflects these values as we work towards our vision of an equal chance of a bright future for every child unable to live with their birth parents.

We also want to take some time to celebrate with our families. We’re going to have a summer of fun – whether Covid allows us to do that in person or not – and, starting today, we’re publishing ’50 Faces’ of adoption – inspiring profiles of adopters, adopted people and the people who support them. Look out for our Equal Chance campaign activities throughout the year - there will plenty of opportunities for you to get involved. There’s lots more to come – keep an eye on social media for updates.

Looking forward to the years ahead

Over our first fifty years, we’ve pioneered peer support for adopters. We’ve built a vibrant community of families sharing experience and friendship. We’ve brought the lived experience of adoption onto the airwaves and into ministers’ offices, ensuring our families are seen and heard as policy decisions are taken.

We’ll continue to challenge ourselves to go further, using digital technology where that will have more impact for families. We’ll do more for adopted young people and adults. We’ll consolidate our help for kinship carers, and we’ll establish links with the wide network of supporters and champions who love our children.

Adoption UK was set up 50 years ago by adopters, for adopters. We can look back with a tinge of nostalgia, and forward with a sense of excitement and determination at what we’ll be able to achieve. We’ll be here for adopted and kinship care children and the families that love them for as long as you need us.  Together, we’re family.

Sue Armstrong Brown

CEO, Adoption UK

Read more about our 50th Anniversary celebrations and activities