I’ve just come back from our Annual Conference after a busy first week at AUK. The conference was called ‘The Power of Connections’ and my goodness that was an apt title! It was the perfect introduction to the adoption community at the end of my first week, and it really brought home to me one of the core things that Adoption UK is all about – bringing people together to create the right circumstances for people in the same boat to support each other. I also got a really good flavour of the importance of our Path therapeutic services and our youth service having joined an amazing workshop run by young adopted people.  

As I’ve prepared for this role, and in my first few days, it’s been a steep learning curve. Here are 6 things I’ve learned (amongst many others!):

  1. If I’ve heard one story about adoption, it’s only ever one story. There are a myriad different experiences and situations for people whose lives are touched by adoption and while many families struggle with the same issues it’s a mistake to make assumptions about people’s experiences and opinions.
  2. Adoption is changing. With the increase in Special Guardianship and Kinship arrangements and with changes in attitudes and processes around contact arrangements, the way we manage adoption in this country is changing rapidly – and we need to keep up.
  3. But I’ve realised that the story of adoption is a story of change. From a way of supporting children orphaned by the war, to society’s answer to children born ‘out of wedlock’ and now to a permanent family for children who cannot stay with their birth families. Adoption has changed so much over the last century, and it will continue to change into the next.
  4. My assumption had been that people come to adoption when they are unable to conceive, but I have been surprised by just how many people are choosing adoption as their first choice to start a family – particularly those who have done this because of concerns about the limits of our planet’s resources. 
  5. While I already had a good understanding about children’s early experiences before they are adopted, it’s been brought home to me just how painful and frightening these experiences are. I’ve heard about children locked in rooms for long periods of time, children who were never hugged, children who witnessed violence or were themselves physically abused. These children’s stories stay with you and are making me even more determined to do everything in my power to help adopted children get the support they need.
  6. Perhaps the comment that shifted my perception most was someone who said: “It’s not that I was adopted, its that I am adopted”. It made me reflect on the fact that adoption is something that is part of someone’s life throughout their life, not just in childhood. This has made me more convinced than ever that we should be supporting adopted children and adults in their own right, and creating spaces for peer support for adopted people – in addition to the support that we will continue to provide adopted children and the families that love them.

The weeks and months ahead are going to be full of challenge, but I’m ambitious for Adoption UK and for the difference we can make in the lives of adopted people and adopters, and I’m excited to get started.

By Emily Frith, AdoptionUK CEO