by Sally Donovan 

Back in 2017, Adoption UK took the decision to include a panel of young, adopted people in its annual conference line-up. I facilitated that first panel, which was a prepared Q&A about the panellist’s experiences of education. Each spoke movingly about what had gone wrong and what had gone right for them in school. The post-conference feedback was that it had been the most powerful and memorable session of the day. The speakers all demonstrated how essential it is for schools to really get care-experience, adoption and trauma, and what happens when they don’t.  

At successive Adoption UK conferences since 2017, groups of adopted young people and adults have addressed a broad range of topics. This year’s panel will talk about relationships and connections. It will for sure be a wide-ranging conversation about adoptive families, birth families, brothers, sisters, friends, teachers and social workers, amongst others. I predict it will also serve out reminders that real lives are complex and contradictory, and although raging absolutes can seem attractive, much of real value lies within the nuance.  

There was a lot we got right about the planning for and the facilitating of that first panel and there were things that with the benefit of hindsight, I would have done differently. As I prepare for the 2022 Adoption UK conference panel on the theme of the power of connections, I’ve been reflecting back and having some honest conversations and powerful connections myself. 

The power dynamics that can be inherent in the language around and the arrangements for and staging of events are subtle, complex and ever evolving. We all have our blind spots but having honest and hearty conversations can challenge and overcome so many of those. And that’s really what the panel of adopted adults is all about – taking time to listen, to share safely and carefully, and to feel. It’s these connective encounters that we remember and carry with us. 

Do come along to the Adoption UK conference - you will be warmly welcomed and there will be lots of opportunities to connect with others with similar experiences – and how often does that happen? Many friendships and long-lasting support networks have been forged at our annual conferences and I know from experience just how valuable these can be. And if you happen to see me, do say hello. I may be looking a tiny bit nervous, but I’d love to meet you. 

The Power of Connections conference is in Bristol on 8 October. Listen to the panel sessions, hear from our keynote speaker Beverley Barnett-Jones and choose from a wide-range of workshops for adoptive parents, adopted adults and supporting professionals.

Tickets available here