As we draw closer to the end of the year, I am taking this opportunity to look back over the last couple of months since I started as CEO of Adoption UK. The absolute highlight for me has been travelling around the UK to meet our teams in the four nations. I particularly enjoyed my visit to Belfast, where I had the opportunity to join a family day. This is where we provide families with the chance to spend the day together with others who understand some of the joys and challenges of being an adoptive family. It was a brilliant chance to meet many of our members. The cakes were excellent too. Our conference in Bristol in my very first week provided another chance to meet the adoption community face to face – from prospective adopters doing everything they can to prepare for panel, to grandparents who have been coming to Adoption UK events for years and who have made lasting friendships through the networks we have created.  

So -without further ado – here are 5 things I’ve learned since joining AUK. 

The importance of peer support   

One of the most important things we do at AUK is to connect adoptive families with each other so that people can share tips, reassurance and resources with no judgement attached. I’ve seen through our youth work and our adopted adult community that this is equally important for adopted people. Often attending an event or community group has helped people form connections that blossom and grow far beyond the initial support that we provide. I’ve met people who have formed lifelong friendships through Adoption UK, and adopters who have arranged holidays together based on a family day. This brings me to my next thought: 

Charities do it better 

I’ve been reminded of the ability of charities to provide flexible and family-centred support which provides the help people need in the right place at the right time. While we cannot (and should not) replace statutory services, there is such an important role for charities in providing this kind of holistic support. Too often families have to jump through hoops or tick too many boxes to get support from the state. As one staff member put it – we surround families with a ‘big hug’ – we are there for them when they need it most. We don’t turn people away unless we can’t safely provide them with the help they need.   

Charities need help too 

That’s why it’s even more important than ever that we support our charities. So many charities are facing challenges right now, as grant funding becomes harder to access, as costs are rising and giving is down. A major priority for me is growing our income and ensuring every penny we spend is making a difference.  

The importance (and challenge) of measuring our impact  

In order to grow our income and support more people, it’s absolutely vital that we keep track of the impact of our support. I’m continuing to work with our teams to ensure we are able to capture, measure and bottle the magic of the support that we offer, so that we know we are always having the best possible impact in people’s lives. This is an important challenge and will be a big priority for me next year. 

It’s all about the people  

Last but not least, the most important thing I’ve done over the last couple of months is meet our fantastic team – including therapists, helpline advisors, peer support workers, managers and administrators, from Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast and all over England. We have a passionate and committed team of people at Adoption UK who are all here because they want to make a difference – and they do make an enormous difference, every day. As one member put it “You helped me when I was at my wit’s end”.  

I am looking forward to recharging my batteries a bit over Christmas and then working with the team to help Adoption UK go from strength to strength next year!