With the 2018 party conference season in full swing, we tweeted a question to adopters: ‘What is your No.1 priority for government?’ The responses were even more overwhelmingly clear than Labour members’ support for a final say on Brexit. Adopter after adopter tweeted back that they needed better post adoption support and help for adopted children at school. 

Here’s a sample:

“Recognise that families will need support from the off, that support is readily given and is accessible across the whole of childhood.”

“A proper robust support plan that includes a financial package, as many adopters cannot work due to therapeutic needs of children.”

“Presumption of ongoing support. Reinforcing the realities of modern day adoption vs historical Long Lost Family type adoption.”

“To listen to parents when they say their child is struggling in education. The majority of kids have suffered and parents shouldn’t have to battle for support often with the very LA who has them on their support register!”

“Reform the education system – spending so much time daily in a high stakes pressure system, with little room for SEMH needs, needlessly drains out kids’ resources far too much.”

“So many are left behind because they aren’t ready to learn at the pace our current system works at. I feel like they are left behind, struggling and further damaging their self esteem...with long term effects.”

So these are the issues most on my mind as I head off to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham on Sunday.

Not all children have a fair start in life, but all children deserve an equal chance at school. Providing training in attachment and trauma, giving priority to emotional and social skills as a precursor for learning, and ending the postcode lottery in resources and support will pay enormous dividends. Those things will not only help bridge the attainment gap, but will bring improvements in mental health, exclusion rates and pupil and staff wellbeing.

This applies to most adoptive families, but also to any pupils who have suffered some sort of trauma during childhood – from bereavement to family breakdown. Some accounts suggest that’s probably half of all the children in any classroom.

We know that adopted children are amongst the most vulnerable in our society, and we know that they have a chance in their adoptive families to break sometimes generations-long cycles of disfunction. That’s much more likely to happen if adoptive families are given full information about their children at placement, including mental health assessments for every one of those children, and a presumption of a need for ongoing support over years, not months.

Cleary, most of the politicking across the party conferences is going to be about Brexit. But social mobility for disadvantaged children and mental health are two prominent themes in the schedule of fringe events – and are likely to feature in the speeches by Education Minister Damian Hinds and Social Welfare and Health Minister Matt Hancock on Tuesday. I’ll be listening carefully.