Adoption UK - 50th Anniversary

Adoption UK 50 Years logoAdoption UK is 50! 

50 is a big milestone, and an opportunity to pause, reflect and plan for the futureFor 50 years we have supported, advocated, championed and been there for adoptive families around the UK.

Today our cause is as clear and compelling as ever; to secure the right support at the right time for the children at the heart of every adoptive and kinship care family.  

For Adoption UK, this all began in 1971, when Elvis Presley and The Jackson 5 were in the charts, a gallon of petrol was 33p and two adopters starting running a voluntary organisation from their homes, for adopted children with special needsAdoption has changed a lot since then, and so have we. 

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I joined the Army at 15 from a children’s home, not for a moment thinking I would ever become a parent.

I served for 24 years in many parts of the world. In 1975, while stationed in South Korea, I adopted an orphaned baby. It took four years to bring her home to Britain.

In the early 80s I was serving in Whitehall while also doing voluntary youth work in London’s East End. In 1982 I founded Stepney Children’s Fund at Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel, which provided holidays camps and trips for deprived youngsters from the East End. I left the Army in 1986 and was invited to set up and run Toynbee Hall’s Children’s Department.

In 1991 I married Valerie, a Chartered Architect and Girl Guide leader. In 2000 we adopted three sisters who were all under five. In 2005, we left the East End and moved to the seaside.

My Korean daughter, now aged 46, lives in Bermuda with her husband and their little boy. The three siblings are now all aged in their mid-20s. The oldest sibling marries this summer. The middle sibling is still at home, soon to leave college forever. The youngest sibling is in supported living.

Each of the girls presented (still do) their own unique challenges, most of them linked to pre-adoption neglect, attachment and identity. Despite statements of special educational needs (SSEN), education health and care plans (EHCPs) and successions of special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) and learning assistants, the entire journey through mainstream education has been necessarily one of safeguarding and containment, more than learning. For one, there are no answers about biological family, even after I took her back to the orphanage when she was 22. For the others, there are sadly too many. Up to now, they don’t want - and are far from ready - to search for them.

It was a harsh, gruelling journey into supported living for our youngest daughter, after months of running away in pursuit of a love which was unrealistic and unattainable.

Val and I learnt much about danger and vulnerability. About abduction, homelessness, drugs, street crime, prostitution, and helplessness. There was little support from ‘the agencies’. At one stage, we asked the Salvation Army to mount a rescue from the streets, 500 miles away.

More than anything, our life with the children disproved the lie that ‘adoption solves everything’.

Would I do it all again? Of course I would! There are so many happy, innocent and carefree times for all of us to remember. Loving times living in the city and at the seaside, times full of discovery, adventure and laughter. Times for simply growing up, but at the children’s pace, not necessarily the pace the world around them expected. What keeps me sane? I recommend a young Cocker Spaniel and a bottle of cheap Sauvignon Blanc.

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