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 am headteacher of a Cheshire primary school with a significant number of previously looked after children. They bring much joy, alongside inevitable challenge. Our adopted children learn alongside ‘people like us’ in ‘families like ours’. But when several are in a class together, with the impact of early life trauma, the challenge can be greater than the sum of its parts. So, love them as we do, the numbers of adoptees in our school have left us with no option but to learn new things and think differently, as much about ourselves as about the children we serve.

Some pupils are like gold dust in school from day one. With every adult, in every lesson, they model usefulness and kindness, optimism, resilience and a work ethic that lead to enjoyment, achievement and success, for them, their peers and their teachers. These children make classrooms places of happy achievement and every school needs them. But as Richard Gerver says: ‘No one learned anything by getting something right,’ - as true for adults as it is for children. They do not make us better; they do not improve schools or teachers.

Looking back on the children I have learned the most from, who have made me a better, kinder, problem solving and innovative teacher and leader, it is invariably those whose contributions, at the time, I welcomed less.

I look at some of our oldest previously looked after children, some now young adults, and they are the pride of my professional life. They have taught me there are few quick fixes. Adverse childhood experiences don’t evaporate just because we have been on a course or read a book. The training, reading and discussion are vital, they provide critical knowledge and understanding to steer a long course and enable us to have useful and kind conversations with children, parents and each other. But it’s relationships that make the big difference. And for children with insecure attachment and who have experienced trauma, relationships take time.

The children that have baffled and befuddled us are there in all their diverse glory: academic success; wowing us as part of the school band; taking on a solo part in a production; being a peer mentor to younger children; not purloining someone else’s snack. There is one boy I can picture now. At five, he left us with bruised legs, ankles and egos. This morning, aged ten, he greeted me as he does almost every morning: with a wide smile and a cheerful ‘good morning Ms Stewart’. I finish with him because his path through primary school sums up the single thing that is the same for all: Relationships. Achievement and success look different for everyone. But achievement and success are built on relationships - on kindness, trust and acceptance. And there is no league table for those.

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