How did you become involved with adoption and Adoption UK?

My wife and I adopted our son 10 years ago after he lived with us for one year on a fostering basis. We became involved with Adoption UK through attending the parenting course, ‘A Piece of Cake’, now called ‘Parenting our Children’, which we found extremely helpful in understanding the reasons behind our son’s behaviour. We also attended our local AUK support group and after about a year I was asked to became the volunteer co-ordinator for this group. I agreed to do so as I wanted to give something back to AUK for the help and support they had given to us. I was asked to join the AUK Advisory Group in Northern Ireland three years ago and have been the Chair of that group for the past 18 months.

Any specific skills or areas of expertise relevant to the work of Adoption UK? 

My role as a volunteer support group co-ordinator and lived experience as an adoptive parent has given me insight into the needs of adoptive families. I worked for 11 years as a Senior Commissioner responsible for commissioning community-based health and social care services. This role has given me knowledge and experience of health and social care systems and the relationships between the Department of Health, commissioning bodies and provider organisations. It also has also given me extensive experience of financial management and corporate governance. I currently sit as an independent member of my local Trust Adoption Panel whose job it is to assess the suitability of prospective adopters, decide whether adoption is in a child’s best interests and to match children with suitable prospective adopters. I think that this experience and the knowledge and skills I have gained within the statutory / public sector are transferable to my role as Trustee.

How do you want to see Adoption UK develop over the next five years?

I would like to see all adoptive families becoming members of AUK and benefiting from that membership through peer support, training and counselling where appropriate. Based on my own experience of the TESSA programme (Therapeutic Education and Support Service in Adoption) in Northern Ireland, I think the roll out of this programme to other UK nations would be an invaluable resource to adoptive families (and teachers and social workers who could refer into the service) and I would like to see this become widespread in the next five years. I would also like more teachers and social workers in particular to see the benefit of having closer links with AUK in terms of the training and professional development opportunities that AUK can for developing their own knowledge of early childhood trauma and neglect and the impact that this can have on children and their adoptive families. I would therefore like to see more widespread professional and corporate membership uptake with the ultimate result of having social service providers and schools that are more understanding and appreciative of the needs of adoptive families.