Find out more about who will be speaking at the 2021 Adoption UK Annual Conference

Eamon McCrory

Eamon McCroryEamon is Director of Education and Training at the Anna Freud Centre and Co-Director of the UK Trauma Council. He is also Professor of Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology and Co-Director of the Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit at UCL. His research uses brain imaging and psychological approaches to investigate the impact of childhood maltreatment on emotional development and mental health. The long-term aim of his work is to understand how and why mental health problems can unfold following early adversity, and how we might intervene to promote more resilient outcomes for children.

In this talk, Childhood Trauma and the Brain: What have we learnt from neuroscience, Prof. McCrory will review the current evidence from the field, highlighting the complex relationship between the brain, childhood trauma, the social world, and mental health alongside implications for prevention. 

Dr Amber Elliott

Dr Amber Elliott is Director of the Child Psychology Service and best selling author of ‘Why can’t my child behave’ and Superparenting  

Amber is a specialist in psychological support for Adopted and Children Looked After, developmental trauma and is a Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) consultant and trainer (in training). She is also trained in NVR, Theraplay and Systemic Family Therapy and a passionate advocate for Empathic Behaviour Management. 

In 2011, Amber set up The Child Psychology Service CIC, of which she is the sole Director. TCPS is a Social Enterprise which provides systemically empathic, psychological support for traumatised children and the adults around them. 

Amber’s first book, ‘Why Can’t My Child Behave? Empathic Parenting Strategies that Work for Adoptive and Foster Families’ was published in 2013, with the follow up ‘Superparenting!: Boost Your Therapeutic Parenting Through Ten Transformative Steps’ published in 2021.  

Amber has over twenty years’ experience in the NHS and Local Authorities. She is a Chartered Psychologist, Chartered Scientist, an Associate Fellow of theBritish Psychological Society, on the Register of Approved Psychology Practice Supervisors and she is regulated by theHealth and Care Professions Council. She is also a slightly frazzled mum to two young children. 

This keynote will address our parenting defaults, why our attachment to reward-punishment thinking is so strong and how those defaults compare and contrast with (necessarily imperfect) therapeutic parenting. Most importantly Amber will highlight the practical mind-set shifts that make a difference to our children.

Michael Welch

Dr Michael Welch OBE founded, the world’s 1st ‘click to fit’ online tyre retailer, in 2002, selling the business to Michelin in 2015. 

Michael started his career aged 15 in Liverpool as a tyre installer with a local independent dealer before starting his first online tyre business 2 years later in 1995 following redundancy. He subsequently sold that business to UK fast-fit chain Kwik Fit. In 2019, Michael turned his attention to the US tyre market with his new venture, In 2021 Tirescanner merged with to create one of America’s largest online tyre retailers.

Michael is a fostered and adopted person and in 2015 established The Welch Trust focusing on supporting children & young people in need of adoption and fostering, as well as kids with critical and terminal illnesses. The Trust recently built its first ‘The Welch Learning Centre’, a school computer and library service for children in Bali, Indonesia. In May of this year The Welch Trust partnered with the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity and NHS Lothian to bring MRI-guided Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy (LITT) to Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Children and Young People (RHCYP)- the first time this laser technology will be available in Scotland. Michael also sits on the board and is a Patron of The Prince's Trust, the principal charity of HRH The Prince of Wales. 

Michael was awarded an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) by the HM Queen Elizabeth ll in 2016 for services to business and voluntary service to adoption and fostering. He was also honoured as a Dr of Enterprise from Edinburgh’s Napier University.

Education Panel

Alison Parkinson

Alison has worked for Adoption UK since 2012 as part of the Training and Education Advisory group and as a contract trainer delivering the Learning Connect programme in Scotland and North of England; for Adoption UK in Scotland since 2018 as Helpline Adviser and since 2020 as Training Lead. She is a scientist by background but spent the first 22 years of her career in Health and Safety, initially as an inspector with the Health and Safety Executive and then lecturing in Further Education.

She is married to John, and they adopted 5-year-old twins in 2004. Their family’s varied and challenging(!) school education journeys necessitated her extensive self-education programme on the Scottish education system and she is still committed to supporting other adoptive families in navigating the choppy waters of school.

Melernie Meheux

Dr Melernie Meheux is a Chartered Senior Educational Psychologist, working within a Local Authority, and has worked with Adopted and Children Looked After throughout her 18 years working within education. Melernie is a Certified Play Therapist and a joint Year Co-ordinator on the doctoral training course for Educational Psychologists, at University College London (UCL), Institute of Education.

Melernie is co-chair of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Child and Educational Psychology (DECP) and chair of the board of trustees for the charity Solidarity Sports, a charity which supports vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their families to access play opportunities and improve their long-term life outcomes. 

Melernie has written for and featured in a number of media publications and books relating to her professional interests, which include attachment, the social, emotional and mental health of children and supporting children who have been excluded or are at risk of permanent school exclusion. She is passionate about equitability and improving outcomes for all the children and families that she works with.

Rebecca Brooks

Rebecca Brooks is Adoption UK’s Education Policy Advisor, an adoptive mum of two, and author of ‘The Trauma and Attachment-Aware Classroom’. Formerly, she was a secondary school teacher and a foster carer.

Sharon Williams

Sharon Williams was recently appointed as the Chair for the Wales Advisory Group, Sharon is an adoptive parent of 2 teenagers and has worked for over 25 years in the areas of education, inclusion, mental health, careers advice & guidance. For the last 4 years she has been leading on the Wellbeing and Equity agenda for the education consortia in North Wales. In addition Sharon is also responsible for the Pupil Development Grant for children who are looked after. Her passion is to improve children’s learning, equity and wellbeing with the long-term aim to support all educational establishments to become trauma informed. Sharon is a firm believer in self-care and enjoys mountain and hill walking and keeping fit.

Fiona Templeton

Fiona has worked as a contract trainer for Adoption UK for many years, delivering ‘Let’s Learn Together’ in schools and ‘Considering Sibling Adoption’ to prospective and current adopters. Fiona’s background is in education having taught for 13 years, 10 of which she was the Head of Religious Education. Following the adoption of her two boys in 2009, Fiona left teaching and began a journey of learning about adoption and in particular the impact of childhood trauma on a child’s development and ability to navigate the school system.

From 2017-2020 Fiona had the opportunity to complete a Masters in Development and Co-Production of Social Care Research, funded by the Health and Social Care Board in Northern Ireland. As part of this course Fiona conducted a research study entitled ‘My Experience of School – The Perspective of Adopted Young people Aged 16-21’. The findings of the research have been published in the peer reviewed journal, Pastoral Care in Education. Completing the Masters has also led to a career change for Fiona who now works as a Junior Research Analyst for Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

Fiona is married to Alan and along with their two boys also have three cats, two donkeys and lots of fish!

Kim Rihal

Kim is the co-founder of Equal Education, an ambitious and growing social enterprise targeting inequality in education around the globe.

Equal Education wants to see a society where no young person is disadvantaged, sidelined or disempowered by the circumstances of their upbringing. They work only with children in care, adopted or children with special education needs and disabilities and help vulnerable children to access the same opportunity and carry the same aspiration as everyone else so that they can fulfil their potential and enrich and advance our world.

Her experience is rooted in senior leadership teams and headship of two inner-city London schools.

Kim has been recognised by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as a prominent educator and rising prospect to tackle some of our most difficult education problems in London. She has been invited to the Mayor's International Programme where she has spoken in 3 different continents about her work.

She is passionate not just about social mobility but social justice.

Adopted Persons' Panel

Sally Donovan - Chair

Sally is the author of the adoption memoir No Matter What and The Unofficial Guide to Therapeutic Parenting. She edits Adoption Today and collaborates with a group - The No Matter What, that holds events and training for therapeutic families. Her latest book, The Strange and Curious Guide to Trauma is written for children and will be published next year. In 2018 Sally was awarded an OBE.

Ans Aspden

Ans is a volunteer with Adoption UK Cymru.

Ans was born in Cardiff and placed into foster care at birth; she was adopted by a loving family as an infant and grew up in Swansea valley.  After 12 years of searching, Ans met both her father and mother’s side of her birth family again when she was in her early 30s.  She traced her mother with thanks to a taxi driver! 

Today, Ans lives in Cardiff with her husband Dave; 5 children, 3 grandchildren and 2 dogs.

Ans runs an adult adoptee group who meet online monthly, it’s an informal get-together where talk is open and in confidence. Whether in the process of searching, discovering or simply sharing feelings, it's a friendly place to turn and all are welcome.

Ans is passionate about having an open conversation around adoption and is keen to continue exploring ways of capturing learning and sharing knowledge between fellow adult adoptees and adopters.

Carol Hunter

Carol is an adult living with FASD and was adopted at a young age. She is a mum of three and works within the college sector as a guidance adviser as well as studying for a MA Crime and Justice with the Open University. Carol volunteers with the FASD Hub Scotland, Children’s Hearings Scotland and Open University promoting the voice of care experienced individuals and adults living with FASD Carol is passionate about widening participation and supporting individuals to reach their full potential. Carol is also the part-time Community and Engagement Lead with Adoption UK.


Christina is a support volunteer for Adoption UK and runs one of the support groups for adoptive parents in the Hampshire area.  

Christina was put up for adoption at a young age, where she was then placed into foster care until she was adopted by a loving family and grew up in Hampshire.  

Today, Christina works as a Business Development Manager and in her spare time is passionate about helping to support adopted people or adoptive parents going through the adoption process.  


Pete is a musician, a conservationist and an adopted person. He lives in the south-west of England with his partner. He is of mixed heritage and was adopted into a white family as a baby.


Steven Panter

Steven Panter is a Safeguarding and Mental Health Manager and also care and child protection experienced.

Steven was taken into care at aged four after suffering, physical, emotional and racist abuse at the hands of his stepfather. He was adopted by his foster carers at the age of 10 but suffered similar abuse in the adoptive home.

Steven found himself homeless at 16 with no qualifications or a permanent place to live. He went on to succeed at college and university, travel the world and forge a successful career supporting vulnerable children and adolescents and raising a family of his own.

Steven is looking forward to sharing his story as a child and young person who experienced adoption and fostering and to also discuss the often-overlooked reality of adoption for some children. He wants to support adopters and also share his unique experience from both a personal and professional perspective.

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