Inspirational, enlightening and empowering – these are just some of the words used to describe the Adoption UK Annual Conference 2019 by those who attended.

Held at the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate on 9th November, the event saw adopters, prospective adopters and professionals come together to share stories, challenges and triumphs, make valuable new connections and learn from the experts and each other.

The conference was buzzing with positivity and shared experience.

Expert speakers based their talks on the theme of Stronger Families Brighter Futures and delegates also enjoyed specialist workshops, insights from a panel of young adoptees and a theatre workshop for children and young people.

AUK Chief Executive Dr Sue Armstrong Brown kicked off the day with a roundup of some of the fantastic work Adoption UK has been doing over the past year and some of the exciting things we are about to start. She also told the audience that 80 per cent of adoptive families who responded to our Adoption Barometer survey would recommend adoption to others despite some of the challenges they have faced.

Joanne Alper of Adoptionplus was the first speaker of the day and set the tone perfectly by considering the theme of vulnerability. Joanne gave a personal illustration of ways in which she sometimes feels exposed.

She encouraged parents to embrace and accept vulnerability as it allows flexibility – a vital part of building resilience. She talked about the importance of self compassion and reminded parents to know their tribe, be kind to themselves and to stay curious.

As ever, the adoptee panel was one of the most popular parts of the day. There were many tears in the room as adoptees Martin, Lara, Louise and Nellie spoke powerfully about some of the challenges young adoptees can face and some of the things that can help meet those challenges. Themes that came up were friendships, school, trust, communication and learning to regulate feelings. Things the young people have found most helpful are connecting with other adoptees, pets, and supportive parents who never give up on them. The youngsters received a standing ovation.

Dr Dave Williams, an adviser to Welsh government on children’s mental health, talked about how resilience really comes from feeling supported and voiced his belief that there is currently too much focus on saving a “drowning” person and not enough focus on teaching that person how to swim.

He gave parents the popular reminder that 100% (getting everything right all the time as a child or a parent) is not the pass mark!

Delegates took part in workshops on life story work, therapeutic parenting, parenting teens, music therapy, FASD, sleep therapy and home education.

In the afternoon adult adoptee Simon London spoke honestly and humorously about his adoption experience, explaining how he has overcome adversity by always looking forward and developing the ability to move on.  This was the first time Simon had ever spoken publicly about being adopted and the audience was captivated.

The presentation from clinical psychologist Dr Marie Kershaw centred around the theme of hope and reminded us of the importance of overcoming trauma’s ability to keeps us stuck and to define us. Marie told parents they can hold on to their children’s hope for them until they feel able to take control of it again themselves.

Adopter Roz, who attended the conference with her husband and son said: “For us it’s about reconnecting with people and remembering that you are part of a community. I’ve been able to share my experience with others and I feel like I have contributed to the learning taking place in the room.

This is my fifth conference and my husband’s fourth and it’s local to us this year. We’ve been able to bring our son this time which has been amazing.”

Next year’s conference takes place in Bristol on 10th October. Tickets will be on sale again in the Spring, but in the meantime if you'd like more information about our 2020 conference please get in touch: [email protected]