National Adoption Week – A portrait of adoption through the generations

As part of One Adoption South Yorkshire, the regional adoption agency for South Yorkshire councils, we’re supporting this year’s National Adoption Week, which seeks to show how adoption has changed through the decades.  

In South Yorkshire, there are currently 61 children of all ages who are waiting for a safe, loving, permanent home, so the agency is also keen to encourage potential adopters to come forward to change the lives of these children. 

To mark the launch of National Adoption Week, which runs from 16 to 22 October, a powerful set of portraits captured by royal, fashion and portrait photographer Philip Sinden - who was adopted himself in the 1970s - have been released. 

The portraits show striking imagery of eight different people who were adopted between the 1960s and 2010s. Each individual portrait features a backdrop of emotive and poignant words that bring to life how adoption has shaped and continues to shape their lives and highlights how adoption has changed over the years. 

The portraits have been released alongside a new short film captured during the photoshoot and hears first-hand the group’s different experiences – challenging misconceptions about what adoption looks like today. 

Through these powerful stories of adopted people across different generations, this campaign aims to shine a spotlight the positive impact adoption has had on the individuals’ lives, and the strides made in the sector to put children and their sense of identity at the heart of the adoption journey. Whilst recognising the challenges they have faced along the way; the new campaign brings to life the transformational power of a permanent family home.  

The stories of the different people captured on the day highlight how adoption has changed. Historically, adoption was often seen as secretive and hidden, with little information and support provided to help adopted people understand their history and keep connections with their birth family. However, it is now considered vital that adopted people have a good understanding of their history and the reason why they were adopted to help form a positive sense of identity.  

Councillor Trevor Cave, Cabinet spokesperson for Children’s Services, said: “I’m delighted we’re able to support One Adoption South Yorkshire in this year’s National Adoption Week campaign. 

“We’re looking for families from all backgrounds who can offer a permanent, caring, forever home to children who may not have had the best start in life. By shining a light on the real-life stories of adoptees across the last 50 years, we hope to show how adoption has changed and help reshape perceptions towards modern adoption. 

“By increasing understanding about adoption today, we hope to encourage people to find out more and see how they can help change a child’s life.” 

There is still a huge need for more people to come forward to adopt, with a 23 per cent decline nationally in the proportion of children leaving care via adoption over the last five years - last year (2022), 2,950 children left care via adoption, 900 less than in 2018.  

In South Yorkshire, the majority of children waiting for adoption (56 per cent) come from specific groups who repeatedly face the longest delays in finding a home. These groups include children aged five or over, children with additional and/or complex needs, brother and sister groups, and those from an ethnic minority background.  

Stephanie Evans, head of One Adoption South Yorkshire said: “Here at One Adoption South Yorkshire we are proud to support this year’s National Adoption Week. It is not only a chance to celebrate modern adoption and hear the voices of all people who have experienced adoption across the generations; it is also an opportunity to highlight adoption as an option for some of our most vulnerable children in the region. We support anyone considering adoption as a pathway to creating a family and welcome them to contact us to find out more. 

“We are always particularly keen to hear from people who could offer a safe and loving home to a group of brothers and sisters, a child with additional health needs or an older child, all who tend to wait the longest for a forever family.” 

Isabelle (adopted in the 1980s), who features in the film alongside her adopted son Nathanial (adopted in the 2010s), said: “Having been adopted myself, and then going on to adopt my two children, I know the importance of having an open dialogue around adoption. 

“I want my kids to grow up knowing where they came from, and where possible, maintaining contact with their birth families. I didn’t know about my birth mother until I was much older, meaning I always had questions about my identity and history. 

“Adoption is not a line in the sand between one life and another. It is something that should be open and celebrated – and I’m passionate about doing that with both my children.” 

Sarah Johal, member of the National Adoption Recruitment Steering Group and National Adoption Strategic lead, said: “This campaign shares the individual stories of people who have been adopted across the generations. Adoption has changed over the years and originally this was shrouded in secrecy and sometimes adopted children were not told about being adopted. 

“When children cannot be safely cared for within their birth or extended family, adoption provides the security and permanence for children to help them thrive as adults. Nowadays, most children are adopted from care, and they have life story work to help them understand their history and many have ongoing connections with their birth family.”  

During the week, the One Adoption South Yorkshire team will be hosting an online information event on Wednesday, 18 October at 4.30pm, where the team and an adoptive parent will be on hand to answer any questions.  

You can find out more about the event and adopting with One Adoption South Yorkshire, your local council adoption service, by visiting or calling the team on 0345 002 0012.  

One Adoption South Yorkshire brings together adoption services from Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield, all working collectively to find homes for children from across the region. 

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