St. David’s chief executive: Gerry Cooney, speaking at the opening of the Hereford adoption service office

We are delighted that the Mayor and Mrs Tawn have joined us today kindly agreeing to open our new Hereford office. Thank you for affording us this time and for acknowledging the Society’s contribution to adoption services. It feels the Mayor has a natural affinity to adoption, reflected in the fact that he is with us today and also in that he choose SSAFA as one of his charities of the year. For over 30 years SSAFA has provided a range of family support services, including adoption services to members of the armed services across the UK, N Ireland and Germany.

As the Mayor referenced, in our 72 year history, St. David’s has placed over 2,000 children for adoption. Our work continues. Last year we placed, 45 children with new families and anticipate placing a similar number this year.

I would like to thank our adoption team for the exceptionally high degree of support they provide to children and families at all stage of the adoption process. A very sincere thanks to our Deputy Director, Joan Price and our adoption managers, whose leadership and professionalism have been instrumental in shaping and maintaining the quality of these services, and also to Helen and Chris Stevens, whose support in the opening of this office has been immense.

We warmly welcome the representatives of Herefordshire Co Co who are here today and in particular the social work practitioners of the Hereford adoption team. We share your mission and commitment. We look forward to working with you, learning from you and believe that in working together we can achieve ever greater outcomes for children awaiting adoption.

Across the country, some children wait far too long to achieve their optimum placement, particularly children over 4 years of age and sibling groups of children. Many have been neglected and ill treated. Most have had their attachments disrupted or experienced changes of schools which negatively impacts upon their education. The task facing us all is to help each of these children achieve their own unique story.

As social workers, we are custodians of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention advocating that each child has the right to a name, an identity, a life of stability and security, a place called home. Article 21 of the Convention reflects that where children cannot be looked after by their birth family, adoption may be considered as an alternative means of achieving family life. We recognise that adoption may not be the right option for every child, but for those children who require an adoption placement, it is a tremendously successful option. Adoption research consistently evidences that with support, children thrive in adoption placements.

Yet we would achieve very little by way of our mission, if it was not for the support of people in our communities who year after year, come forward to adopt children. We are privileged to have quite a number of adoptive families here today, including Jenny who spoke so movingly of her family’s adoption journey. More than anything else, it is the enduring love and lifelong commitment of adoptive families that creates safe, secure and loving worlds for these children. It is through you that these children reclaim all that was lost. We trust that in opening this office, we will reach out to more families like you. Thank you.

Gerry Cooney
Chief Executive

Mayor of Hereford, Cllr Len Tawn speaking at the opening of St. David’s office in Hereford

I am delighted to have been invited to the official opening of these new offices and to be part of such an important day for all those who work for St David’s Children’s Society and their partners.

It was wonderful to listen to the story Jenny, a local adoptive family who so movingly spoke about their experience of adoption, in particular, hearing of the immense joy of a vulnerable child entering and becoming part of their family. It was a privilege to listen and share in this journey and the important part that St David’s played in orchestrating it.

Since 1942 St. David’s Children Society has provided adoption services across all of Herefordshire and Wales. During that time the Society has placed over 2,000 children for adoption – a very significant contribution to children and family life. Perhaps, the quality of their services is most evident in their very low adoption breakdown rates – two disruptions in their last 100 placements. This is all the more remarkable given that the Society specialises in placing older children and sibling groups of children for adoption. It is also evidenced by the fact that BAAF (the British Agencies for Adoption & Fostering) has awarded St. David’s the accolade of being one of the top three outstanding voluntary adoption agencies in the UK.

Hereford City and the County of Herefordshire have a great tradition of positively responding to the needs of children waiting for adoption. It is good to see prospective adopters being offered greater choice as they explore and reflect on their decision to adopt. Securing permanence for children is a key consideration from the day the each child enters the care system. We are all aware that there are a number of routes to permanency: through reunification with the child’s family, through fostering, Special Guardianship Orders and ultimately through adoption. Across England, over 4,000 children wait for adoption placements. Against this backdrop, the opening of this office is wholeheartedly welcomed and can only be good for children.

It is great to welcome social work practitioners from our Hereford adoption team to this event, evidence of the ever greater collaborative working together between the public and voluntary sectors. All share the same aim, to secure loving family life for all of these children who wait for permanent families.

I applaud the commitment and energy St David’s has in securing adoptive placements for some of our older children who have been let down for whatever reason and find themselves within the care system, and also for providing the specialised lifelong services they need. You are very welcome to Hereford and we wish you every success in your vital work.

Mayor of Hereford, Cllr Len Tawn
3rd November 2014