Lynn Charlton MBE, After Adoption

Lynn has been in post since 2006 having previously held the role of Director of Operations and UK Development with the charity. Originally from a social work and counselling background, Lynn has specialised in adoption and permanency since 1987 and, since that time, has worked with all groups touched by adoption and adoption support, from birth parents and adoptive families, to children of all ages in the care system. She is also an experienced trainer and co-author of ‘Still Screaming,’ a pioneering book looking at the perspective of birth parents in adoption.

The Interview

After Adoption began in Manchester in 1990 providing adoption support services and became a Voluntary Adoption Agency in 2000, providing a full range of adoption services nationally in England and Wales. We help adopted children who have experienced a difficult start in life by supporting their adoptive families; we help those who have been adopted throughout their lifetime and we also offer a mediation service for families affected by adoption, plus more. We’re here to help people in all situations affected by adoption.

What is After Adoption’s proudest achievement?

For me it is growing the service in terms of its range and delivery of national offers such as SafeBase: a therapeutic parenting programme. It is a great achievement as it demonstrates how well we function as an organisation when it comes to getting things done.

The majority of charities grow organically, yet we set out to not only produce good ideas but to think strategically in meeting our aims and moving from idea to implementation. There is a very professional ethos to After Adoption.

What role do charities play in the modern society?

Charities fill an important role in society in meeting the needs that are not met by a private or public service. Charities are crucial for our social fabric and ensuring the most vulnerable don’t slip under the safety net.

I’m very passionate about charity leaders using their influence to help people and underprivileged groups. I see it as our responsibility to speak up and constantly engage with decision makers to make the world a better place.

After Adoption is here to serve and protect some of the most vulnerable members in our society: children. However we recognise the effect adoption has on the family unit and understand the importance of good adoption support to make placements a success.

We ensure that our support isn’t done in a way that stigmatizes people or leaves them feeling exposed. Nurturing good relationships is a fundamental part of what we do.

How central are organisational values and good behavioural standards to After Adoption?

They are both absolutely key. The most important thing is passion: we want people who are passionate about our purpose and goals. Find the passion and you invariably find high levels of motivation and willingness to embrace the organisation’s aims and values.

We are a not-for-profit organisation, which makes us a little different than a commercial enterprise as everything goes back into the business. This helps maintain motivation among staff because they know it is a good cause. It helps with building a good culture and is responsive to our needs and creative in engineering ways to manage resources effectively when funding is finite.

As a leader, I see it as my responsibility to involve staff in the bigger picture and educate them on how their day-to-day work benefits our overall aims. I think this is vital for challenging staff to grow and develop their decision making for the benefit of the charity.

After Adoption are the recipient of Investors in People Gold, signifying excellence in employee engagement and development. What are your secrets?

We have a diverse workforce and consider ourselves an inclusive organisation. We regularly take on graduates and offer them training and development opportunities.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we also have a large group of volunteers some of whom are in their 70/80s. Our multigenerational workforce is a good representation of society.

Other secrets include a workforce who are proud to work for After Adoption; a culture of self-evaluation that extends all the way up to the CEO and directors; clear working plans that connect individual responsibilities to the overall strategy; strong internal communication that keeps everyone updated on what is happening in the organisation; plus mountains of creativity and diversity that give us that edge when it comes to getting attention and reinforcing positivity.

How important it to work with the local business community?

Working with the business community is a big part of what we do, particularly in Manchester. Our aim is to form reciprocal relationships with businesses of all sizes, where benefits flow both ways. Business partnerships are not just about money, but real synergies and connections based on mutual aims.

Right now we are looking for a business to help us get our trading ambitions off the ground. We lack the skill set to launch an After Adoption store and are in need of someone who can help us develop- in the areas of retail expertise, volunteer management and retail funding.

How do you go about achieving wider public engagement?

Engagement is not just about raising money. We prefer to approach engagement on three levels: 1. Building our profile in the right areas 2. Participating with the wider community 3. Fundraising. As I previously mentioned, engagement is not a one way street, and we need to work together with our stakeholders to build up confidence and to get them inspired about what we are trying to achieve. It is all about reciprocity.

What is the future for After Adoption?

There are a number of exciting ventures, from our work in schools to scaling up our services from regional to national. After Adoption is a great charity and I’m proud to be a part of it. Keep your eyes peeled for new adventures in 2016. For more information on After Adoption and Lynn Charlton, please visit the After Adoption website.

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