Begin with the end in mind

As I write my final ADCS blog as Immediate Past President and prepare to hand over my final ADCS baton to our current President at the end of March, one phrase keeps going round my head “Begin with the end in mind!” Why? Because it is a message in one of the leadership books I have used the most, which is Steven Covey’s “7 habits of highly effective people”. He focuses on goals and values and beginning with the end in mind by asking what you would want people to say about you at your funeral! It’s all about purposeful living now as well as purposeful leadership.

When I took on my first ADCS role as chair of the Health, Care & Additional Needs Policy Committee in 2016, I had no thoughts at all about what I would want to look back on when that time came to an end. I was full of passion and ideas about making a difference in respect of children in care, working with heath partners on more effective support for children with mental health needs, looking at better outcomes for children with disabilities, plus learning from inspirational ADCS colleagues. I wanted to hear the views of children and young people and be able to show we had responded. Looking back now, those themes are predictably still hot topics! I had no idea then that my ADCS journey would take me to being President during the second half of Covid and to working intensively with those leading the reform papers that are now the bedrock of Stable Homes Built On Love. I had no idea of the frustration I would feel at how slowly change happens or how some reforms that made so much sense then get quietly shelved.

Since I took on that first role, I have been overwhelmed by the purpose and passion of the ADCS commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes for children and families. Our end in mind is that all children, regardless of their needs, have loving, fulfilled and happy childhoods where they also learn to deal with the challenges that life brings. Of course, there can never be an end, and that vision can never be complete, just extended. The Association has always recognised that children and their families need different levels of support to achieve that vision. We hold onto the commitment for “A country that works for all children”, through a range of strong policy papers and analysis based on constant learning. We do intense work with national government and partners to drive change and exert influence for those commitments, intense work in policy committees and at regional and local level to learn from what works and to support each other in adversity. Over the years our shared understanding of what works has grown thanks to feedback and learning from young people, plus strong leadership and excellent research and practice development supported by key partners.

During Covid, we talked about unprecedented times and none of us want to go back there. The reality of post Covid has shown the damage to children and their families at a scale that is overwhelming: levels of poverty, deprivation and suffering that are devastating and a crisis of local government funding that threatens our actual survival. It is grit, commitment, and a belief that things can be different that keeps us going, plus a set of national reforms that if delivered (and properly funded) may make a real difference. Children need stable homes built on love, they need the best inclusive and creative education, and they need the right access to health support at the time that they need it. Without investment, plus a national commitment across government departments to prioritise children and tackle poverty, we will remain scavenging for crumbs among other priorities.

No one person can tackle the scale of this challenge but as a collective we are always stronger. This work is not the work of one year, or even ten, but the work of a lifetime and of a brilliant ADCS that sees people come and go but sustains and continues to grow its work and its collective purpose. We must never give up; our children’s time is now!

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