In my eyes adopting a child is one of the most amazing things someone can ever do. To give a child a loving and stable family life is a gift beyond compare. For England's 6,000 children hoping to be adopted, every day is a desperate wait. Another day spent longing for the love and support that, through no fault of their own, they are currently being denied. Everyone involved with these brave children wants to see them all get the family they deserve. To make sure each of their dreams come true we need a system that gives them the chance at a new life as quickly and effectively as possible.
We want to work with the government to support this vulnerable section of our society. It's only through cooperation that we can halt the cycle of intergenerational offending and improve the future for these children. This is an issue that has been cast into the shadows for too long. It's time we brought it into the light.
I am awed by the inspirational carers who give a home to children who have often suffered so much and find the courage and empathy to give joy to young lives. The capacity to love, sheer generosity and genuine interest in caring for children that I have seen has given me hope that there are more people out there who care about those children who have no one.
Today as I start my new role as the chief executive of Barnardo's, the charity's purpose remains to transform the lives of the UK's most vulnerable children. Our vision is to realise Thomas Barnardo's dream of a world where no child is turned away from the help that they need.
We all want children and young people to feel safe and loved as they grow up, surrounded by people they can trust at time of innocence. Sadly for some the reality is very different. Children who become the victims of sexual predators who groom them, coerce and exploit them are left emotionally and physically scarred for life by these horrific experiences. They need careful support to help them towards recovery, provided by organisations like Barnardo's. Just as importantly, we need to take steps to stop these terrible crimes before they happen, and bring perpetrators to justice.
Young people leaving care are one of the most vulnerable groups in society, more likely to become homeless, be unemployed and spend time in prison. Some will have been subject to abuse or neglect, and as vulnerable young adults they are likely to need someone to turn to, even after they have turned 18. It is time to end the misery of living alone too young for vulnerable youngsters, by giving every child in care the chance to 'stay put' until they're 21 - not just those in foster care.
It would be naïve to suggest that we can completely eradicate child sexual exploitation. Like any other crime it will continue to be committed while there remain individuals intent on committing it. However what we can do is ensure that we put in place a legal framework that has the welfare of young victims at its heart. It is my hope that this inquiry will help to achieve this.
Young people leaving care are one of the most vulnerable groups in society, more likely to become homeless, be unemployed and spend time in prison. Some will have been subject to abuse or neglect, and as vulnerable young adults they are likely to need someone to turn to, even after they have turned 18.
I sometimes wonder whether we listen to children enough. Their world may seem like a mystery to us but young people today face pressures and dangers that we can't begin to comprehend. Through its specialist services Barnardo's works with more than a thousand sexually exploited children first hand. Many of these children have run away and are often incredibly vulnerable.