Careers: How I Got Here - Felicity Collier, CEO, British Association for Adoption and Fostering

What was your first job? I was a Saturday shop assistant in a department store.

What does your current role involve? My role is to provide strategic direction, front the organisation externally and secure its financial viability. I juggle media demands, meet funders, respond to the Government's consultations and reports and support BAAF's highly committed staff.

Roughly outline your career path. I left university early to have children and, while still in my twenties, joined the DHSS, assessing families applying for supplementary benefit. In the 1980s, I worked as a children's social worker, before moving to the Probation Service as a special juvenile and divorce court officer. I then became assistant chief probation officer in Oxfordshire and was appointed chief executive of BAAF in 1996.

What training most enhanced your career path? The MPhil that I did in social work in the early 1990s. My thesis was on women's career progression in the Probation Service. It helped me move on and I hope it helped other women too.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Helping to put adoption firmly on the political agenda as an important option for securing family life for children in care who cannot return home. Now we have an Adoption and Children Act and a new commitment to support for adoptive families.

We also have a recognition that successful adopters come from all backgrounds including unmarried, gay and lesbian couples.

What is your advice to people starting out in this sector? Remember that the charity sector has real freedom to say what it thinks and to make a difference. Value it and stick to your principles.

Are there any charities you support financially, or with time? I support my village conservation society and local hospice.

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