An inspiration

Liz Garrett reflects on the life of Anne Van
Meeuwen an influential figure in child care who touched the lives
of many.

Anne Van Meeuwen, principal officer policy and
practice at Barnardo’s, died on Sunday 28 October. She was 50.

Anne had worked for Barnardo’s since July
1994. She began her career as a social worker with Hampshire
Council in 1972 and remained there until she moved to Newham
Council, in east London, as manager of the adoption team in

In her years at Newham, Anne developed
specialist knowledge of adoption and fostering and for some periods
acted as principal officer for the fostering and adoption sections.
Her period in Newham coincided with huge change across services
including the implementation of the Children Act 1989. In that
period she supported the adoption panel and made links with the
post-adoption centre.

After 15 years with Newham Anne moved to
Barnardo’s where she held the role of adviser to Barnardo’s
adoption committee and was lead policy adviser on family placement
issues. When I worked in Newham, Anne had just moved on to
Barnardo’s but the respect and fondness in which she was held and
the work that she had accomplished was immediately evident.

Anne was only told after the appointment that
the role she held in Barnardo’s also encompassed policy support to
child care services, including work on child sexual abuse. With no
previous specialist experience in this field she responded to this
responsibility with the commitment, interest and discipline that
was typical of her. During her years with Barnardo’s she became as
knowledgeable in that field as in adoption and fostering.

Anne managed development staff for Barnardo’s
work with children abused through prostitution. Along with her
co-workers she led the two influential campaigns on that issue. The
Whose Daughter Next? report, published in 1998, and the
accompanying public awareness campaign helped alert the public and
policy makers alike to the issue of young girls being coerced into
selling sex. And this year a campaign and report about the abuse of
boys and young men titled No Son of Mine was published.

The campaign about the abuse of young women
had tangible success in helping change legislation and guidance and
influencing professional practice and public awareness. Such
achievements are typical of Anne’s commitment to work to improve
outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.

Anne’s work on both family placement and child
sexual abuse typically involved skilled and effective networking
with influence at the highest levels and work in many groups and
coalitions. Among those were Ecpat (End child prostitution,
pornography and trafficking), the coalition for internet safety and
a campaign to prevent sexual abuse titled “Stop it now”. Anne was
also a member of the executive committee of the Consortium of
Voluntary Adoption Agencies and the British Association of Adoption
and Fostering advisory group, and had been on the committee of the
Post Adoption Centre.

In her work at Newham and Barnardo’s, Anne
responded to numerous government consultations, contributed to
policy development and managed the implementation of procedures and
practice always with the rights and welfare of children as her
first concern. She contributed to many publications and acted as an
expert reader on others. She was, up to the time of her death,
jointly editing a book about Barnardo’s work with black and ethnic
minority communities, which will be published later this year.

Anne’s work directly touched the lives of many
individual children through progressing adoption and fostering
placements and indirectly benefited the lives of many more through
her influence on legislation and guidance. She was also a regular
voice in print and broadcasts, representing Barnardo’s views to the

She was someone who was held in the highest
regard within Barnardo’s and outside, being respected and liked by
everyone she worked with. She was a committed professional with
clear values who worked hard and inspired her colleagues. She was a
happy and supportive influence to those of us who knew her as a
close working colleague, manager or friend. Her death is a huge
shock and sad loss to us all and our thoughts and feelings are with
her husband Rob at this sad time. CC

– A family funeral is to be arranged, and
colleagues and friends are invited to a celebration of Anne’s life
which will take place at Barnardo’s church, Tanners Lane,
Barkingside, Essex IG6 1QG on Friday 16 November at 3pm. For
details call Barnardo’s on 020 8498 7735.

Liz Garrett is head of policy,


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