Our Executive


Annie Crombie, Chief Executive Officer

Annie joined CVAA as CEO in April 2015.  She began her career as a secondary school history teacher before joining the civil service where she worked in the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice.  Most recently she was Head of Early Years Funding; prior to that she was Head of Adoption Reform, overseeing the development of many of the reforms and legislative changes now being implemented in the adoption system.  Other roles include work on early intervention, youth justice and schools policy.


Alex Wylde, Head of Policy and Data Analysis

Alex joined CVAA in July 2015. He is currently responsible for the following areas:

– Working with system policymakers to maximise the contribution of the VAA sector in a regionalised adoption system;
– Developing and taking forward proposals for adoption funding reform;
– Oversight of all Adoption Leadership Board and CVAA data collection, analysis, and dissemination; and,
– Policy analyis and development for the Adoption Leadership Board.

Alex’s previous role at CVAA was as Grant Manager for the £12.5m DfE funded Expansion Grants programme to the VAA sector. He was responsible for measuring impact, analysing performance data, and tracking spend and progress against grant objectives. Before that he studied philosophy at the University of Southampton and King’s College London, and worked at the Department for Education in the Permanent Secretary’s Office.

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Jessica Southgate, Head of Strategy and Engagement

Jessica is CVAA’s Head of Strategy and Engagement. She leads CVAA’s work on practice and service impact, oversees the development and delivery of high quality services to members, and supports CVAA’s sustainability. She has over ten years’ experience in the voluntary sector in a variety of policy, development and engagement roles. Most recently she lead the Policy and Research strategy for a national children and families charity, and prior to that managed a national participation programme with young adults in the criminal justice system. She has a Masters in Gender, is a Griffins Society Fellow and a Trustee of Women’s Breakout.



Christine Smith, Practice Expert

Having commenced her career in Local Authority Social Services where she carried a generic caseload, Chris then worked predominantly with children and families, prior to developing a specialism in adoption and fostering.

Following a career break, Chris moved to the voluntary sector and for many years was employed at St Francis’ Children’s Society, a Voluntary Adoption Agency. She became CEO of that organisation, rated Outstanding by Ofsted, and whilst there was involved in the development of several areas of innovative practice, including work with young adoptees, recruitment of black and dual heritage adopters, and provision of independent counselling services to birth relatives of children being adopted from care.

After ‘retiring’ from full time work, Chris has continued to chair a Local Authority Adoption Panel. She took up an interim post as Director of the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies in 2010 and held that position until 2014, working alongside Norman Goodwin and Mark Owers as members of the CVAA Leadership Team. In that role she contributed to the adoption reform programme as a member of the Implementation Group and the National Recruitment Forum. Chris was delighted to hand over leadership responsibilities to Mark Owers when he became full time CEO of CVAA in 2014. She then took on the role of Grant Manager when CVAA was successful in becoming the body responsible for managing the £13.5m DfE Expansion Grant programme. Chris holds a first degree from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, a Diploma in Social Work from the University of Leicester and a Masters Degree in Social Services Management from the University of Birmingham.

Outside of her work, Chris is Chair of the trustees of a small charity involved in supporting the University of Malawi to establish a social work degree programme. Personally she enjoys walking and travel, and being a grandparent.


Chris Briggs, Finance Manager

Chris Briggs is the Chief Finance and Operating Officer of Caritas Care, a voluntary adoption agency covering the North West of England where she oversees the charity’s central support services which includes Finance, HR, Administration, ICT, Data Analysis, Properties and is also the charity’s Health and Safety Lead.

Since 2008 Chris has supported CVAA in the management of its finances through the preparation of the Charity’s financial accounts, budgets and latterly in the facilitation of the financial elements of the Department of Educations Expansion Grant programme.


Helena Newton, Business Intelligence Manager

Helena is the Business Intelligence Manager for the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA) UK. She has an extensive background in data warehousing, development and analysis, with over 10 years experience working as a data manager within the Third sector, Private Sector, and for Local Governments.

Helena has a passion for numbers and is committed to ensure that data is used effectively across the sector to recognise performance, inform strategy and drive the business forward.

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Simon Nudds, Data analysis

Simon’s role at the CVAA is to aid the collection of data relating to adoption from VAAs and LAs and to interrogate this data to provide additional insights to help the sector understand trends and anticipate needs. Simon joined the CVAA from PACT, where he built and led their Adopter Champion Team – a group of experienced adopters who raise awareness about adoption and help other adopters through the process. Previously he worked in media and marketing data analysis, his last role in this field being as the Director of Media Analytics for the Nielsen Company’s Online division. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. Simon’s interest and enthusiasm for adoption is personal, being an adoptive parent.


Leah Mair, Policy and Business Support Officer

Leah is a Policy and Business Support Officer at CVAA. She works on the practice excellence grant, and organises network events. Before joining the CVAA Leah was living in the Netherlands, where she earned a Master’s degree in European Studies at the University of Amsterdam. She also has a bachelor’s degree in History from Newcastle University.