The Channel 4 drama Kiri has brought the focus onto social workers in the mainstream media. The lead social worker, portrayed by Sarah Lancashire, is a confusing character and I am still not sure if she is intended to be a hero, antihero, both, or neither. Perhaps that will be made clearer once the series concludes.
But the programme has raised debate about the role of social workers, especially those working with families and children. The critics have taken their shots, but the apologists are struggling to defend a profession that cannot deal in black and white but must operate in shades of grey (because life isn’t black and white).
I know there are rubbish social workers out there, just as there are examples of jobsworths, incompetents, and lazy fools in all professions. But there are also sterling social workers, who are worthy of our praise but rarely, if ever, receive it. In that vein, I want to thank all the social workers that we have encountered in our adoption journey so far. At times we have been frustrated by them but ultimately their focus has always been on the best outcome for the child or children involved.
Specifically, I would like to thank and praise our assessing social worker, who we fondly refer to as M. Below is the nomination we submitted for M for Adoption Social Worker of the Year. We want M to know how grateful we are that she was designated to us and thank her for her ongoing support.
M not only meets our expectations but consistently exceeds them. At every stage of the adoption process she has gone above and beyond the call of duty. She has made visits at short notice when a change in circumstances has warranted further support; often, these have come at the cost of her personal commitments. Recently, she offered to attend a matching meeting, despite being on annual leave.
As prospective adopters, our caseload has been complex: issues arose that were unprecedented within the local authority. For example, after approval, our LA recommended weight loss. M ensured positive outcomes by supporting us emotionally and dealing with the situation with professionalism and empathy. Moreover, she committed to losing weight herself and inspired us with her impressive achievements. The decision to place us on hold until weight loss was achieved could have broken us and deterred us from continuing as adopters, but M made it a team effort and responsibility. The support she offered us was beyond her legal obligations: having developed a good relationship with us she knew exactly what we needed and when. She kept us informed of all progress and ensured that our situation was used as a learning experience, giving us the opportunity to meet with team managers to enable good practice should this situation arise for other adopters. Because of her support, we maintained good mental health, improved our physical health, and can continue as adopters.
M has offered a high-quality service throughout: she has explained things well and in an easy to understand way, without ever patronising. Her excellent communication skills have led to her delivering many of the pre-approval training events for adopters. Throughout these she has offered a high level of customer service to the service user and responded effectively to suggestions for developing the course structure and content. When meeting other adopters within our LA they always know M and speak fondly of her: we feel proud to have her as our social worker.
M has been innovative and creative in preparing us as adoptive parents. She has ensured that the idiosyncrasies of same-sex parenting have been considered. For example, she put us in touch with other same-sex adopters: newly approved same-sex adopters to ensure we knew people in the same position and a couple who had adopted for over 10 years, to help us understand what awaits us. This has developed our knowledge and extended our support network.
We have been impressed by how well M manages our own expectations and deals with our experience of the adoption process. Speaking to other adopters, this is not always the case. Above all, M maintains a child-centric focus and that ethos has been transmitted to us. At every panel or review we have been commended for our child-centric approach, which has ultimately been nurtured by a social worker who is diligent, committed, and dedicated.