Kate Beszant, Senior Social Worker, North East Lincolnshire Council

Kate has been a social worker for over 16 years and works in the One Adoption regional adoption service and is based within North East Lincolnshire Council.

After completing a degree in sociology, anthropology and gender studies at Hull University at the age of 21 Kate’s first job started her social work career. “It was a great degree, albeit quite general, but I knew I wanted to work with people. I’d thought about getting a job in HR but ended up getting a job as a social work assistant at North East Lincolnshire Council and immediately loved it. While I was in the job the opportunity to study for a Diploma in Social Work, sponsored by the Council, came up which I jumped at. It was great, my course was paid for and I could draw on my day job to help with my studies.

“I stayed living and working in the same area while I did my course but on my final statutory placement in child protection, I worked on a case that led to removing a child from a local family. Not long afterwards I came across the father locally in public which at the time, as a young woman living on my own made me feel quite vulnerable and I just didn’t feel it was right for me. This prompted me to move my job location, so when I qualified, I went to work in fostering and adoption for Lincolnshire Council. I stayed there for nearly 7 years before moving back to North East Lincolnshire to work in adoption and have remained here ever since.

“At the moment I’m a senior social worker in the adoption team and I love it. For me it is a privilege to work with the children and families I support. Part of the appeal of the job is the wide range of very different people you get to mix with and the variety of work that comes with that.  You also have the biggest highs and the biggest lows – you get to realise and accept that you can’t fix or repair and solve everything but that the highs will make it all worthwhile.

“As with other elements of social work there are many misconceptions about adoption. From an outside perspective the adoption process can appear an unnecessarily long and a drawn-out process, and people have a narrow stereotypical view of who they think are allowed to be adoptive parents but this it isn’t so.

“The adoption process and outcome are very important for all parties. In my role I work across the whole process. This starts with recruitment, where we advertise for prospective adoptive parents in a range of local channels such as: One adoption website, on local radio, at information events and various other public places. In our promotion we try to dispel some of the myths like: you have to be married, you have to be white and heterosexual, you have to be high earners etc. The qualities we’re looking for are wide ranging including having love and care for people,  patience, understanding and accepting of people but that doesn’t mean it is a tick list.

Following acceptance of a registration of interest, the process commences with the stage one process where statutory checks and references are gained. Prospective adopters attend a three-day interactive training course where we teach them about the different needs of the adoptive children. We talk about a child’s journey and life experiences and how their traumatic experiences will have affected them. We reference how a child’s negative experiences may have affected their brain development and how this can be repaired – through methods like therapeutic parenting, through love and nurture, and ensuring consistency. This stage should take no longer than two months.

“Next we have stage two which should take four months. This involves a thorough and in-depth assessment whereby we visit and assess the prospective adopters. Then we will sit down and prepare our assessment report which is shared (without the references) with the adopters. With myself and the prospective adopters, the report and references are presented to the adoption panel for a recommendation of approval and then ratified by the agency decision maker. Assuming this all goes well; we then start the family finding process to match a child(ren) with the approved adoptive parents.

“Once a possible match has been identified, we go back to the prospective adopters – talk to them and share in depth information and if all parties agree to move forward, we then have a ‘life appreciation’ day. This day involves the adopters meeting all the relevant people involved with the child including medical advisors so we can share, get on the table, all the information about that child. Another report is then produced on how the adopters can meet the needs of the child which then goes to a ‘matching’ panel for a recommendation of approval and again ratified by the agency decision maker.

“After ‘matching’ panel approval a timetable of introduction is developed for introducing the child to their adopters with the child moving in on the last day. Ten weeks later the adopters are then able to apply to court for the adoption to be formalised legally. After the adoption certificate is issued, everyone usually gets dressed up and goes back to court to celebrate the adoption – this is always a great and emotional day for everyone involved. Thereafter, that’s it. We don’t get involved unless there is an issue they need help with or if the families attend some of our support events.

“All-in-all this process takes about eight-ten months, depending on individual circumstances, which may feel long but it’s a deliberate and carefully managed process to ensure the best outcomes for everyone. Being able to take people through this journey from start to finish is what the job is all about!

“On top of this, I am also the adoption social worker and undertake family finding for looked after children where we have a number of children that we actively look for adoptive families for. I also run monthly toddler and youth groups for children that have been placed for adoption plus a youth group for children five years old and upwards that have been adopted.

“At the moment with the Covid-19 situation much of my work is disrupted as the courts are only dealing with urgent cases. That said, I think many of the adopted children are actually thriving. With lockdown and being isolated at home the adopted children are being shielded from many of the outside pressures that they struggle with, such as: education, peer relationships, and other pressures outside of the home. In my experience, they are feeling more nurtured and well cared for and loved which is really positive. Obviously, this will not necessarily be the picture for the other children that my child protection colleagues are supporting.”

All social workers work in close-knit teams that are very supportive of each other and for Kate this is no different. “Daily interaction with my team is really important – for sharing knowledge and learning but also to give each other emotional support. Although, we’re having daily catchups by phone and video calls at the moment it’s not the same as in person and I’m missing that. Hopefully, we will be able to return to more normal ways of working soon.”

Kate also acknowledges that doing the job she loves is boosted by living in Yorkshire and Humber. “Living and working in this part of the world is great. There’s a lovely community spirit where people are down to earth and really friendly – what you see is what you get. The cost of living is also very reasonable and we have great countryside on our doorstep.

“Children’s social work matters because children are our future and we need to get it right for them. If we don’t get it right for them now, their current patterns of behaviours will continue, they will become troubled parents and the vicious circle will continue. We need to break this cycle. Children are the innocent party – they totally deserve the absolute best we can provide them. That’s where there is so much passion in our adoption team to totally get it right for them.”

This case study has been captured as part of Children’s Social Work Matters campaign Improving Lives’.

For more information about the campaign, children’s social work and the opportunities to get into a career in Yorkshire & Humber go to: https://www.childrenssocialworkmatters.org