Southend adoption services recognised for continued excellence

Southend Council’s adoption team has once again been praised for further reducing unnecessary delays and improving the outcomes for children in the borough.

The performance of the adoption team has placed them among the top local authorities nationally.

In Southend, it takes on average 285 days for a child to be placed with adoptive families from when placed in the care of the Local Authority, 24 days faster than last year’s results (average of 309) and above the national average of 363 days.

Data also shows it takes 95 days between the council receiving a court order to place a child and deciding on an adoptive family match, compared to 170 days nationally and placing Southend in the top 10 nationally.

Cllr Anne Jones, cabinet member for children and learning, said: “Our adoption teams work tirelessly and show absolute dedication to make sure each child is matched with the right family to create a permanent home for them, as soon as possible.

“It is very pleasing to hear that the team continue to operate well ahead of the national averages for adoption, and the team should be delighted their hard work has been recognised.

“There are many challenges and hurdles to overcome when proceeding with adoption, and it takes a very specific type of person to provide the dedicated support needed to ensure the children can adapt to their surroundings, and that the adoptive parents have someone they know they can trust with anything. It takes absolute commitment and I am so very proud of the team for all they do. I want to thank them all for their commitment to make such positive changes for these children and families.”

One adoptive family have shared their story regarding their journey with Southend:

“We had been struggling to start our family for nearly 15 years due to “unexplained infertility”. We had been through endless tests and multiple IVF attempts; we also had some really difficult pregnancy loses. We decided to explore the possibility of adoption to see if it was something we could do.

“From the first information session we knew it was the right thing for us. The sessions were welcoming, informative, reassuring and thorough.

“The process felt smooth and comfortable. We had the pleasure of meeting and working with quite a few social workers and even when some of the information and situations were really sensitive or difficult to discuss, we never felt judged, we just felt supported.

“We read a lot of children’s profiles and it is hard when you have to say they don’t feel right for our family, but our social worker supported and advised us with this. When we were told about our first daughter, we instantly knew that she was our little girl. A short time later, her little sister arrived, and we fostered her until it was decided that she should be adopted.

“Our family is now finally complete, and we cannot thank the whole team enough.

“From the nervous first information session, to all the help and guidance throughout, right to the post adoption support we continue to receive, we have had such a positive experience and would encourage others to explore adoption with Southend.”

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Another family added: “We have had the pleasure of working in partnership with Jo Hines and the Southend Adoption Team for 14 years. It is because of the outstanding support, care, training and challenge that we have received over the years that we are now proud dads to five wonderful and thriving adopted children.

“Not only did Southend help empower us to create a large family, over the years, through adoption, they helped improve the life chances of five individual children and supported us to turn the disadvantages they faced in their early years, into advantage, being settled with us. Southend Adoption Team ‘do what they say on the tin’! They walk the talk; they are truly child-centred and strive for the best for their children in care.

“Over the years we have attended excellent preparation training and post adoption training. The attachment training and supporting early years trauma training have been extremely valuable to us, over the years, in helping our children to attach and thrive and move-on from their challenging experiences, the best that they can.

“We can honestly say, having been through the process on five separate occasions that the process is rightly rigorous, but it is handled with care and commitment and we found it to be very rewarding on lots of levels.

“As a same-sex couple, with our sexuality being just one part of our identity, what struck us with Southend, is their modern, forward thinking and inclusive practices. We were welcomed with open arms into the service and, like all prospective adopters are, were treated with the utmost respect and care.

“The social workers got to know us quickly and our extended family and support network and supported us to up-skill ourselves and to be proud of all we have to offer to support vulnerable children.

“Over the years, it has been our pleasure to give back to Jo and her team and speak at prospective adopter events and preparation training to help share our story and to provide support and hope to many local families starting their adventures into parenting.

“Southend genuinely care about the well-being of their adopters and know that a happy, thriving parent/parents are the key to an adopted child being given the very best life chances in their adoptive family. It is why 14 years on, I am happy to write this piece as I am proud of the mutually beneficial relationships we still hold with Jo and the Team.

Becoming adopters for Southend has and will always be, the best decision our family ever made.”

Jo Hines, service manager for placements and resources, has worked within adoption for over 20 years and appreciates there is much more to the service than simply matching a child and family. There is an ongoing need for support and the team have worked hard to establish an adoption community.

Jo explains: “For example, if a child has been neglected and had adverse experiences in their life, they believe they are not worth looking after and often can’t  achieve a sense of safety and self-worth, something all children need to reach their own potential, feel safe and well. The implicit belief that they don’t deserve love, care or kindness can have a long-lasting and damaging affect.

“It’s why it is important when an applicant’s come forward to explore adoption, whoever supports them initially is normally the person who ends up being their case worker. This allows for a strong professional connection to develop which I believe is a protective factor and contributes to why the team perform so well. There is a continuity of care and those relationships are long-lasting.

“The priority is always the child and what works for them. We find a family for each child. Not a child for a family. And in order to get the right matches you have to understand the families who are adopting. My team will take out-of-hours calls and go above and beyond every day for their families, and I’m incredibly proud of them.”

The team uses virtual reality technology to help adoptive parents, social workers and other stakeholders, truly appreciate what some of the children may have experienced from the perspective of a neglected and traumatised child.

The team always need mores adoptive and foster families. Jo is keen to state that even those people who have had a passing thought about it should give the team a call for more information.

She said: “We don’t expect you to know what you want the end result to look like, but we ask that those who have considered adopting or fostering call us to find out more or attend one of our information events.

“Often people come along to an information event undecided, or thinking they want to adopt a young baby girl, then in the end may want to adopt an older sibling group. We just want people to keep an open mind.”

If you would like to find out more about adopting, please call our adoption team on 01702 212004 or fostering team on 01702 212938. Alternatively, you can find out more on our website www.southend.gov.uk/adoption

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Mick Ferris

Editor Email: [email protected]