I had a lovely and unexpected visit this week from the social worker who handled both NB and OB's adoptions. She is marvellous. I can't speak highly enough of her. So I was delighted to find that she'll be having any sort of involvement, however small, in BG's process as well.
There was an official reason for the visit, but we also found time to catch up over our coffees. She was delighted to see OB again, although he only had half-formed memories of her. On our Celebration Day, she gave him a gorgeous teddy bear which he still sleeps with. He knows who gave it to him and why, but he did struggle to connect the person in our living room with the giver of the gift.
She was also full of questions about NB, so I was glad to be able to give her the most up to date information after our recent visit. It was clear that she felt a real personal involvement in the lives of these children, and a genuine affection for them.
So I was very sad as, standing on the doorstep about to leave, she told me that she would be leaving our LA in the next few months as she had secured a new job at a neighbouring LA. She was very professional, but just for a moment she let her guard down and I could see the genuine pain that the enormous structural changes at our LA, coupled with endless criticism and poor and incompetent management in some areas had caused her.
She named a name.
I knew the name and the person. We had one run-in during OB's adoption and I was left feeling hurt, angry and patronised. This person has moved on now, but the legacy of their poor management and apparently uncaring attitude has left its mark on this lovely social worker. "I just need a change," she said, with a note of sad resignation in her voice.
It is not the first time that a person who has insulted, patronised, ignored or misled me has later turned out to be universally disliked. But when these things are happening, there has been nobody to support me because the 'professional' face demands that all members of staff publicly support their own, regardless of how ridiculous they are being. It does me no good when, once a person has left the organisation, I hear "Oh yeah, that *************, what a $&£%!"
I'm a supporter of the public sector, I really am. But unfortunately, there is a tendency to either demonise or canonise those who work in it. It was a standing joke in teaching for years that mere incompetence was no bar to holding down your teaching job for decades. I don't know if things have changed now. The more the 'outsiders' criticise public sector workers, the more the supporters insist that they are all saints.
They are not all saints. And there really does need to be more accountability when individual, incompetent staff members have the ability to make life a misery for all they encounter, not to mention making a mess of the services they are supposed to be providing to some of the more vulnerable members of our society. It is not good enough to simply close ranks, cover mistakes and then sigh with relief when that person leaves (or is promoted as happened in one case I know of!).
Staff turnover at my local LA is outrageously high. I have had three Supervising Social Workers in three years. The children's social workers swap and change with depressing regularity as well. It is unsettling for me and for them. I received an email this week telling me about the re-organisation of the fostering service and the names of the new managers. Every time a new person comes, you have to explain everything all over again, familiarising each one with the nuances of a reality that doesn't come across on paper, not to mention explaining the 'system' to new staff and ever-rotating agency staff. Thankfully, my children are very young, but for older children in long-term foster care, the loss of a wonderful, supportive social worker must hit hard.
I am very sad about my lovely adoption social worker. I had hoped to work with her for many years, transitioning fostered children to forever families. I had secretly hoped that, one day, she would take me through the process of adopting again, saving hours of the re-hashing that will be inevitable with a stranger in charge.
All that is not to be. I hope she is appreciated, supported and valued in her new LA.