Meet the Team

Our team combines over 250 years experience of working with children and families and includes individuals with experience of adoption either as an adoptive parent or as an adopted person

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Our Team

Sally Heaven-Richards

Head of Service

I have always worked with children and families in a variety of settings, starting off my career as a Nursery Nurse after leaving school. I qualified as a Social Worker 30 years ago and have worked in Adoption and Fostering most of the time since. For the last 21 years, I have enjoyed the opportunity to manage a range of different services within Local Authorities and Voluntary Agencies and have gained management qualifications along the way.

Over the years I have had a chance to work with a diverse range of Agencies across the UK. I have been a Vice Chair for a busy Local Authority Panel and am currently the Independent Chair of an Adoption Panel for a VAA in my spare time.

I am a mother and a proud grandmother and, as an adopter myself, my passion lies with Adoption, witnessing the fantastic outcomes and experiencing for myself what a joy it can be.

Mairead O’Sullivan

Team Manager – South

I have been a registered social worker for 23 years. My background is in management, specialising in mother and baby, child protection and court work. I have worked in the field of fostering and adoption for the past 10 years and began working for Adopters for Adoption in September 2017 on a permanent basis.

I live with my partner and my two daughters in Devon.

Mahongo Shibemba

Team Manager – Central

I joined Adopters for Adoption as an employee in October 2021 but have been part of AFA since 2014 as an Independent Social Worker. I have been delighted to witness AFA’s development from its inception, and am keen to contribute to consolidating the agency’s position as a beacon child and adopter-focused agency.

Having qualified as a social worker in 1992, I have substantive experience in statutory child protection services, gaining management qualifications as my career progressed. My roles in statutory services included locality management of statutory social work teams and oversight of early help family support services under the Sure Start programme. This experience gives me insight into safeguarding services and the delivery of early help for children and families, including children with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) as I served as chair of a SEND resource allocation panel. Having worked in England and South Wales, I have a good grasp of cross-border issues that can impact family life, particularly when children are placed across local authority and national boundaries. I am a strong advocate for families and am keen to support adoptive families navigate the complexities of adoption support services to access the early help they need to thrive. I have a keen interest in performance management and enabling practice improvement and learning.

In my spare time, I volunteer for a faith charity, love gardening, cooking and baking, and am looking forward to enjoying grandma time.

Penny Rowntree

Team Manager – North

I have been a qualified social worker since 1991 and have worked with children and families in the safeguarding arena and as a therapeutic social worker. I qualified as a play therapist in 1999 and have worked independently as both a social worker and play therapist over the years. In 2003, I coordinated the development and delivery of mental health services for Looked After Children across social care, health and education for two years.

I love sharing knowledge and deliver training to a wide range of professionals, foster carers and adoptive parents on areas such as attachment, child development, the impact of trauma and abuse and communicating with children. I joined Adopters For Adoption in 2015 and have enjoyed every minute of my time working with our adopters and their children, when they have arrived!

I live in Sheffield with my husband and two boys.

Angela Timmins

Panel Advisor & Senior Business Support Officer

I began working for Core Assets Children’s Services in April 2017 as an Independent Support Administrator, moving on to Senior Administrator Assistant, overseeing and co-ordinating administrative skills to Family Fund and Children’s Services contracts.

I have worked in the care sector for over 20 years, working with Vulnerable Adults and Children within a private home setting, providing administrative and customer support roles and staff training.

I am really enjoying working with Adopters for Adoption, learning all the new processes and seeing the outcomes that this wonderful service

April Simpson

Adoption Placements Manager

I have worked in the health, social care and private sector for almost 30 years. My responsibilities have ranged from managing a telesales division, field sales, account management and marketing for a social care recruitment and resourcing organisation. Prior to joining AFA my role was in recruitment and marketing for an independent fostering agency for 10 years.

At Adopters for Adoption, I was responsible for the marketing/family finding for the first 5 years and am now the full-time dedicated family finder for the agency. I work with our approved adopters, their supporting social workers and authorities across the UK to enable them to find the right child for their family.

Heather Liveston

Principal Social Worker

I qualified with a Diploma in Social Work and M.A in Social Work in 1995 and have worked with both adults and children. I have experience of completing fostering and adoption assessments as well as offering post adoption support. I have also worked as a Supervising Social Worker for families who foster where I have gained experience in helping families to care for children whose behaviour is complex and challenging. I have personal experience of adoption and is passionate about adoption as a means of finding forever families for children who cannot remain with their birth families. I am proud to have been a contributor to books on both adoption and LGBTQ+ parenting.

Having enjoyed working as an Independent Social Worker for Adopters for Adoption for three years, I was delighted to join the team as a permanent member of staff in 2019.

I live in the South of England with my partner, Joanne, two children, labradoodle “Hamish” and cat “Bella”.

Karen Cottle

Principle Social Worker

I have worked with children and families in statutory and voluntary agencies for over 30 years, with a primary focus on adoption, fostering and kinship care. I was awarded a master’s Degree in Social work from Warwick University, in 2010, returning to the local authority, where I gained a great deal of experience in my field, including court work, child protection work and life story work, along with training adopters and foster carers.

I am a practice educator and have sat on adoption and fostering panels, and worked as a senior practitioner before deciding to work independently. I began working for Adopters For Adoption in 2018 as an independent social worker, and have enjoyed my time so much, I decided to make it a permanent arrangement!

I live in the West Midlands and have two adult children. When not at work, or in my sewing room, I can be found exploring the countryside in my newly restored motorhome, along with my partner Pete and our manic Border Collie Taz.

I am very much looking forward to joining the AfA family and being a part of this amazing team!

Jane Lees

Principal Social Worker

I joined Adopters for Adoption in 2018. I completed my MA in social work in 2005 and have since worked in both Local Authority and voluntary settings. I have spent the last fourteen years specialising in adoption work which is my passion. I have experience of working in all different stages of the adoption process from assessment work and matching through to adoption support, tracing and intermediary services. I have also enjoyed completing therapeutic work with adoptive families. I have qualifications in Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) and theraplay. In 2017 I was shortlisted to the final four for Adoption Social Worker of the Year at the National Adoption Awards.

Since February 2020 I have thoroughly enjoyed working as a team manager and the Panel Advisor for Adopters for Adoption.

Katie Sprague

Business Support Officer

I am a Business Support Officer for Adopters for Adoption and I have over 10 years of experience within the Children’s Services Sector. I provide solid business and administration skills and have also worked on improving and maintaining business systems, contract coordination and staff training. My main role is to coordinate the training for adopters and staff within the agency and to administer referrals and enquiries for Adoption Support, including the Safer Stronger Families Service.

I am also the licenced trainer for Outcomes Star for Polaris group and deliver this training nationally to all staff. The BSO team are always on hand to take enquiries, assist with the administration support of assessments throughout Stage 1 and Stage 2 and to help make the processes involved are as smooth as possible.

Carol Schofield

Business Support Officer

I worked in Administration in a fostering environment for 12 years in a variety of roles including the placements team, area office administrator, Panel Coordinator and Fostering advisor before coming to AFA 6 years ago.

I adapted my expertise to suit my current role where I encompass everything from being the first point of contact for potential adopters to processing registration packs, dealing with invoicing and any other task to ensure the smooth running of the office.

Lianne Butterworth

Business Support Officer

I joined the Adopters for Adoption team in February 2018. My primary role is to undertake the reference checks for prospective adopters that are in the assessment process, though my day-to-day work really does span from handling initial enquiries all the way to taking minutes at panel, and more.

I assist in marketing and design and am responsible for the bi-monthly newsletters and also assist with the development of the service. I have really enjoyed my time at Adopters for Adoption so far, I love the passion that the whole team gives to providing the best outcome for children and families.

Sarah Sharwin

Team Manager – Adoption Support Services

I originally joined Core Assets in 2014. Prior to joining AFA, I worked in the Parenting Team and also facilitated Gateway groups raising awareness and supporting people who have experienced domestic abuse. I am the Manager of AFA’s Adoption Support overseeing evidence-based interventions that support parents of children who have experienced early life trauma.

I developed the Adoption Support programmes, deliver and manage our Safer Stronger Families Service and continues to devise bespoke Adoption Support
Packages. My working life has been dedicated to helping and supporting others, before joining the company I worked within a Youth Offenders Unit and a Semi-Independent home for teenagers. I have also worked as a volunteer for the Samaritans. Having gained my advanced diploma in counselling and psychotherapy, I went onto to qualify and train in Triple P Teens, Gateway, Solution Focused Brief Therapy and Video Feedback Positive Parenting – Sensitive Discipline (VIPP-SD).

I am passionate about my work and felt truly honoured to receive the award for Adoption Support Practitioner of the Year at the National Adoption Week Awards in 2018.

Kirsty Cooke

Family Support Worker

I joined Adopters for Adoption in 2017 and the Safer Stronger Families program, which is an evidence-based intervention that supports the parenting of children who have experienced early life trauma. My working life has been dedicated to helping and supporting others, before joining Core Assets my roles have involved working with children and disabilities, children in care and child protection, working alongside parents with alcohol and substance misuse and running parenting groups. I first gained a degree in Early Childhood Studies and then went on to qualify and train in Triple P Teens, Solution focused brief therapy and as a trained Theraplay practitioner.

I am passionate about my work and helping to make a positive change for children and families.

Sally Melbourne

Agency Decision Maker

As the former CEO of Adopters for Adoption, I successfully set up Adopters for Adoption in 2014=

With over 40 years of working in social care, I have always been committed to permanency, raising quality standards for children and their families and improving outcomes.
Having retired, I have maintained my links with Adopters for Adoption by becoming the Agency Decision Maker and have taken on the role of the Chair of the Polaris Quality Board.

My widespread knowledge and understanding of children’s social care includes child protection, early intervention, fostering and adoption. I am able to draw on my experience of working with looked after children and adopters to support Adopters for Adoption in approving adopters.

Tracy Livesey

Responsible Individual

Hello, I’m Tracy and I have recently joined AfA as the Responsible Individual.

I have worked in Social Care since 1986 starting in a Children and Families Child Protection Team before moving into the area of Fostering where I have remained since 1994. I have worked in a diverse range of settings and I am currently the Managing Director for a number of Fostering Agencies.

I firmly believe that children should be placed at the centre of what we do – our decision-making and our practice. We should have continuous improvement so that children’s outcomes are improved and their needs are fully met.

I am thrilled to join such an experienced and talented team at AfA where we all share the same vision for our children, staff and families.

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Whether you are ready to start your journey or just want to chat to a member of our team, we are here to talk.

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