My Practice – Clea Barry

Yesterday was one of the best days of my career. I sat in court with a tear in my eye as I listened to the magistrate finally make the adoption order that Ellie and Joanne have waited so long for.

Then, after the hugs and handshakes and photos, we all came out of the court house and piled into the white stretch limo which the adopters had hired to drive us to McDonald’s for a celebratory lunch. You might think it’s tacky, but you’re not a 10-year-old girl from Essex.

Ellie and Joanne Brown, now officially known as Ellie May Brown Welsh and Joanne Louise Brown Welsh* are 10 and 11-year-old sisters of dual heritage. They have been in care since they were six and 18 months respectively. Today they are just normal children who live with their mum and dad. I know that tomorrow they will be taking their adoption certificates into school and telling everyone.

What made it such a great day for me? First, knowing how much it means to the children. We spent the last year completing their life-story books and we talked a lot about adoption and what it means. Whenever we talked about their wishes for the future, it always included being adopted.

Second, knowing that they had reached a milestone (one of many in their lives, I hope) and that I had contributed something to getting them there. It had actually been a very tough journey for the adopters and they had needed a lot of support.  It paid off, and the difficulties they had experienced earlier on were receding. Of course, this was far from purely down to me; it was down to the strength of the adopters as people and as a couple and their enduring commitment to the children, and to some excellent support from other services, most notably the local child and adolescent mental health service.

The third element that made it so rewarding was that this was one of the few occasions as a social worker where I absolutely knew that what I was doing was the right thing; that the consequences really would be in the best interest of the children and that it matched up with what they wanted. So often I have to make choices between two bad options, or try to guess what the future will hold, or let availability of resources guide what I offer to families. So often I listen to what children want, but I am unable to stop their mother taking drugs, or return them to the exhausted foster carer who cannot manage even one more night. Here was an instance where exactly the right result had been achieved for the children.

It’s a privilege to accompany people on such intense journeys.

*Not their real names

Clea Barry is a child care social worker, London Borough of Hackney

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