Jeanette Farrow manages two children’s homes for Hertfordshire Council. Both have been rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted. Here she describes why she feels so fulfilled working with teenagers
When and why did you become a social worker?
I had two dreams as a child – to become a social worker and to have a sports car – and luckily I’ve achieved both. I’ve been a social worker for 11 years, starting out as a professional assistant. I qualified after taking a two-year social work diploma course at Luton University and decided to work in residential homes because I enjoy the everyday contact with young people. I love working with teenagers because they are such good company and are so interesting. We have good conversations together and they are at an age where you can encourage them to progress and help them constructively in their views and opinions.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your career to date?
There’s no job satisfaction to compare with watching young people reach their full potential, gaining self-esteem and becoming happier. It’s also really lovely being able to help them rebuild family relationships. By the time they leave care, they might have gone from not speaking to their parents when they were 14 or 15 to having a quality relationship with their families.This makes a such a difference in their adult lives.
What do you enjoy most about the job?
I love every bit of it. To see a child come into residential care with no education placement and no prospects and being able to help them into school, keep them motivated and watch them achieve their GCSEs. It’s wonderful to see someone leaving care going into either college or a job and know you have helped them become a useful member of society – particularly when you also know that getting on to that path of success has been so much harder for them than for other young people.
Who has been the most memorable young person you’ve worked with?
There’s one lad who is now 18 and up until three years ago had hardly been to school at all. With a lot of support from all my staff team he started attending every day and now he’s about to begin a vocational college course. He’s just amazing. Another girl has just gained the equivalent of 10 GCSEs and that makes me very proud.
What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced in your work?
Working with other agencies that may have a different agenda for the young person. I don’t want to criticise other agencies because I know they all work very hard, but there’s just so many policies and strategies that they contradict each other. For example, my priority is getting these children into education, but for the health service it’s about doing health assessments. Sometimes you have to deal with the health assessment falling on their first day of school.
When did you last go the extra mile?
Yesterday, the day before, and the day before that. I guess an example is when the children went on holiday this year. They were getting back on a Saturday evening and even though I don’t work on weekends, I made sure I was at the home that evening to greet them and hear their stories. After all, the time you want to share everything about holidays is the day you arrive back home. By Monday morning the excitement is gone, so I wanted to be there to share that with them and I stayed all evening.
If you hadn’t become a social worker, what would you be doing now?
I was a sales manager for a short period but there’s no way I’d go back to it because there’s no job I’d rather do than being a social worker.
What advice would you give to someone considering a social work career today?
I’d say do it, it is the best career ever. The social work degree opens up so many different careers and jobs, which I think is unusual. Of course, it’s hard work but no job worth doing isn’t hard work. I actually feel really privileged to be part of these young people’s lives and be able to guide them onto the path of success.
Jeanette Farrow manages a children’s home in Baldock, Herts and is interim manager of one in St Albans
STAND UP NOW FOR SOCIAL WORK
Stories in the mainstream media give a skewed picture of social work because they focus on children’s services and relate mainly to crises and serious cases. Community Care’s Stand Up Now for Social Work campaign is seeking to redress the balance by giving a voice to social workers from across the profession. E-mail your positive social work stories to email@example.com and read more stories