Choose Social Work: ‘They helped me escape the life I was living as a teenager’

Now an adult, Ethan tells fellow care leaver Jenny Molloy about being taken into care at the age of five, and the two social workers who made a big difference to him as he got older

Jenny Molloy and Ethan

As part of Community Care’s Choose Social Work campaign and to celebrate care leavers’ week, author and care leaver Jenny Molloy interviewed Ethan. Watch our video to hear some of Ethan’s story of his time in care, and the positive impact particular social workers had at a vulnerable time in his life.

National Care Leavers Week is running this year from Wednesday 25 October to Wednesday 1 November. Follow #NCLW on social media or read more about events, campaigns and activities here.

In this 15-minute conversation, Ethan describes his experience of being taken into care at five years old. He reflects on that traumatic moment and what social workers might have been able to do differently.

He also shares his understanding as an adult of the choice social workers had to make about keeping him and his sister safe by taking them into foster care.

Ethan had the “longest period of stability” in his life, spending five and a half years in that foster placement. Aged 11, he started to be placed in children’s homes after his foster placement broke down. Ethan talks about the impact two important social workers, Jo and Patricia, had as he went into his teenage years, and the difference they made.

Ethan describes how Jo built his trust: “I’m sure the first few times [she visited], I’ve just said something horrible to her. But she just kept coming back, kept coming back.” She continued to come back and take “small steps” even though Ethan saw himself as “a pain”:

“I was not easy to be around. I was constantly causing problems… she was always picking me up from schools when I’d been fighting”.

Ethan says Jo saw that “the bad that was in me wasn’t all I was” and recognised his trauma. Likewise, her manager Patricia never made Ethan “feel small” about his behaviour and understood where it came from: “She would do what she could for me and encourage me and inspire me”. 

Together, Ethan says, Jo and Patricia “played a pivotal part in my escaping out of the life I was living as a teenager”.

Ethan’s ends the interview with words of advice for anyone thinking about choosing social work as a career.

Jenny Molloy proudly identifies as a care leaver and is the bestselling author of Hackney ChildTainted Love and Neglected. She is a consultant and trainer in children’s services, and patron of the charity Trevi.

Ethan’s story is part of Community Care’s Choose Social Work campaign, which aims to champion the brilliant work social workers do every day, inspire the next generation of practitioners and counteract the negative media coverage of the profession.

Read about why we’ve launched this campaign, and the five steps you can take to support it. On our campaign page, you will find more inspiring stories about the difference that good social work makes, as well as our series of Dear Future Social Worker letters, encouraging the next generation to choose social work as a fulfilling, rewarding career.

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