‘She’s been a mother figure to me’: a care leaver and social worker’s story

In this video for our Choose Social Work campaign, Jenny Molloy talks to Lizzie and her former social worker, Janet, about the special relationship they built when Lizzie was preparing to leave care, that continues today

Janet and Lizzie
Janet (left); Lizzie (right)

As part of Community Care’s Choose Social Work campaign, best-selling author and care leaver Jenny Molloy spoke to Lizzie and Janet. Now a young adult, Lizzie talks about the role Janet played as her leaving care social worker from around the age of 15. Janet shares her experience of working with Lizzie.

In this video, Lizzie describes her experience of meeting Janet for the first time, how her trust was won, and – most importantly – how Janet made, and continues to make, her feel. She shares the positive impact her relationship with Janet has had on her life beyond care.

You can’t help but feel warmth from Lizzie as she describes her feelings towards Janet, and the special bond between the two of them.

Talking about her mother, Lizzie says: “We don’t have that mum and daughter relationship. Like the love that I’m craving – I get it from Janet.”

Now a mother herself, Lizzie adds: “I feel like a lot of the reasons why I’m able to be maternal with my kids is because of [Janet]. I really do believe that… My kids, they call her nanny because it’s like she’s been that mother figure to me.”

Janet has her own children but likewise tells Jenny: “Lizzie’s like my child. She really is.”

Knowing someone cares

Janet recognises that many young people do not have anyone in their network to share the highs and lows of life with. While Janet has a unique relationship with Lizzie, she has kept in touch with other young people.

“They’re not bombarding my life…they just want to share what’s going on for them and know that somebody cares,” Janet says. Sometimes she gets a message on a Sunday from a young person who was an unaccompanied asylum seeker when they’re on their way to church.

With others, she says: “It’s things like ‘I got my flat’. Or I’ll know if they’re pregnant and they’re having babies….their birthdays. The things that [other] people take for granted that they can just ring up or text someone.”

Formalising ongoing support

Janet is realistic and highlights the need for caution – that young people need to be protected and there should be a formal way for those who want to maintain relationships with their social worker to do that. Janet was open with the local authority she worked for at the time about her intentions to continue her relationship with Lizzie.

Jenny Molloy has her own experience maintaining positive relationships with social workers beyond leaving care and is keen to highlight its impact.

Jenny mentions how, while this is their own version, what Lizzie and Janet describe is very much like Lifelong Links – the project set up by Family Rights Group to help local authorities ensure children in care can build a positive support network to help them during their time in care and into adulthood.

If you are interested in hearing more about Lifelong Links, you can listen to Community Care Inform’s podcast episode with young person Eathan, his Lifelong Links co-ordinator Becky, social work team manager Emma, and Pam from Family Rights Group. Find it here on Community Care Inform: Learn on the Go: Children’s networks (episode 2) – Lifelong Links, or search for Learn on the Go in your podcast app.

Lizzie and Janet’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 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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One Response to ‘She’s been a mother figure to me’: a care leaver and social worker’s story

  1. Pauline O'Reggio December 1, 2023 at 12:41 pm #

    In my opinion, this young lady articulates her emotions so well again, if you listen to what she is saying her views are representative of young people in the care system toward social workers. The career demonstrated her skills, ability, and commitment to understand the young lady’s true lived experience and the challenges she has faced and will face in life.

    I truly find this video heartwarming. This is what social work is about, the social worker has not only supported this young lady in building healthy attachments, but she appeared to look beyond the surface of the young lady’s barriers. This career is providing more than she realizes.

    The career appears balanced in her understanding of her role, she recognizes not all young people would want the level of care she provided.

    I enjoyed this video there should be more like this which demonstrates the skills, commitment, and determination to provide safe environments for young people to work out what sometimes can be very complicated and traumatic lived experiences. The young people of today are the next generation.