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A day in the life of Zahraa Adam, a social worker for Essex County Council’s Children In Care

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Zahraa Adam, 23, is a social worker for Essex County Council’s Children In Care specialist team. She lives in east London with her parents and two brothers

At 7am. I’ll usually wear a pencil dress and heels but if I’m spending a day with a child I’ll be more casual, in jeans and a jumper. I leave home at 8.30am.

Ensuring the wellbeing of up to 15 young people at any one time. My workload is split: half are UK children who are orphans or whose parents are unable to care for them, usually due to drug or alcohol abuse. Children can be referred to social services by teachers, police or doctors and we’ll intervene if we feel their needs aren’t being met. The other cases are asylum seekers – children who have fled war-torn countries or have been trafficked to the UK, often to work in the sex trade or on cannabis farms. I create a care plan based on their needs – I place children seeking asylum in a foster home, register them with a school and pair them with a solicitor who can process their asylum claim.

After completing a degree in social work at Anglia Ruskin University. I’ve wanted to be a social worker since I was a teenager. Growing up in east London, a lot of young people around me had to deal with their parents’ drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues. It felt like social work was a career that could make a difference.

Can be emotional. I’m often meeting children who have lived through traumatic experiences. One of my first cases was a 15-year-old girl who had been trafficked to the UK for sex work. When she told me her story, I wanted to cry but I kept it together: I needed her to see that she could rely on me. I also work with families – recently I helped a boy rebuild his relationship with his mum. I’d go to their house every time they argued, which was at least once a week, to mediate between them. They’ve got a much better relationship now. For each hour I spend with a child, I’ll spend an equivalent hour writing a report; everything is meticulously documented. My hours are flexible, but I’ll usually finish at 5.30pm.

Social work books

Zahraa’s work won her overall social worker of the year in 2014

Was winning Overall Social Worker of the Year at the Social Work Awards in 2014. I was put forward by a renowned family judge who had been impressed with my work on a high-profile adoption case. I was also commended for my community outreach work. I’m a Muslim and I’d been trying to encourage more Muslim families to foster, so I researched quotes from the Qur’an to show why it was a good idea and took them, with cupcakes, to local mosques.

Is all the driving. I’m part of a county-wide team, so I could be sent on a two-hour trip to pick up a child who was found in the back of a lorry. I drive 600 miles in any given week. It just feels like dead time, which is frustrating.

Is that every day I go home with the feeling that I’ve made a difference to somebody’s life. When I see smiles on my children’s faces and they say “thank you”, that’s a big boost for me.

I horse ride, do yoga or go to the gym. When I get home I watch something trashy on TV. I love TOWIE – it helps me decompress, before going to bed at midnight.

I am obsessed with clothes. I check the Asos sales every morning and get packages from them daily; I must be their number one customer. I also have a strict rule that all my accessories are designer (my handbags are either Prada or Gucci). I love to write, so it would be a good fit.

Words: Alexandra Jones
Photography: Sarah Brimley
Hair and make-up: Rose Angus at S Management

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