Joan Fratter, my mother who passed away at the age of 77, was a pioneering social worker who dedicated her retirement to championing environmental, ethical, and social justice causes.
Born in Chingford, Essex, Joan grew up during the Second World War with her twin sister, Joyce, to hardworking parents who supplied electrical parts to aid the war effort. She attended Walthamstow girls’ grammar school and later studied English and Latin at the University of Reading, where she met David Fratter. The couple married in 1964 and settled in Liverpool, where they raised two children, Paul and myself.
After separating from David in 1973, Joan persevered as a single parent while pursuing her passion for social work and becoming a fostering and adoption specialist. Her dedication to this field led her to champion the extension of visiting hours for hospitalized children, starting from when I was hospitalized at Alder Hey children’s hospital at two years old.
In 1978, Joan and her children returned to Chingford, where she continued her fostering and adoption work with the children’s charity Barnardo’s. She initiated numerous policy and practical changes and identified and addressed the lack of diversity in families and social workers assisting with fostering or adoption placement. She actively recruited workers and families from ethnic groups that corresponded to the ethnicities of children on waiting lists, recognizing and celebrating the value of preserving ethnic identity.
Throughout the early 1990s, Joan supplemented her previous research into open adoption, completing her Ph.D. in 1992, and becoming one of the pioneers of open placement, which facilitated continued contact between birth and adoptive families.
Upon retiring at 67, Joan further dedicated her time by volunteering with adoption panels, conservation groups, and National Health Service campaigns. Her personal interests included theatre, museums, gardening in her allotment, and spending quality time with her grandchildren. As a devoted grandmother, parent, and friend, Joan was always willing to lend a helping hand, whether it entailed supporting an HIV/AIDS initiative, capturing the memory of family origins and traditions, or baking goodies for her neighbors.
In addition to her two children, Joan is survived by her siblings, Joyce and Alan, grandchildren, Avery, Isabel, Dominic, Lauren, and Melissa, all of whom cherish the unwavering warmth and compassion that she embodied.