Child care solicitor, north Wales

I became interested in the law when I did some work experience over a couple of years at a small, general law practice in Wrexham, north Wales. Although I was only 16 and 17 at the time, I enjoyed it and started to look further into pursuing the law as a career.

Debbie Owens

This led me to a law degree at Aberystwyth University and then the old Chester College of Law for my solicitor finals. I became an articled clerk in Wrexham and, upon qualification, started to specialise in family law. Within a fairly short space of time I had moved into care work and was appointed to the Law Society’s children’s panel. I have now specialised in this area for over 30 years.

You are trying your best for your client, whether that is the parent, grandparent or child, who often find themselves in the most desperate situations. It is extremely varied work and there are the inevitable highs and lows. The solicitor-client relationship has to be extremely close because you are dealing with sensitive and emotive matters.

I enjoy the personal contact, whether that is with the parent, grandparent or child, helping them to navigate through some of the lowest points in their lives. A lot of preparation goes into cases, which can involve long hours and weekends, but it’s given me a career I have really enjoyed and gained a huge amount of satisfaction from.

'We applied to take in a family under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme. I was watching the news and found it heartbreaking how families were being separated, with mothers and children leaving while partners stayed to fight'

Away from work, my husband, Robin, and I have been supporting two Ukrainian families whose lives have been thrown into turmoil by the war. We have been providing accommodation to a mother, Luda, and her three children for almost two years. We also coordinate packages of vital items for another family who continue to live in Kyiv.

We applied to take in a family under the Homes for Ukraine Scheme when war broke out in February 2022. I was watching the news and found it heartbreaking how families were being separated, with mothers and children leaving while their partners stayed to fight. I said to Robin that we could do something to help and he agreed.

If that was our grandchildren, we would want to know that others cared about them in the same way. Our children have grown up and left home so we had the space to accommodate them.

The children attend local schools and also maintain their studies in Ukraine. It’s important to them to keep up their studies in Ukraine because one day they want to return. The children go to school in Whitchurch, Shropshire, in the day and then catch up on their Ukrainian studies in the evenings.

We’re also in regular contact with the family in Kyiv – Alona, Serghi and their 11-year-old daughter. We receive lists of items that are urgently needed.

Help comes in various forms. Some people donate money while others drop off various items that we then box up on a Friday and, usually by Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week, they have arrived in Ukraine. Most of the items are everyday requirements, but we do get the occasional extra request such as popcorn. The families living in Ukraine spend so much time in air raid shelters so these supplies are vital.

It makes you realise how lucky we are and helping out in the way we are is the least we can do. We are also hugely grateful for the generosity of everyone who has donated money and items, from colleagues at Gamlins Law through to people in my local community. It’s a real team effort.

Like other families across the UK who have provided homes for Ukrainian families or fundraised and collected items, Robin and I have also gained a huge amount from the experience. We are incredibly fortunate to live how we do in sharp contrast to the suffering of families in war-torn countries like Ukraine. We were in a position to help and both of us felt it was something we should do.