Foster Care Fortnight 2019. Rainbow mark this important annual event by highlighting some individual stories of success achieved often against the odds. Hopefully, foster carers can see that they really can point young lives in a new direction. They can be the difference that enables a young person to reach the top in a chosen field of endeavour. The people that figure in these stories demonstrate an indomitable spirit and determination. The rest of us can see the difference foster carers make every single day. Our perceptions about people who have come from a care background can, and should be challenged.
Foster care is in and out of the news. Often the news is depressing. We have lived through a period of austerity and care budgets are strained. More and more children are entering the care system as families break down. Standing behind the statistics and the individual stories of vulnerable lives, stand an army of foster carers: unsung and mostly unappreciated by the public at large. Hopefully, this will begin to change. If it does, it will make a positive difference to recruitment. This is very important as this year 8,000 new foster families are needed in the country. A large part of what Foster Care Fortnight is about is to reach out and find new ways of educating and inspiring.
You can find out more about the campaign being run by the leading fostering charity – The Fostering Network – by visiting:
Keeping foster care in the mind of the public is important. One of the best ways of doing this is to concentrate on the positive. And this can be accomplished by reference to a list of one hundred ‘fostering heroes’ put together by the poet Lemn Sissay who came through the care system himself: “ I have compiled this small list of 100 people from the UK who were fostered adopted or in children’s homes. I have met most of them on my travels.”
These individual lives show that success so often breeds success. During this Foster Care Fortnight, it is vital that we communicate this possibility. If we have examples from real life to hold up, talk about and celebrate we can all be inspired. And if we do this well, we might encourage more people to come forward to foster. The need has never been greater.
Foster care background: BBC Reporter Ashley John-Baptiste.
Ashley John-Baptsite has carved out a successful career as a BBC reporter. He has already achieved success in that profession, having been nominated for the ‘Young Talent of the Year’ award at the RTS Television Awards. This came his way following a series of reports on the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower he made for BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. This was a harrowing experience. It had been part of his brief to find residents prepared to speak about what happened on the programme. In the course of this work, he met with survivors and built a strong rapport with the local community. A clue to Ashley’s own past experiences is evident in his reaction to the award: “I’m proud of the fact that our programme gave a voice to these people, and we gave them dignity. We allowed the country to see just what they were going through and how devastating it was and still is.”
He is on the side of the underdog – those without a voice. It was an achievement in itself that he was able to win the trust of the community, given this event rapidly became politicised. Many residents were hostile and did not wish to engage with the media – as Channel 4 New’s Jon Snow discovered when criticised by a survivor who remonstrated “You should have come here before. this is not a photo-opportunity – this is real life.”
Ashley thinks that he was accepted by the community because of his obvious empathy, but that his personal background probably made the difference. He is not your usual media type: put into care at two years of age, the next sixteen years of his life were spent moving between different foster homes – as well as children’s homes in south London: “I’ve always felt being moved around so much, often very suddenly, without any real explanation, can be really damaging to anyone growing up. But I think actually I was one of the lucky ones.” This view is based on the fact that he was interviewing another care experienced individual who had been in care since the age of six months and been moved thirty-five times. The experience of making this particular film about foster care for the BBC was not an easy one for Ashley –
“It was one of the many shocking things that I learned on my journey making a film for the BBC, the most horrible was finding out that two of the boys I lived with in a children’s home are dead, and a third is in prison for shooting.”
The experience of making the film was salutary. As he himself says – “Having made this film, I’ve come to realise how different my life could have been and how much I owe to the foster parents, like Fresca and Ervin, who opened up their home to me, gave me stability and encouraged me to achieve a place at Cambridge.”
But we cannot be complacent. The words of Fresia, Ashley’s foster parent strike a cautionary note and are supremely relevant – especially during Foster Care Fortnight. Her opinion is that a rethink is required in relation to foster parents – “It should be viewed as a job. If they have more emphasis on carers, you’ll encourage more people. It’s more than money, it’s a vocation and if you’re called to be a foster carer you do it wholeheartedly.”
The foster care Ashly received from Fresia and Ervin must have been of the highest standard. He got the support and encouragement that enabled him to go to Cambridge university – impressive enough – particularly when you consider that only 6 per cent of children from the care system go on to higher education, as as against fifty per cent of their peers. But, remarkably, he also had the confidence to recognise his true vocation in life: a professional career in media. This might not seem that remarkable until you realise that to do this he turned away from the fame that beckoned following his success on ‘X Factor’. This is impressive when it is considered just how far he had progressed with his musical capabilities in the renowned talent show.
Only days after his graduation, he had found himself singing in front of celebrity judges at London’s O2 Arena. Then he became part of the boy band ‘The Risk’ and went to the X Factor’s boot camp and then on to live rounds of the show. The experience caused him to reflect on a fundamental level. He had as he described it something of an “internal crisis”. As he said: “I remember thinking we are on the precipice of being famous…of having what many young people want – a bit if fame – popularity and performing.” But, he quit; “I haven’t slogged through Cambridge for three years as a foster care leaver to throw that away.”
Such a decision guaranteed interest from the tabloids. And there was a lot of interest: this was when the show was at the height of its popularity regularly attracting audiences of twenty million. So John-Baptiste gave an interview to set the record straight and explain his reasons for quitting. A producer at BBC Three became interested and asked if he would like to make a documentary about people leaving the care system. This resulted in him spending four months making ‘Care Home Kids: Looking for Love’. From this, with the encouragement of the documentary’s commissioner, Fiona Campbell, he applied and was successful in gaining a Creative Access internship with the BBC News Channel.
It was as an intern that he went on to join the high profile Victoria Derbyshire programme which led, eventually, to a staff job. The perfect fit for him as a young aspiring journalist: “I feel like, on our programme, there’s a real ethos when it comes to empowering young reporters, getting stories from undeserving parts of the country and unrepresented communities, so that suits me well. What drives me is knowing that I represent people in care, I represent disadvantaged people.”
The story of Ashley John-Baptiste comes close to being a parable for our times. A young man whose start in life was disadvantaged. Against all the odds, he managed to gain a place at Cambridge University and from there attract the interest of the nation on the ‘X Factor’. Fame beckoned – with all its temptations. Yet, he was able to turn away from this and focus on where his talent and passion really laid – in journalism and trying to effect meaningful change for those who don’t have a voice and whose life opportunities are limited.
He is a man on a mission: “we need newsrooms that are eclectic and diverse, and of all social backgrounds, because then, when there’s a big story (such as Grenfell), you know that you’ve got someone who represents that community.” He fervently believes that more outreach is necessary. And he talks regularly with students from underperforming schools. Ashley also feels a lot more needs to be done so that local communities can become more engaged with the media. He is galvanised by the idea of working hard to “Create a new normal for foster children and for care leavers.” Could one imagine a better goal for government and society as a whole? Aiming to achieve this could be transformative. And we do this by attracting more people into fostering who want to create that new normal. People like Ashley’s foster carers who supported him and made it normal for him to imagine a future as a journalist in the media working to bring about change through empowering local communities.
Fostering does indeed change lives. Please support this year’s campaign ‘Foster Care Fortnight’ being run by the Fostering Network #changeafuture https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/fcf19
Rainbow want you to have a career in foster care.
It’s likely you’ll have been impressed by the achievements of Ashley John-Baptiste. As he acknowledges, this is down to the care and loving guidance of his foster carers. We need many more people to come into fostering to be the difference. It remains a depressing fact that half the people who grow up in care in the UK go on to have children who themselves are then taken into care. This self-perpetuating cycle has to be broken and can be if more foster children have a better start in life.
We are supporting the aims of Foster Care Fortnight – one of the main ones being to raise the profile of fostering. To also focus on the transformational power of foster care. Existing foster carers can often be the best advert for a career in fostering. This means that if you want to discover more about becoming a foster carer, we promise that along the way we will want you to meet some of our Rainbow carers. They will have many inspiring stories and a good few of them have been fostering with us for well over ten years – which tells its own story!
If you do become a foster parent with Rainbow, it could well be one of the most rewarding things you have ever done. We offer a range of career opportunities. These are combined with our ongoing free training packages. Ultimately, you could be earning up to £40,000 per annum as a fully trained therapeutic foster carer for example. You might, alternatively, train to foster teenagers, sibling groups – or indeed look after parent and child placements. Specialising can mean your earnings from fostering can rise considerably.
Contact Rainbow for opportunities in London and further afield.
We have a wide range of fostering opportunities wherever you live in London. Rainbow also has a presence in Birmingham, Manchester, Hampshire and the South Coast. Should you want to find out more about what fostering involves, you can fill your details in on this website and arrange for us to call you back when it is convenient. You can also ring us right now on our Head Office number 020 8427 3355 or our National Line 0330 311 2845.
Find out more by visiting
Sadly, an increasing number of children are coming into care having suffered from abuse and/or neglect. This means they can have a range of complex needs that require specialist therapeutic care. We need to find people who are interested in being trained as therapeutic foster carers. They play a key role in supporting a programme of therapy in the home. Therapeutic foster carers provide the kind of consistent care, knowledge and support that minimises the risk of placement breakdowns. Placements that are repeatedly disrupted, can be particularly damaging for a child/young person who may already have experienced trauma. Find out more about therapeutic caregiving at http://rainbowfostering.co.uk/therapeutic-foster-carer/
Make a special difference to the lives and prospects of young people and we’ll be glad to welcome you into our caring community. Most will be able to meet the criteria to foster: we have foster carers who are divorced/married/single. Rainbow also has foster couples who co-habit – with or without children. We also have many carers drawn from the LGBT+ community.