I was very lucky to attend the Lost Childhood event at the Museum of Childhood on Thursday. After a fascinating guided tour of some of the museum’s exhibits, four young people with experience of the care system spoke movingly about their time in care, and the enormous challenges they faced, and in some cases are still facing.
One described being uprooted from her foster home at the age of ten after many happy years there because the family was of Caribbean origin, whereas her birth parents were African. She was moved to new foster carers found through a newspaper ad, whose care for her was terrible. Only after years of misery and school refusal were her problems resolved. Then at eighteen she was threatened with deportation, and had more battles to fight, as she did too when she tried to get into university, and her social worker would not fill in the paperwork. What a tribute to her guts and determination that she is now a graduate, though once again the threat of deportation hangs over her.
The others too gave powerful testimonies. One young woman told of being moved from a secure unit to a foster home where the only food on offer was bread and butter. Her time there was so bad, she ran away, back to the unit. Her next foster family was better, but always sent her into respite care whenever they went on holidays. At no time did she have a social worker who listened to her needs.
All the young people spoke of the help they had received from Voice, a charity with advocacy for looked-after children and young people at its heart. The picture shows Andrew Radford, the Chief Executive, who spoke passionately about the need to bridge the gaps in opportunity and attainment between children in care and their peers, and his anger at the disregard of many adults with responsibility for looked-after children to their needs and views. Young people in the care system face unfair battles, he told us.
I had lots of extremely absorbing discussions afterwards, with Andrew and others involved with Voice, and with other visitors.