I have received hundreds and hundreds of messages about the television documentary #Superkids. Hundreds of messages congratulating the young people for their strength and poetry. Many of the texts, emails, facebook and twitter messages were from members of the public saying that as a result of the documentary they were going to enquire into fostering.
So it was disturbing to read an article from The FosteringNetwork complaining “Fostering misrepresented by negative media coverage surrounding the new documentary series by Lemn Sissay. ” and citing a Coram survey to say that “most children in care (83 per cent) report that their lives are improving”.
Given that The Fostering Network is the largest fostering agency in the UK and given that 80 percent of young people in care are in foster care I think I should publicly explain myself in relation to the premise of the article. My explanation comes in the form of allegory, not data or anecdote.
A fifteen year old girl jumps from the window of the first floor of her home. She’s splayed on the pavement in pain. She’s traumatised and hurting. I crouch down and speak to her. I am no doctor. I am no social worker. I am only a poet. She explains herself and shouts for help. Then I shout for help too. Other young people come forward and say the same happened to them.
A representative from An Organisation runs over “stop shouting about the child with the broken leg. Stop it. Look, look there are many children walking and their legs are not broken. We have helped them. They are all walking. Look at this survey. There are many of us helping many of them”.
Ofcourse there are. The discussions amongst the crowds surrounding her are not trying to dismiss the work, the incredible work, done by agencies, foster parents, social workers and individuals across England.
But there is a girl cradling a broken leg out on the pavement, and as long as there are institutions trying to silence her, or me, (or anyone) then we have a serious problem. Haven’t we? You can watch Superkids by clicking the photo below. And listen to BBC Radio 5 on foster care here.
So shall we start again. A girl jumps from a window.