A list of incredible UK people who were fostered adopted or in children’s homes

From top comedians to best selling authors and from  an NHS manager to a Kiss FM presenter  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. They are all  incredibe people listed in no particular order. Click on their links to find out more.

Radio Presenter Pandora Christie

Kris Akabusi  CEO, Dame Elizabeth Anionwu  Emeritus Professor of Nursing at the University of West London. Mike Fuller  Former assistant Commissioner of the Met and Chief Constable of Kent Martin Figura  Retired Army Major and Poet and photographer, Benjamin Perks UN Human Rights Diplomat,  Jenni Fagan Playwright novelist and poet,  Kerry Little Ford Hackney Council head of services,  Lola Young  Baroness in House of Lords,  Jackie Kay   Chancellor of University of Salford  Poet laureate of Scotland.   Professor Jeanette Winterson  Writer Alan Dapre  Children’s author former deputy head teacher,  Allan Jenkins   Editor of Observer and author, Dr Donna Neill  Head of research at Ofsted , Tom Riordan Chief exec of Leeds City Council , Urban Phil  Artist,   Meera Mistry   Senior NHS Manager,  Ms Jones  FE Lecturer & trained accontant,  John Thomson   Actor and Comedian, 

Oscar Nominated Samantha Morton

Sophie Willan Bafta winning comedian and writer, Sue Cleaver Actor, Philip Sinden   Photographer Vogue etc,   Marcus Clarke  BAFTA winning Puppeteer Ronnie Archer-Morgan   Antiques road show presenter,  Ivor Frank  Barrister and chair of Independent Enquiry  Into child sexual abuse ,  Leon Reid  Olympic medal winner, Floella Benjamin  TV producer, presenter, author, Baroness, Deborah Frances White   Comedienne, speaker and podcaster Dr Sylvan Baker  Lecturer in community performance at royal central school of speech and drama Mo Jamil Winner of THE VOICE ,  Alan Dapre  author, Luis De Abreu Deputy of Bird College of performing arts  Deputy of Bird College of performing arts  Rob Newman     Comedian and writer  Rhona Cameron   comedian  Stewart lee    comedian  Luke Wright   poet, performer  Patience Agbabi    Author,   

TV presenter and producer: Ashley John Baptiste

Lord Andrew Adonis House of Lords Sally Bayley   Novelist  Keith Saha   writer and artistic director of 20 stories High  Richard McCann     Speaker and trainer and author   Pete Turner  bass player in Elbow Paul Cookson  Childrens Author,   Jamie Baulch   Gold winner Athlete and TV presenter Mike Tims media and tech entrepreneur, mtn-i Founder and CEO,   Rosie Canning    Author.  Ryan Smith  Chef,  Lisa-marie           Qualified pastry chef ,  Jon Moss   Culture Club,    Lisa Cherry  Author and speaker  Barry K Sharp   Founder of Duffer St George musician & author   Jenny Molloy  Times bestselling Author,    Terry Jones  Founder of ID magazine  ,   Chris Wild  Actor   Lenox Cato Antiques road show presenter  Ashley John Baptiste  TV presenter & producer  Subrina Kidd  hair stylist to the star  Olivier Rousteing  World class Designer. France, 

TV presenter, Producer, Author and Baroness in The House of Lords: Floella Benjamin

Yami ‘Rowdy’ Lofvenberg  Choreographer Lucy Sheen   Actor/writer/filmmaker  Precious Williams Author   Mark Steel  Comedian broadcaster and Writer, John Bird   Baron and Founder of Big Issue,  Kathy Burke  Actor , David Dickenson  English antiques expert & TV presenter   Steven Berkoff    actor,  Allan Ahlberg Author,  John Fashanau  TV presenter and former footballer,  Samantha Morton  Actor,  Neil Morisey  Actor, presenter.   Goldie  Musician and artist,  Vanessa Gebbie          author  Tricky Musician/lyricist/artist, Pauline Black  Actor and Singer, Hannah Pool  CEO at Bernie Grant Arts Centre,   Producer, Journalist, author,  Ben Ashcroft Author and advocate  Mark Bright  former footballer Sports TV presenter  Michael Gove Cabinet Minister   Lorraine Pascale Model Author TV presenter   Kerry Katona      TV Celebrity.   Ian Dickenson Care advocate   

Motivational Speaker and Times Best Selling Author: Richard McCann

Debby Harry  Singer  Alex Wheatle  Author,  Paolo Hewitt Author Seal  Singer,   Shonagh Woodburn-Hall  Actor, Fatima Whitbread  Sportswoman  Jayne Casey  artistic director  Tony Morris  TV presenter Nicky Campbell   TV presenterBruce Oldfield Couture,  David Akinsanya   TV presenter and  advocate  Louise Wallwein MBE   Writer and performer  Sophie Willen  Comedian Lemn Sissay   Chancellor of University of Manchester  Baz Bamigboye   Columnist and entertainments writer   Pandora  Kiss FM presenter   Kerry Hudson Author   Vashti Kincaid Smith  Cambrige University undergrad and novelist   Ty  rapper  Paul Sams    Archeologist, Heritage manager… 

(L to R) Stylist Subrina Kidd, Poet Lemn Sissay and Chef Ryan Smith (photo by Eamon McCormack)

This list is unique and made over some years.  Some of the names you will know but not all of them. Please share and link to this list.

73 thoughts on “A list of incredible UK people who were fostered adopted or in children’s homes

  1. This is great Lemn. I did something similar in the LA I worked in many moons ago…..what does one need to do to get on the list? For what it’s worth I am run motivational talks for young Women leaving care as I am now head of Global learning and development at the International NGO called Practical Action – and without a degree! (I was in the ‘batch’ that left care that were never given the opportunity or indeed supported to go to university even tho I was offered a place at Manchester) – I am over it now and educated myself in other ways!! Keep on doing what your doing I love the way you hold that mirror up and challenge the status quo and make the ‘comfortable’ working within the system ‘uncomfortable’ good luck at the BAFTAs. Lee Piarroux

    Thank you

    Lee Piarroux

  2. Hi Lemn, thanks for this.
    I qualified as a social worker in 2007.. I was in a children’s home from the age of six, I had a failed adopted placement which began at age 9 and I was moved out age 13 as the mother could not cope with another child she had fostered. I was moved into another children’s home, over six foster families over a six month period, I slept rough on the streets of London , was placed in a semi secure unit for six months and then a mother and baby home shortly after that aged 15. I moved quickly into a domestic violent relationship and started spiralling into a life of crime which I am ashamed to admit but with two children in tow, and a very shaky sense of identity , I enrolled back into college. As school had escaped me, I had to start with basic exams.. five years later, after living on benefits with two children I qualified and have worked as a social worker for the local authority and most recently the NHS ever since.:
    Yet.. I don’t feel like an incredible person. I feel exhausted in my chosen profession but i keep on going, as I always have because I know deep down I am making a positive difference to a life every now and again.. and it is people like you that keep me going , inspiring and amazing ~ thank you

    • Hey Natalie, I know what it feels like to not feel like an incredible person. I am not saying these people are incredible because of their job titles.
      I am saying they are incredible because they like you said

      “keep on going, as I always have because I know deep down I am making a positive difference to a life every now and again.”

    • You are amazing, you inspire me. I foster a 13 year old who I adore but is emotionally shutdown his sister is in a place that you once were and is not listening to anyone. I will be showing him your incredible life story. Thank you.

    • Hey Natalie,
      I don’t know you, but to choose to work in a professional that possibly didn’t do right by you so YOU can be the voice of and advocate for children is in itself incredible. I too am a SW and I know it is a thankless job and you will be told on a regular basis that you are scrap! That’s doesn’t mean your not incredible. You completed a tough course so you could do a tough job and all whilst caring for your own children to? You Are Incredible. Always remember Incredible is whatever you want it too be. Not what someone else defines you to be.

  3. Well done to all those that have been through troubled times, but managed to come out the other side. I foster two boys who are a delight. However I am deeply troubled by those who go through the system feeling failures because they have been moved time and time again. They are the ones we need to target and motivate.

  4. Dear Lemn,

    When you made the TV programme Superkids, and so many people in the audience stood up and spoke about being in care, it was tremendous. So moving.
    With love, Judith

  5. Hey Lemn, thanks for sharing this list of awesome people! Usually we only hear the more negative stories relating to being in care – either that or the super inspirational ones that seem almost unattainable. This post shows how there are so many people from all walks of life doing great stuff who also happened to have been in care. It’s brilliant!

  6. What an interesting list! You do a great job on top of your poetry. Personallly I’d like to add our son R…. – Social worker. Also my school friend Sheila – no particularly big job title, but lovely all round person, adopted over 70 years ago.

  7. Thank you Lem.

    I have followed you for years, you gave me a voice when I didn’t have one.

    You gave vocabulary to my feelings when I didn’t have them.

    I was in care as a child, escaped to London as soon as I could.

    I didn’t meet a single person in care until I was in mid 40’s. So didn’t know how to talk about it.

    It felt shameful somehow.

    You and at the young people at The Big House gave me my voice. Thank you.

  8. Hi Lemn, my incredible foster son Ryan McShane should be on this list. He’s a member of the Scottish youth parliament, who spoke in the UN in Geneva last year as a Human Rights Defender for all young, care experienced people. He introduced the First Minister for Scotland to the scottish parliament in December last year as the ultimate human rights defender and challenged her to write the UNHRC rights of the child into Scots law. All this and only 16! With 15 ‘placement’ moves before he came with his wee brother to love and be loved by my husband and I. I couldn’t be more proud and I love this list! Great work, as ever! Thank you, Sj Linton

  9. Tap into the Care Review in Scotland, so many wonderful care experienced people involved in that. This is a beautiful list

  10. It’s been interesting to see the response to this list of ‘Incredible UK people…’ Some have wondered why there are not more ordinary folk listed who daily do incredible things. A list like this obviously has its limitations, but what it can do is show that care experienced individuals often go on and accomplish incredible things from an untypical start.

    Life is not a level playing field and I have worked hard to show those in authority who labelled me as ‘retarded’ or untalented that I have as much to offer as anyone. I was determined to go to Uni, to become a teacher, and show that a care background doesn’t define or diminish me. Labels are pointless (and lazily single us out as different or lesser).

    I taught because I thought I could offer hope and genuine care to children, regardless of their backgrounds. I eventually swapped teaching for a writing career in 2001 yet I am privileged to get emails from pupils – now adults – who are doing well. For many of them, being ‘incredible’ equates to raising a family or achieving a personal dream..

    I now write – aiming to give children a laugh, to tackle gender biases in my books, to reflect the joy that kids have. I used to sit in my children’s home reading battered old books that transported me to comforting worlds, far from the grim reality of what I was experiencing. The stories set my imagination free. No limits.

    Why am I telling you all this? Your list is all about having no limits. It’s a moment in time too. A snapshot of what can be achieved. It’s full of hope. That’s priceless.

  11. I was abandoned to boarding school (along with my younger brother) because my father had no idea what children needed was a loving family. It was little better than a badly run orphanage in the 1950s/60s. It is difficult when I think, with regret, of what my brother and I might have achieved if we had received some love and encouragement back then. I wish you all the very best – you have all achieved way beyond your shaky starts in life.

  12. Hi Lemn
    Taken into care at 10 months old 17 different placements then left care at 16 into my own flat. I got my degree aged 35 when a mother of four wonderful children. Became a midwife and now work in improving NHS care and learning from incidents. I am delighted that my eldest daughter is also studying in University so the second generation of my family to go into further education. A few important role models in my childhood have helped me along the way and my family’s future will be better than my past. Thanks for highlighting all these success story’s when the odds were against them. I firmly believe education was the key for me and not just university education.

  13. Hi Lemn,
    My Mum won’t make this list, but she should be because she is still alive despite the atrocities of her childhood in ‘care’.
    Catholic care homes of the early sixties in London.
    Records missing/burned /untraceable.
    Put up for adoption twice, had name changed, sent back.
    No records. No history. Nothing. She is 61 now.
    I set up the charity Peer Power with young people to effect system change in the care, youth and health systems so young people have a stake in them, actually effect real system change and young people with lived experience get learned experience to so they can become the leaders and decision makers at the top in those institutions, only with truly empathic leaders will things change. Love x

  14. ive always helped the young and needy but noe where getting older i worry for the elderly has anyone thought about this thanks

  15. Can we send names to add?
    Mark Lloyd – Chef and TV presenter
    And up and coming Rap Artist – Ric Flo

    Is Debbie Harry – Blondie as in first record I bought – Debbie Harry?

  16. Pingback: A list of incredible UK people who were fostered adopted or in children’s homes | Orphans & Care Experience in Literature

  17. My best friend Jeanette fostered at a young age but the placement wasnt a good one, she went to salford university and started a degree in social work then discovered she had a hereditary eye disease called Retina pigments at the age of 24, despite all this she finished uni and became a social worker in child protection (one of the good social workers who want to make a difference)
    6 years ago she embarked on a journey to become a mum and 4 days ago she gave birth to her daughter who she will bring up alone, shes an amazingly inspiring woman who is rarely seen without a big beaming smile

  18. Hi Lemn,
    I sent you a message some time ago, never received a reply, I was only seeking a reply and help to try and get details about my life in care, foster homes, children’s homes, etc.
    Maybe it is because I am just one of the thousands of ordinary people who were in care, and never received any details about their lives. In my case, I was placed in care when I was 18mths old and was released in my early teens to my own care.
    When I have sought help to get details relating to my life I always seem to get blanked, don’t know why, just seems like no one is willing to help or give advice,and believe me I have tried.

    • Hi Barry, it’s not easy is it. I have been on the same journey. I still am on the same journey. The reason I put so much out is that I am clearing for the truth. For what do you need advice. let me know. I tend only to respond in private to people I

      • Hi Lemn,
        The problems I have had are that Manchester city children’s department have consistently made it hard and awkward for me to get information on my life that they too looked after from my early age of 18mths until I was in my teens. The last most recent act by them was to state that the had destroyed my child care records at a certain time, and I was asking for those records before they allegedly destroyed them. All records they did provide only related to my later teen years, no records from doctors, family group homes I was placed in, no school reports, etc, etc. It is as if I never existed. So, all in all, I have no record of my life from when they removed me from my parents to Styal homes in Chesire,and then around other places in the so called care system of the time. I would have liked to have written a book about my experience in relation to my life at those times,I think it would have made great reading, but I have never attempted to do this.

        • That’s a difficult one. Write to them again. And again. And again. I did that. It took me thirty years as you may know. Also find a lawyer who may help you. Mine was David Greenwood of Swistalskis in Leeds, but I already had my files by then. I know it is not easy. The hardest part of the journey (for me) was the emotional journey.

  19. It has been a long emotional journey for me also, I have had to endure worst side of care with a children’s department, they placed me in places that were dark and abusive, and then I had to relive that through a court case that involved many children and adults.
    Not worth getting in touch with them again, I have had many years of trying, and in fact the last letter received from the person responding to me advised me to complain to the ombudsman she was very abrupt and dismissive with the tone of her letter. And I do not see what they could do anyway. I was born in 1950 and now getting on in years, so long drawn-out legal case would probably be resolved when I am not here. One could go to the local media, but it would probably not be in the public interest in their eyes. Catch 22 really, maybe an online kind of book would help.

    • We are in a different age now to the one you were brought up in. I have used this blog to outline the events and to register them in the public arena. This is how I started. I could never have known about this medium in the 1970s and 80s. But I have used it. I had no idea what would come out of it. But I have felt empowered to simply tell my story here. Outing your own story is a very challenging thing to do, most of all to yourself. That’s the first step.

  20. Having lived within the care system for 11 years and dealing with the stigma associated with that, it was my awareness of prominent people like you Lemn that normalised my history, gave me hope and inspired me to succeed. Thank you

  21. Really powerful. Jimmy Akingbola (Actor) and his brother who is the drummer in Jamoraqui (probably spelt that wrong) Muyiwa who heads The gospel group Riversongs and is the director of premier radio uk.

  22. Really powerful. Jimmy Akingbola (Actor) and his brother who is the drummer in Jamoraqui (probably spelt that wrong) Muyiwa who heads The gospel group Riversongs and is the director of premier radio uk.
    Hopefully this will post as it keeps saying duplicate comment

  23. Can I suggest Christel Dee, founding presenter of the BBC programme Doctor Who: The Fan Show? She’s also the author of two books and has recently started a podcast highlighting the stories of inspirational care leavers (From Care To Where?)!

  24. I was adopted and I grew up near Lemn, I used to go to the children’s home he was in to visit. I’m also a performance poet.

    Spacegirl x

  25. lot of important ex care not on the list
    fundamental to progress the social and education lives of kids in care and ex care

    who put together-
    care leavers association ( Fred fever Delma Hughes Dr McParlin)
    national voice ( Dr McParlin)
    started charities such as NAPAC-Siblings together ( Delma Hughes)
    From Care to University ( Dr McParlin)
    namely Not star busy folk but the real heavy grafters.

    Delma Hughes
    Fred Fever
    Dr Peter McParlin
    Mike lynsey
    Dr Jim Goddard

    • Thanks Peter.This list is one I have created over some years. Anytime I heard someone was in care I wrote their name down.
      The list grew and grew. That is all it is. There’s no panel or group to officiate and make up rules about who is in or
      who is out. It’s a personal list. But looking at it now I realise that I haven’t included people who are known through
      their work with people in care. The list is of people who are known regardless of them being in care and I think, now I
      look at it, that is what I wanted. I wanted people to see that we are everywhere. We are in all other fields in society.
      I then published the list to be openly shared and explored. I am sure that it has been the source for many, many podcasts,
      articles and generally to show people who we are. I hope that explains the list. Thanks. Will include your suggestions
      in future list and appreciate your input.

      • I think its a big issue in the accounting of the history of social change- its almost an issue of ethnicity.

        For example in Mike Steins book on ” looked after” social change-he does not identify the huge often silent work of ex care-often professional ex care folk, in changing the landscape-.Mine of setting up from care to uni throughout the uk and writing all advice for sw and teachers on education for looked after kids through the uk is just a small example. There are loads of other crucial care experienced social change contributions

        I think care experienced is a minority culture and I think like black culture is has suffered from white male professionals ( not care experience ) telling care experience adults and children they know best.

        We need to make sure this same group do not claim to have made the changes by themselves. Care experienced folk have had to shout both loud and silently enough is enough.
        Be great to have the right statues torn down and the right ones erected- metaphorically,

        • Fortunately I wasn’t trying to account the history of social change in this list.

          Mike Steins book ‘Care Less Lives documents the children’s rights movement fought by young people who were either in care
          or who had left care. The book pays tribute to the many young ‘care experienced’ people who fought for young people in care
          and helped change things.

          In this list of incredible people I simply share the names of those who had been in care but who were from a wider demographic
          than the children’s rights movement. In many ways this list says to other people in care “look what he/she did. You can do it too.”

          All the best



  26. Hi Lemn,

    Thanks so much for putting this list together. I am an adoptive dad to two amazing young children. We have a great network of other adoptive families but know very few adult adoptees. I am really hopeful that my children will grow up feeling positive about themselves, and being able to share with them that so many amazing and successful people came from a background of adoption is lovely.

    I’ve been toying with the idea of reaching out to some of the successful adults who’ve been open about being adopted to see if they would be willing to chat to me, as I’d love to learn more about the different experiences that adoptees have had. I’m very conscious that I wouldn’t want to be intrusive about such a personal thing of course.

    Thanks for all your wonderful work over the years, and especially for being such a beacon of strength and hope for those impacted by adoption.

  27. I absolutely love this article! I was adopted too…I left school with only a handful of GCSEs but later retrained, went to University studied Psychology, Nutrition and Neuroscience for over 10 years – which resulted in a BSc, MSc, Ph.D., and RNutr and just recently authored my first book! Salute to all fellow adoptees and those who were fostered and in children’s homes! My motto is “never let your past dictate your future”. Thanks so much for writing and sharing this much-needed article! xo

  28. Hey Lemn, I am also a poet who grew up in an abusive, alcoholic home, women’s shelters, foster care and a children’s home. I’m 20 pages from the end of ‘My Name is Why’. It resonates so much. We met, you and I, at the Cultural Olympiad with Jacob Sam La Rose. We were judges in Leeds. I gave you my book ‘House of Bees’. You are an inspiration.

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