At the heart of the PhD research is the way children in care and care leavers are portrayed in society. Fiction has elements of real life, just as autobiography has elements of fiction. Saul Bellow once said that “Fiction is the higher autobiography”. When governments, campaigners and children’s charities mention care leavers we often hear or read about negative percentages, statistics, and numbers. When I see these negative figures, I often think of the 1960s television series The Prisoner, played by Patrick McGoohan when he says: I am not a number I am a free (Wo)Man.
Care leavers do not want to be a negative statistic. Speak to any child in care about their aspirations and they will tell you they want to be a pilot or an actress or a singer or a writer or lawyer. They don’t and probably can’t imagine being homeless, in prison, on drugs and yet we know the self-fulfilling prophecy of doom-laden government stats as well as inadequate care often send them there.
I want to highlight the positives. Many of my good friends, my care brothers and sisters are successful members of society – they are writers, artists, academics, film makers, doctors, nurses, consultants, office workers, cleaners, mothers, fathers and so on.
Young care leavers are fighting back against these negative statistics. Here you can see a video made by Jade Ward and her team.
At the age of 13 Jade Ward was living in foster care. Now 25, she is half way through a degree. Jade started a Fixers project. She wanted to challenge the negative perceptions people have of care leavers and show that they can have aspirations and achieve brilliant things too. This film is all about challenging the stereotype of care leavers as lazy underachievers. Jade says: “I think too many people believe life in care is a chaotic and negative experience, and that those leaving the care system are unlikely to achieve very much.”
Well done Jade and the fantastic team of care leavers. Enjoy!