British child care system 'lacks love'

Lemn Sissay and Lisa Faulkner, with Kate Thornton, talk about their experiences of the care system on White Wine Question Time


Poet Lemn Sissay and actress Lisa Faulkner became friends on Twitter, united by one common interest: children in the British care system.

Both have experienced it, from very different perspectives, and met in person for the first time on this week’s episode of Yahoo podcast White Wine Question Time.

“I found out about your past and then I heard you on Desert Island Discs,” Lisa told Lemn.“It was one of those things where you go: My daughter's adopted, and you [are] a beacon of somebody I could go ‘Look at this guy! He's got something so amazing!’ You're so creative. Your words are beautiful, and you've done it. You're there. You're alright.”


“All children are bad and good, but a child in care is labelled as intrinsically bad, intrinsically naughty.”

The journey to adoption

Lisa’s journey into fostering and adoption began in 2008 when she legally adopted her daughter Billie, aged just 15 months. This came after a long period of trying for a baby via IVF, something she documents in her book Meant To Be.

The former Masterchef winner was keen to write a book that could help others going through the adoption process, and she said she had been overwhelmed by the response.

“I've written cookery books and I've done loads of acting, and people sort of feel they've known me for a long time,” she told podcast host and friend Kate Thornton.

“The emails that I've got and the messages I've got, if I'd have had one of them, that was the reason to write the book. And I've had so many people saying, ‘I can do this’ or ‘I've gone through this many miscarriages’, or ‘I'm now on my last IVF and you've given me hope, and there's that light in the darkness and the sun will come out from behind the clouds’. And that's why I wanted to write that book.”

While Lisa found lots of support while adopting Billie, she said becoming the mother didn’t come without its challenges.

“I know what she needs, and I know that I'm going to have to parent her slightly differently to other people,” explained Lisa.

“It's not an excuse and it’s not a tag that she wears around her neck, but there is a plus. I call it a plus.

“There's something that means that I parent her slightly differently because I have to. All I can do, as her mother, is hold her hand through it.

“And what I say to her all the time is [...] what I am responsible for is the fact that you are safe and that you are my girl and that I will hold your hand through all the shit that you might have to go through. Because I can't make it all better, but I can always be there.”

READ MORE

Couple decide not to have children because of climate change

Lisa Faulkner: Pregnancy troubles made me lose sight of everything

Lemn Sissay scoops the PEN Pinter Prize

While Lisa has had a largely positive experience of children in the UK care system, Lemn’s experience was somewhat different.

He was fostered at birth by a white Christian family, who decided to return him to the care system when he was just 12.

“Having taught me that I was their child forever they then put me into children's homes at 12 and never contacted me,” the award-winning poet told Kate Thornton.

“They closed the door and that's it. They were the people who said to me, ‘This is your mother, this is your father, we're yours forever’ and constantly reassured [me] throughout [my] childhood because [I] didn't look like them.”

Lemn then spent the next five years in the care system, living in a variety of children’s home until he got his own home at 17.

The whole experience left a huge mark on him, something he talks about in his gripping memoir, My Name Is Why.


The thing both Lisa and Lemn believe to be missing from the British care system? Love. And they think if we can introduce this, there will be a lot less damage done to the children who experience it.

“They are punished, and in a punishment regime which has no hug at the end of it and no reconciliation except for the fact that they're bad,” said Lemn.

“All children are bad and good, but a child in care is labelled as intrinsically bad, intrinsically naughty. This is where the importance of love needs to come in. And something's going to be released by the government [soon] about trying to include love in children's services.”

The greatest thing

Lemn tracked down this birth mother, Yemarshet Sissay, when he was 21. But it was too late to turn their relationship around and he said in an interview in The Guardian that they are “as close as she can allow herself to be”.

He hopes people will always consider adoption, despite how hard it is.

“Adoption is the greatest thing that a human being can do for another human being, in my opinion,” he said.

“Because a child is going to test you emotionally, financially, politically, socially, on every level. An adoptive mother can love a child just as much as a woman who's had the child themselves.”

Lisa Faulkner with daughter Billie back in 2009

This is a statement that Lisa herself can definitely relate to.

“People always say, but how will I love a child that I didn't make?” she told Kate.

“I love my friends, I love my sister, my dad, I love my dog. I love my godchildren. I adore my nieces, my nephews, and I really love my partner, who's going to be my husband.

“I love these people with the capacity that I had no idea that I could love them. So if I've got that love there, of course I'm going to love a child that needs that love. “

For more information about adoption and fostering, visit Family Lives.

Hear Lemn Sissay and Lisa Faulkner talk more about adoption, plus the power of words, in the latest episode of White Wine Question Time. Listen on iTunes and Spotify now.

  • Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps
    News
    AFP News

    Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

    Hundreds of people took to the streets across Lebanon on Thursday to protest dire economic conditions after a government decision to tax calls made on messaging applications sparked widespread outrage. The far-reaching demonstrations forced the government to walk back on its decision to approve the

  • Three gunmen killed in Brazil airport raid, kidnapping: police
    News
    AFP News

    Three gunmen killed in Brazil airport raid, kidnapping: police

    Heavily armed gunmen raided an airport in Brazil on Thursday, officials said, stealing money from an armored truck before fleeing and taking a mother and baby hostage. Three attackers were killed during the hourslong drama that started at 10 am (1300 GMT) at the Viracopos airport cargo terminal, about

  • Brazil building collapse death toll rises to four: official
    News
    AFP News

    Brazil building collapse death toll rises to four: official

    The death toll from a building collapse in Brazil has risen to four, officials said Thursday, but the figure could go higher as rescuers search for another six people reported missing.

  • What next after UK, EU agree Brexit deal?
    News
    AFP News

    What next after UK, EU agree Brexit deal?

    Britain and the European Union have struck a new Brexit accord but it is by no means a done deal, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has to get it through parliament. The House of Commons has rejected a previous divorce text three times, forcing Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, to delay Brexit twice

  • U.S. Energy Secretary Perry has told Trump he will step down - source
    News
    Reuters

    U.S. Energy Secretary Perry has told Trump he will step down - source

    U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has told President Donald Trump he will step down, a day before a deadline set by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives for him to turn over documents in the impeachment probe, according to a source familiar with the matter. Perry, who was the longest serving

  • Canada's Trudeau should resign if he fails to win the most seats - Conservative leader
    News
    Reuters

    Canada's Trudeau should resign if he fails to win the most seats - Conservative leader

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should resign if he fails to win the most seats in next week's election, his main rival, Conservative opposition leader Andrew Scheer, said on Thursday. Polls show Trudeau's Liberals in a statistical tie with the Conservatives four days ahead of Monday&

  • Juul suspends US sales of some flavored e-cigarettes
    News
    AFP Relax

    Juul suspends US sales of some flavored e-cigarettes

    The leading American maker of electronic cigarettes, Juul Labs, announced Thursday it is suspending sales of some flavored vaping products in the United States, as the US government prepares a nationwide ban. Juul will stop selling mango, cream, fruit and cucumber flavored pods, while federal health

  • Uproar as Venezuela wins seat on UN rights council
    News
    AFP News

    Uproar as Venezuela wins seat on UN rights council

    Venezuela won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council Thursday, sparking outcry from the United States, advocacy groups and Latin American countries who say its rights record is appalling. The United States slammed the result as an "embarrassment" for the United Nations but Venezuela hailed

  • Turkey, US agree on Syria ceasefire to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw
    News
    AFP News

    Turkey, US agree on Syria ceasefire to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw

    Turkey has agreed to suspend its Syria offensive for five days and will end the assault if Kurdish-led forces withdraw from a safe zone along the border, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish officials said on Thursday. The agreement for 120-hour ceasefire to allow a Kurdish militia to pull out was

  • Key developments in Turkey's offensive in Syria
    News
    AFP News

    Key developments in Turkey's offensive in Syria

    Here are the key developments in Turkey's deadly offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria, after Ankara agreed to suspend it for five days and halt it if the Kurds withdraw: - 'Operation Peace Spring' - On October 9, 2019, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launches operation

  • Juul suspends US sales of some flavored e-cigarettes
    News
    AFP News

    Juul suspends US sales of some flavored e-cigarettes

    The leading American maker of electronic cigarettes, Juul Labs, announced Thursday it is suspending sales of some flavored vaping products in the United States, as the US government prepares a nationwide ban. Juul will stop selling mango, cream, fruit and cucumber flavored pods, while federal health

  • Rift between Brazil's president and his party deepens in Congress
    News
    Reuters

    Rift between Brazil's president and his party deepens in Congress

    A push by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to make his son the leader of his party in the lower house of Congress was rejected on Thursday, deepening a rift with party leaders that could further fragment the far-right firebrand's legislative base. With insults flying and a police investigation

  • Displacing Canada cannabis black market will take years: Trudeau
    News
    AFP Relax

    Displacing Canada cannabis black market will take years: Trudeau

    Canada's cannabis market -- beset by complaints of high retail prices and huge investor losses -- will take "several more years" to get its footing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday on the anniversary of pot's legalization. "We have made progress when it comes to making

  • Dutch police arrest 'father' in farmhouse cult case
    News
    AFP News

    Dutch police arrest 'father' in farmhouse cult case

    Dutch police on Thursday arrested the father of a family kept for nearly a decade in a farmhouse, saying they were investigating whether a "certain belief in faith" was behind the case.

  • Displacing Canada cannabis black market will take years: Trudeau
    News
    AFP News

    Displacing Canada cannabis black market will take years: Trudeau

    Canada's cannabis market -- beset by complaints of high retail prices and huge investor losses -- will take "several more years" to get its footing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday on the anniversary of pot's legalization. "We have made progress when it comes to making

  • Turkey Reaches Deal With U.S. To Temporarily Pause Syria Invasion
    huffpost
    HuffPost

    Turkey Reaches Deal With U.S. To Temporarily Pause Syria Invasion

    Vice President Mike Pence trumpeted the deal as a "cease-fire," but Turkey disputed that characterization.

  • Dutch police arrest 'father' in farmhouse cult case
    News
    AFP News

    Dutch police arrest 'father' in farmhouse cult case

    Dutch police on Thursday arrested the father of a family kept for nearly a decade in a farmhouse, saying they were investigating whether a "certain belief in faith" was behind the case. The 67-year-old was suspected of depriving people of their liberty, harming the health of others and money

  • Turkey suspends Syria offensive, will end assault if Kurdish forces withdraw: Pence
    News
    AFP News

    Turkey suspends Syria offensive, will end assault if Kurdish forces withdraw: Pence

    Turkey has agreed to suspend its Syria offensive for five days and will end the assault if Kurdish-led forces withdraw from a safe zone away from the border, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish officials said on Thursday. Turkey and Syrian rebel proxies began an offensive in northern Syria last

  • Europe endorses Brexit deal and urges UK MPs to back it
    News
    AFP News

    Europe endorses Brexit deal and urges UK MPs to back it

    European Union leaders endorsed a hard-fought Brexit deal with Britain on Thursday, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces an uphill battle getting it through the British parliament. "It looks like we are very close to the final stretch," EU Council President Donald Tusk told reporters after

  • French FM holds Iraq talks on IS prisoners in Syria
    News
    AFP News

    French FM holds Iraq talks on IS prisoners in Syria

    France's top diplomat held talks in Baghdad on Thursday on transferring foreign jihadists from northern Syria for trial in Iraq after a Turkish offensive triggered fears of mass jailbreaks. European governments are worried that the Turkish operation against Kurdish militants will allow the escape

  • Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso dead at 98
    News
    AFP News

    Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso dead at 98

    Cuban ballet legend Alicia Alonso, who developed a new Latin-influenced style and taught well into her 90s despite being practically blind for most of her dancing career, died on Thursday. Known for her strong character and strict discipline, and revered in Cuba as one of its most important personalities

  • In Catalonia, frustration boils over into violence
    News
    AFP News

    In Catalonia, frustration boils over into violence

    After years of peaceful separatist demonstrations, violence finally exploded on the Catalan streets this week, led by activists frustrated by the political paralysis and infuriated by the Supreme Court's conviction of nine of its leaders over a failed independence bid. Since 2012, the independence

  • Pence says Turkey, U.S. agree ceasefire in northeast Syria
    News
    Reuters

    Pence says Turkey, U.S. agree ceasefire in northeast Syria

    Turkey has agreed to a five-day ceasefire in northeast Syria to allow for withdrawal of Kurdish forces, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday after talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. "Today the United States and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire in Syria," Pence told a

  • Much ado about a squiggle: French court rules for baby Fañch
    News
    AFP News

    Much ado about a squiggle: French court rules for baby Fañch

    A two-year legal battle over an orthographic squiggle ended in victory Thursday for a couple granted the right to write their infant son's first name, rooted in the Breton language, as Fañch instead of Fanch. The country's highest court for criminal and civil cases threw out an appeal bid by

  • Mulvaney Acknowledges Quid Pro Quo In Trump Ukraine Call, Says ‘Get Over It’
    huffpost
    HuffPost

    Mulvaney Acknowledges Quid Pro Quo In Trump Ukraine Call, Says ‘Get Over It’

    The acting White House chief of staff told reporters, "We do that all the time," when asked about withholding aid for political help.