IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Don’t write Windrush stories out of care system, says foster mother

Finsbury Park carer ‘reads up on where children are from and learns about their background’

25 October, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

Jessie Hall speaks with the experience of fostering 23 children

A DAUGHTER of Windrush generation parents who has fostered 23 children has called on people working in the care system to recognise the importance of a child’s cultural background.

Jessie Hall, who lives in Finsbury Park, has worked in the care system for 42 years and believes that there’s not enough emphasis on connecting foster children with their past.

The 60-year-old was speaking to the Tribune as part of the Black History Month celebrations taking place across the country.

“When a new child comes to stay with me I hotfoot up to my local bookshop and read up on where they’re from and learn about their cultural background,” she said.

“I take time to learn about their heritage, their community, the food they eat, and I teach myself to make meals for them, so they feel in touch with their roots.”

She added: “It’s important for me to understand where the foster children I look after have come from, so that I can encourage them to celebrate their identity and make sure their culture features prominently.”

Mrs Hall’s parents moved to Finsbury Park from Jamaica in the 1950s as part of the Windrush generation who were called on by the British government to help rebuild the country after the war.

She went back to visit her parents’ mother-country as a child.

“I was shocked to see that people were not racist in the West Indies,” she said. “In Jamaica, if you’re bad, you’re bad. If you’re good, you’re good. But over here no matter what we did we were treated differently [as a black family]. This is something that is deep in British history. Children in care are some of the most vulnerable in the country and so they will not have anything to cushion them from this. It’s why it is so important to make an effort to connect them with their heritage.”

A recent Islington Council report on the care system said: “Placements for looked after children are becoming much more difficult to find, there is a national shortage of foster homes and significant challenges of supply within the children’s homes sector.”

Mrs Hall started working in a children’s home in Hackney when she was 18 and has worked as a childminder and youth worker as well as running her own youth club in Islington with her sister for 10 years.

Mrs Hall fosters with the independent fostering agency and social enterprise Five Rivers Child Care, providing emergency and respite care to vulnerable young people. For more information on foster care contact Five Rivers Child Care on 0345 266 0272 or visit www.five-rivers.org

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