The stereotypical image of an ex-care home kid normally singles them out as being a deeply troubled individual, destined to live out the remainder of their lives in the shadowy world of alcohol/drug abuse and petty crime.
This is partly true, as many care leavers, do of course leave the care system and end up drifting aimlessly, living hand to mouth on the fringes of society.
Some end up in prison, some disappear completely and some have even died before their time.
But that could also be said about any number of people.
A marriage breakup, an episode of mental illness, an accident or the loss of a job or home, has led to many people ending up in a similar situation.
I personally know more than a few who came through the care system, before going onto further education and beyond.
I am still in touch with some of them.
A boxer who won medals at both the Commonwealth and Olympic games, going on to a successful career as a professional middleweight, he now owns a gym with an enviable stable of fighters in Perth in western Australia.
A lawyer, who is partner at a lucrative criminal law practice in Cardiff, another who excelled at medical school and now works as a Consultant ENT specialist at a Northampton teaching Hospital.
A Veterinarian with a large practice in Carmarthenshire, and a Structural Engineer who now plies his trade in the Middle East, where he heads a multi-million dollar project overseen by the Ministry of Defence.
Many, many care leavers, have gone on to lead very full and successful lives, making their mark on the world in their own unique way.
Here are some you may recognise.
Goldie grew up in care in the West Midlands. He is now a world famous DJ, who popularised drum ‘n’ bass music. In 1995, he released the album Timeless, which went straight into the Top Ten. He is also a skilled break dancer and graffiti artist.
Marilyn Monroe is the biggest female Hollywood icon of the last century. Starring in films, such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot. She grew up in a series of foster homes. She died at the young age of 36.
Paolo Hewitt is an accomplished former NME Journalist and biographer of The Small Faces, The Jam and Oasis. He lived in care from an early age and has written a book called ‘The Looked After Kid’ about his experiences in care.
Kriss Akabusi is famous for his athletic achievements and won Gold in the 1990 European Championships. As a child, he spent time in children’s homes and also had numerous foster placements. since retiring from competitive sports, he has been involved in commentating, TV presenting and motivational speaking. He was awarded an MBE in 1992.
Fatima Whitbread is a former javelin world champion and competed in the 1978 Commonwealth Games at age 17. She set a world record in 1986 and became world champion in 1987. Fatima spent the first 14 years of her life in children’s homes.
Paul Barber is a British actor from Liverpool, most famous for his roles in tv show Only Fools and Horses and the British Film, The Full Monty. He entered the care system in Merseyside at age seven. In 2007 he published a book, called ‘Foster Kid,’ about his upbringing in foster homes.
Malcolm X was one of the most prominent black nationalist leaders in the USA during the civil rights movement. He was also a spokesperson for the Nation of Islam. He spent part of his childhood in foster homes and also in a detention centre.
Samantha Morton started acting at age 13 and has become a Hollywood star, playing opposite Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Samantha spent her childhood in children’s homes and foster homes in Nottinghamshire.
Seal is a world famous singer and was the most popular soul artist of the 1990s. He has had many hit singles, including Kiss From A Rose, which was the theme for Batman Forever. He was privately fostered until the age of four.
Neil Morrissey is most famous for his role of Tony in the hit TV series,Men Behaving Badly. He has also performed on stage in the West End. He spent seven years in care, from age 10 to 17, most of which was in children’s homes.
Lemn Sissay is a professional poet, author and playwright, who has performed across the UK and overseas. Lemn was placed into care from birth and has spent much of his adult life in search of his birth family.
John Fashanu is a television presenter and former professional footballer. He was born in Kensington, London, the son of a Nigerian barrister living in the UK. When his parents split up he was sent, together with his older brother Justin to a Barnardo’s home. When he was five, he and his brother were fostered by Alf and Betty Jackson and were brought up in Shropham near Attleborough, Norfolk.