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Your voice where it matters at the NAFP Parliamentary Day

Updated: Jun 4

One very rainy day I walked past Westminster Tube station in the very heart of London with a huge smile and anticipation at what this day would hold. I was greeted by a friendly policeman who commented at how much he liked my crazy Topshop plastic mac, I was just glad it hadn't steamed up in the rain. (Ah.. I miss TopShop Oxford Circus - that iconic shop soon to become Ikea! You can't wear a self assemble shelf. Gutted. Just sayin..) This was a good start I thought.


This was a day of Celebrating foster carers from independent fostering agencies, the NAFP’s (National Association of Fostering Providers) and the launching of the BERRI/NAFP report here which examines the state of young people living in foster care over a number of years designed by Harvey Gallagher NAFP CEO. The event was introduced by Harvey with a moving speech and explaining his early connection to fostering and how his challenging experiences through his father motivated him to eventually work in this sector.

It was wonderful to see and hear the Rt Hon Sir Robert Buckland MP and Robin Walker MP, Chair of the Education Committee speak wisely and from the heart about the important role government plays in fostering now and in the future. Lawyers Who Care please do see the clip below shared about their personal journey from leaving care to now mentoring and helping young people work in the field of Law. They powerfully spoke of the important role that care experienced people can please in legislative fields. Despite the heavy rain outside the atmosphere in the Churchill Room shone out brightly, as voices were heard and friendships forged, policies and innovations were re-imagined.


The BERRI/NAFP report

In 2023 there were 83,000 children in care in England (ONS,2023) and 105,4000 in the UK (NSPC, 2024). The numbers are rising. We need more foster families in the UK and social workers for that matter, in fact this whole area needs more reform, creativity and support of all political parties. I was glad that I have had the honour of a good family, but as I read the report my heart was sad at the number of children still struggling in the system and facing issues from years back. Families are life, special guardianship or just one person who loves you. There is still much work to be done.


I would highly recommend that you study the BERRI report for yourself as it delivers a unique window into the impact of the current care system on young lives. Growing evidence suggests that trauma and adversity during sensitive development periods can lead to a cascade of emotion and psychological issues. The BERRI online assessment tool measures children in care's psychological needs in 5 domains and explores and data, it is powerful and productive. I held on tightly to my copy as I knew the revelations and data would reveal all, so a huge well done to all the researchers, especially Miriam Silver who I had the pleasure to meet that day, seen here in the photo.


'How do you know Harvey?’ are the words that caused me to immediately spring around as a smiling lady asked me, I pondered as I remembered and answered with a slight smile as the same conversations seemed to echo around the room. I stood still for a moment drinking in the grandeur of the Churchill Rooms enjoying the soft ambience and thinking 'how a found baby from Nigeria find herself in a place like this?' The Lord works in mysterious ways!


The conversations had an cheerful introductory rhythm of 'How do YOU know Harvey?' The atmosphere was akin to being at a delightful wedding reception when everyone was waiting for the families to arrive and the poignant speeches to be delivered. However, this was no bridal chat we all knew the magnitude of work that still must be done, partnerships with government to be established, finances found, legislation to be built and so on and so forth. The room was full of a meeting of minds and stories and and the resonance to see better outcomes for children rang out.


As an adoptee and advocate for adoption my mind flicked through some of the conversations I've had with families, adopted and fostered people who have all lived through what can be the horror and loss found in the system sadly even today. So the question is 'what do I bring to the table moving forwards?' Adoption and fostering affect a quarter of the population 'Your voice where it matters' matters.

 

So who is Harvey?

Let’s back track for a moment my dear friends. I have had the absolute pleasure of knowing Harvey Gallagher – or Sir Harvey Gallagher of Gateshead and cycling as I think he should be titled. 

Harvey has walked me through my adoption advocacy journey and always been there at many a twist and turn as I have sought his wisdom, kindness and insight that have never failed me. I first met him as an angry adopted person who was grieved that little change seemed to be done to help adopted and fostered young people especially use their voice and experiences. I felt we didn’t just want to be an emotional voice of anger or pain at events but be on boards, attend discussions and pioneer change.  When I knew Harvey there was no Fostering Fortnight, no National Adoption Day and not much Parliamentary engagement 'where are our voices?' I would retort to many an organisation head.


Fast Forward 10 years

Here we are today..  I gazed into the beautiful blue pull up banners carefully deposited around the room like drinking wells in a garden, ‘Make your voice heard’ it is time for us to drink up this slogan and not just sip. Harvey has tirelessly worked with government, organisations, brilliant specialists, business and upstarts like myself over many many years to help many find their puzzle part in building better outcomes for the foster care system and beyond.  He is always generous to share his wisdom, connections and powerful heart. I would not be the person I am today and wish to be tomorrow were it not for him and the many people I've been able to meet and now call friends.

 

As the speeches were delivered tears suddenly stung my eyes and I realised that this was the event that I had always dreamt of attending, everyone I met was kind, powerful and ready to discuss and connect through a sincere passion and love for children.  There were no dark corners of inactivity or cliques but the continual sound of meaty discussion and the huge roar of laughter and resilience as hearts and minds connected and became one. Every single person shared the fire to see fostered and care experienced people not just arrive at the party but take their place and position and purpose in society. None more so than Lawyers to Care, please do engage with their amazing work.




 

Final thoughts

Now it is time to acknowledge that inside of all of us we have the potential to be great and yield our own unique voice into society to help shape the generations to come. It takes everyone in the village to raise a child and the child in us to imagine a better village for all.

 

The UK is known throughout the world for it’s past outdated and unfair class system but as I looked around the room that day I realised that WE are the ‘new class system’, that of diversity, advocacy and technology. We are the voices that will carve newness and purpose and gradate people on the merit of their heart, their potential and their loving sacrifice for others. Who knew that within 24 hours of this joyous day the Parliamentary house would close as a Parliamentary Election was called, timing as I have realised to advocate change is sometimes a hairline affair.  One has to move and go when the going is good. That time is today.


The Berri/NAFP report is a must read. a truthful clarion call for governments and organisations to hear, respond and act.  Harvey Gallagher and the team – I salute you, please do read the report, share and ponder.  The data stands for itself and must be carefully assimilated and digested.

 

‘Developing a national approach to commissioning fostering services would further remove unnecessary bureaucracy that stops children fro being placed in the right home.

 

The system we currently have has evolved in reaction to emergency after emergency.  For children’s social care to flourish, we need the next government to prioritise developing a strategy in close collaboration with all foster care services’

Harvey Gallagher, NAFP CEO

 

As the day ended I put on my Topshop plastic trench coat as yet another policeman politely but jokingly commented on how much they liked my outfit and I joked replying ‘Are you the fashion police?’ How we laughed! I was thankful yet again for the amazing work that the policemen and policewomen do to protect us.


Thank you for reading this epic blog!


Blessings to you all,


Joy :-)


speaker/commentator

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