90 seconds to raise awareness of our 80,000 children and young people in care
When the John Lewis Christmas advert dropped I didn’t know what it was about. A friend messaged me saying, “I hope the JL ad makes your work a bit smoother this Christmas”.
Curious about what they meant, I watched the ninety seconds and by the end I was in tears.
What initially appears as a simple portrayal of a couple preparing for Christmas with the man learning ‘the hard way’, to skate, develops into a poignant vignette of a child arriving with her social worker to move in with a new foster family on Christmas Day.
This depiction of children and foster carers struck me as having the potential to influence so many people in a way that we haven’t managed before. Our sector is in crisis; grappling with ways to retain our amazing foster carers and recruit new. This advert has a key message for the viewer – “Could I be a foster carer?”
The advert made me think about the many foster carers I have met as a social worker who go the extra mile. The carer who creates the den in the corner of the room offering a space for calm retreat, the carer who sits on the floor outside the bedroom door for hours until the child is asleep, the carer who takes the child to Canada for that once in a lifetime family trip that was years in the planning, the carer learning Mandarin so they can speak with the child in their native tongue, the carer learning how to swim, cycle, sing, dance, climb trees, listen, or cook new dishes to enhance the experiences of the child they are caring for. The examples of going the extra mile are infinite, as is the ability for foster carers to open their hearts and homes to a child or young person in care.
The power and psychology of advertising is fraught with complex and ethical dilemmas and there are valid views about what this advert fails to do. They deserve to be heard. Having said this, I think credit is due to John Lewis, Action for Children, Who Cares Scotland and especially to all the Care Experienced people who were involved in creating this. For me, this is raising awareness at its finest. Helping everyone know about the 80,000 children and young people who live with foster families in England, and making them and their experiences recognised, understood and part of our everyday.
The Department for Education, the Independent Care Review Implementation Board and the whole sector have received a timely gift from this advert. We have been given food for thought, shared cultural capital, the language and common point of reference to start these conversations. They will be happening in workplaces, homes, cafes, pubs, places of faith, sports venues, on buses and anywhere where people chat. Conversations about our children and young people in care and our foster families. Discussions that wouldn’t have happened before this 90 second advert came along.
Find out more about what John Lewis have pledged to do for care experienced young people.
Emma Fincham, Fostering Consultant, CoramBAAF