An article in The Guardian caught my attention – LINK>”I was owned by the state” Samantha Morton on foster care.
Question ? What advice would you give to a foster mum ?
First of all, love. Whether you are fostering for a week as a short-term foster carer or you’re a long-term foster parent, try to show love. What hurt me when I was younger was being separated as the foster child. So I wasn’t included in family photographs or family dos, or they went on family holidays and left me behind. Try to get support to make the child feel part of the family as much as possible, which isn’t always easy financially if you’ve got your own kids and only getting a little bit from the council for your foster child.
Also don’t tell everyone all the time: “Oh, this is my foster child.” I really liked it when we’d have a little fib that I was, say, a cousin’s cousin or something like that. So I felt that I belonged.
Question ? What do you think the treatment of children – especially in care or those who are vulnerable – tells us about our society ?
Somebody posted an image on Twitter the other day of how many politicians were in parliament for a debate on the Care Act. There was nobody there. I think that it comes from the top. So if our politicians are not taking it seriously – the welfare of our children, the care system, how broken the care system is – then how is society expected to take it seriously? We need our politicians to take notes, to listen to doctors and social workers and teachers, and look at how broken this country is. The most vulnerable people in society are children and young people, and because they don’t get a vote, they are just disregarded. Politicians have to show compassion and care, and a commitment to real change, before other people kind of go: yeah, we believe that too.
Question ? Have you met a politician (in the current government or otherwise) who said they understood the value of art but then voted to shaft the vulnerable ?
No. The last time I had anything to do with government was after I made my film LINK>The Unloved (2009), about a character who goes into care, and Ed Balls invited me to talk to him and then asked me to be a children’s tsar. I took that role very, very seriously and had lots of discussions about how best I could help with my knowledge and experience. He really took it seriously. And I was incredibly proud of what the Labour government did then in regards to a huge initiative to recruit more social workers and provide better funding. I think since the coalition got in, they have done nothing but decimate children’s services. Anything that makes life better for children, they have actively sought to destroy.
The government has failed us miserably in regards to young people and culture and healthcare and national security. We need a general election now. We need to fight. It makes me very weepy. I cannot get my head around the lack of integrity. It’s just so bad at the moment and it’s going to get a lot worse. It will get better when a different government gets in but they’re going to inherit an absolute mess. Carnage.
Question ? Is it strange to have so many people know your story ? How do you protect your privacy while also allowing yourself to be, at times, very vulnerable ?
I made a choice to share my story because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to make a change. I believe certain things happened to me so that I could make a difference. I was somehow given the toolkit to survive, to not become a victim, to be a survivor. I do have privacy, though. I don’t really talk about my family and children and husband. I feel incredibly private. But I feel my childhood is certainly up for public scrutiny and conversation because I was a child of the state. I was a ward of court. I was owned by the state and the state treated me a certain way, and I’m a product of that. The legal system is built to protect people with a lot of money.