The first thing most people think of when asked about LA children and the media was the BBC children’s show Tracy Beaker. It was felt that, while this was a positive story in many ways, it also portrayed a somewhat idealised view about being in care. Indeed David Akinsanya said he knew of children who liked the programme so much they wished they could be in care.
Discussion ranged on to the role and coverage of social workers themselves. There is an ego factor involved in wanting to talk about the job as well as a genuine concern to convey its complexities.
However, social workers needed to understand the production process and how this might conflict with what they wanted to achieve. Putting up a panel of young people to talk might make for good television but was it fair to the young people involved – great care had to be taken not to make it an exploitative experience. They may wish to expose their thoughts and inner lives but that could live with them long after and it may not lead to any greater understanding – just a convenient news story.
Discussion moved on to adoption and fostering process and there was criticism of advertising campaigns which gave people a false impression of the children up for adoption. The adverts on the back of buses were thought to be misleading. There was also a tendency to view such stories as either about victims or successes when cases were much more complex. It was felt that more focus could be put on the families fostering rather than the child as victim.
Concerns were raised about the social networking sites such as Facebook and how they are being used by looked after children to track down birth parents and siblings. Also the use of such sites by young people posting inappropriate language or images and how that should be policed. David Akinsanya believes filtering is required and moderation not just left to others.
David Akinsanya is a television producer and the presenter of the Channel 4 series Find Me a Family.