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ONLINE JOURNAL OF THE INTERNATIONAL CHILD AND YOUTH CARE NETWORK (CYC-Net) – ISSN 1605-7406

ISSUE 45 OCTOBER 2002 •  CONTENTS •  HOME PAGE

youth in care

Don't make a secret of being in care

David Akinsanya writes in Who Cares? the UK magazine for young people in care

I spent all of my life from 0 to 18 in the care of Essex Social Services. From the age of eleven I knew I wanted to work in television. It was because I went to school with a boy called Lee: his father Gerry Gable helped to get him set up and he used to work for London Weekend Television. He gave us stickers and I started asking questions about television. Funnily enough, 11 years later I bumped into him again and worked for him on a Channel 4 programme called ‘Dispatches’.

After care, I worked for voluntary organisations because I didn’t have many formal qualifications. I did stay on in 6th form and did a business course at college. Then I taught drama, English and social skills to ex-offenders. I really enjoyed it because it was a combination of all I really like – teaching people how to look after themselves as well as communication skills. Perhaps the only qualification I had was being able to talk and get on with people.

Then I came to London and started working for NAYPIC (National Association of Young People in Care) with which I’d been involved since I was 14. There I learned about television because I was representing young people in care on TV programmes: we produced the Black and In Care video and one about the police for the Children’s Legal Centre. The buzz that you get out of filming, making sure you’ve got the right people in the right place at the right time and all the equipment — everyone in TV will tell you that filming gives you that buzz.

I next went to work for the Community Service Volunteers (CSV) where I did public relations, publicity and recruitment. I enjoyed that because it gave me an opportunity to work with a lot of young people in care who wanted to do things. I was very lucky to be paid a good salary considering my age and background. I’m grateful to CSV for giving me that chance to prove myself.

I then went freelance and worked for the Sunday Times for a while as an interviewer collecting quotes for the Social Affairs writer. I also worked for Roger Cook in the Cook Report. I used to mention being a member of the editorial board of Who Cares? and take copies along to interviews. I enjoy being involved in the magazine — as I do with the Prince’s Trust. I’ve been involved in that for about three years. It was when I worked for Black and In Care that we applied to The Trust for money. They asked me first to join the local committee: then later I actually got a personal hand-delivered letter signed by Prince Charles asking me to sit on the Management Board! It’s very exciting work because we decide how to spend millions of pounds on good projects for young people. Meanwhile another thing I do is look after a hostel for young single homeless people where live in Camden.

Then I applied to the BBC and luckily, because I’ve got the gift of the gab and I enjoy talking about myself, I got a job as a researcher on "Kilroy!": all of the video work helped. I loved every minute of it. It was really hard work to collect 54 people in the studio every day, even though I only had to do that once or twice a week. We had to interview all of them, write a briefing for Robert, organise their transport, make sure they’re calm and collected for when they get on box — it’s live TV. But I had to give up lunches, weight-training, evening meetings because I had no time left.

My contract has been renewed for a year and we’re setting up a new family show for January on Wednesday nights. There are possibilities coming my way to become a presenter. In the long run I’d like to become a producer. One day in the future I want to set up an agency for actors, dancers, singers, models and eventually even start my own charity and give money to anyone I choose!

The most important thing for young people in care is to be positive and to like yourself. You have to understand that in care, young people often feel no-one likes them. But if you care for yourself, that’s at least one person on your side. Where I grew up in care, with Jenni Randall in Essex, I searched for people who did care — they do exist. Anyone can get on by showing willingness and working hard. There are all kinds of voluntary schemes, some run by radio stations, that young people can go for. And don’t make a secret of having been in care — I never do and it’s never harmed me.