Lost in the Woods End.
Twenty or so years ago I met a guy called David Akinsanya at The Childrens Legal Centre in Islington. I was in an assessment centre in a small Lancashire town called Atherton. It was the final home offered to me by the social services after 17 years in their care. A stranger visited me there. I’d written too Margaret after seeing a newspaper article about a group she ran in Manchester called Black and in Care.
Wood End Assesment Centre was like a prison. As my then social worker admitted on atelevision programme made many years later I “shouldn’t have been there.” After each visit from Margaret which took place in the sports hall I was strip searched. I was a child that had been in care for seventeen years is all. It was a harrowing institution. We had to walk the corridors in size order.
Black and In Care was a national group run from The Childrens Legal Centre in Islington that identified a national pattern in the abuse of young black children in care. Margaret ran the Manchester wing. She brought me grapes and talked “There are many others like us” she said. I couldn’t actually believe that my experience was part of something larger butin the back of my mind I knew it.
The Assesment centre was run like a prison but most attendees had the right to go see their parents of a weekend and most were out within a few weeks as it was used mainlyas a remand centre for children waiting to go to court. I slept amongst murderers and robbers alike. But as I had no family and was there as a child in care they simply kept me there and didn’t tell me that I had the right to leave for respite. Margaret got me a trip to London. The only weekend in the six months that I was free of the place.
The Childrens Legal Centre is where I met David Akinsanya. He was in the documentary too. It was about the collected experiences of the various black children in care who were now coming into adolescence. When I returned from the weekend I was strip searched.
David Akinsanya is on the radio this morning, on Andrew Marr’s Start The Week. Since leaving care David became a television producer for BBC and has been for twenty yearssince recently going freelance. He lives on a barge only minutes from where I now live in London. Tonight is the beginning of his three part series “find me a family which is part of Channel Fours Forgotten Children Series. He will have unparalleled access to theadoption process and to childrens homes. Also tonight Rageh Omar will be presenting the first of a series on children in care.