Jimmy Akingbola calls for increased visibility of children in the care system
Jimmy Akingbola has called for better visibility of children in Britain’s care system after reflecting on his own experience for an upcoming project.
In a new documentary for ITV, Jimmy Akingbola Handle With Care, the 44-year-old British-Nigerian actor explores his own upbringing in the care system and finding his foster family.
The programme also features fellow actor Lennie James and retired Olympic athlete Kriss Akabusi, who both also share their own personal stories of foster and adopted care and life in children’s homes.
Speaking about what more he believes can be done to help children in the care system, Akingbola said: “I don’t think there’s enough exposure.
“It’s adoption and foster week in October but it does get dealt a bad hand and then there’s this visibility for a day then the subject gets put back in the drawer.
“I think there needs to be more publicity about it, more media coverage and there needs to be more support with all the organisations, like Barnardo’s and other foster organisations.
“It’s about creating a platform for this story to be heard more, because in the community, it almost becomes taboo. It just needs to be out there and public.
“It really is the exposure from a celebratory and positive place, rather than the negative or the trauma.”
Akingbola, who recently starred in Bel-Air – the reimagining of the beloved sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – was uprooted from his Nigerian family when he was two and fostered by a white British family, who raised him alongside their biological children.
After forging a successful career for himself in Hollywood, the documentary sees Akingbola return home to Britain to explore how his upbringing shaped him.
The actor reflected on the process of creating the documentary, which airs on November 1, and the difficulties he experienced while telling his story.
“It is hard because when you share something like this, it goes from being a personal story to something that belongs to everyone,” Akingbola said.
“When you meet other people who grew up in the care system, you find out we’ve all got this connection, but when it comes to care stories, it’s always told one way, which is negative.
“I know there’s a lot of hard hurdles that people have to go through and yes, I’ve had things to overcome, but my own story is not about trauma so it was really important for me to tell the other side of the story.
“Why don’t I see stories in the news about families like my amazing family? I call them my foster family because people get confused, but they are my family.
“I just don’t see those positive stories about foster homes and so that was the fire behind me telling my story.
“Also, I really do see this film as a love letter to the whole of my family. Especially having sadly lost so many of them through the pandemic.”
Jimmy Akingbola Handle With Care airs on November 1 at 9pm on ITV and ITV Hub.