Dominic Stevenson, senior media officer at The Fostering Network, writes: The internet, or sections of it, has found a new outrage – and while it will only last as long as the others, we wanted to put in our tuppence worth on this one.
KFC have started running a new television advert which shows a child being fostered, growing up in a secure and loving home, reaching independence and then being part of the family that welcomes a new fostered child into their home. Obviously they’re all eating KFC, but that’s by the by because it is an advert designed to boost the sales chicken.
Rumblings on social media have been that the advert doesn’t fully represent the fostering experience – and we have to agree wholeheartedly, it does not represent the fostering experience for the vast majority of people. It’s impossible to represent a lifetime in a minute, but what it does do is shine a light on the hugely important work that foster carers do every day throughout the UK to make the world a better place for the children in their care.
What it also shows is that a long-term fostering placement, with foster carers who are properly supported, can enable a young person to achieve academically, to be confident and fulfilled and to grow into independence with happiness.
The Fostering Network receives a lot of media enquiries, from a lot of different media outlets, who want to make documentaries about fostering. Unfortunately very few, if any, of these ever happen because children who live in foster care generally can’t be filmed, and sadly many media professionals don’t think the public would consider fostering compelling enough without moving images of the children themselves. So the documentaries don’t get made, and foster care stays in the shadows.
KFC has shone a light on long-term fostering by using actors to represent what they feel were key scenes throughout a young person’s life. Yes it was fanciful, but was the KFC television advert exploitative? No, of course it wasn’t.
The normalisation of fostering as a long-term way to provide children and young people with the support they need to flourish is something that we as a charity have been pushing for over many years. We are ambitious for children in foster care. We see that they’re full of potential and overflowing with the energy and vibrancy to do whatever they want in the world.
People have started a petition to have the advert taken off television…but answer us this, why would we remove a positive portrayal of young people in foster care from our television sets?
Rather than being outraged that it doesn't represent the full complexities of foster care, be encouraged that (even though we all know they’re doing it to sell chicken) a major company feels that foster care is a positive way to represent the family in the 21st century.
We recently said that we need 8,370 new foster carers across the UK. Maybe the advert will show someone what they’re missing and encourage them to open their doors to a child who needs them in their darkest hour. Visit couldyoufoster.org.uk to find out more.