Keith Gorman is the producer and co-writer on the film Hell's Pavement which tells the story of a young girl, Aimee Collins, growing up in foster care. He spoke to Camilla Pemberton
How has the film been received?
Reactions from the public and the press have been positive, and we have been really encouraged by reactions from social workers. Having worked in fostering, I feel that foster parents are the single most important professionals in a fostered child's life. Yet there is often an unequal power balance between social workers and foster parents. My fear was that a film about fostering, based on real experiences, could appear critical of social work. But through the character of Karla, Aimee's social worker, we tried to show the complexity of the situations professionals face and their impact. Social workers have said things like, "you've shown the reality of our jobs, and the difficult decisions we have to make, really accurately".
How, and why, did you make this film?
My mother - who worked as a foster parent while I was growing up - and I set up fostering company By The Bridge in Kent. We sold it two years ago but wanted to inspire other people working in fostering and raise some important issues about the care system. We presented at conferences butdidn't have as big an impact as we would have liked. So the idea of a film came about.
We knew little about the media but we knew Andy Kemp, a prominent documentary maker. Together, with his brother Tim who works in marketing, wesat around my kitchen table for two days discussing stories, good and bad, of children we'd worked with over the years and examples of the challenges we'd faced working in foster care. Over the next nine months we put together a script and a film. My mother and I funded the film and the UK Film Council has helped us with PR and marketing.
We wanted to make a drama, with a documentary feel, because it is based on real events. So although the film has a solid message, it also works as a stande_SDHpalone drama for people who know nothing about fostering or the care system. You wouldn't expect a member of the general public to wander into a fostering conference but they might watch an interesting looking film starring actors they recognise.
The film was very authentic. How did you go about creating that feel?
There were various subtleties on which I hope people working in the sector will pick up. For example, during one scene there is an emergency child protection review and the actor playing the independent reviewing officer (IRO) says: "We are here to discuss this child, Emily." Her name is actually Aimee. The actor couldn't believe this would happen, but I've been at reviews where it has. Sometimes the IRO has ashort time to go through the case notes before making important decisions about the child's future.
We were at pains to show that the child's voice is often lost in process and regulation. We don't want to make people feel uncomfortable, but after the film we've asked practitioners whether children are present at routine child care reviews or always consulted about their future in their council and most say "no".
What do you hope the film will achieve long-term?
We wanted to make a film that was as hard-hitting as Cathy Come Home, the 1960s film about the homeless, to raise expectations across the board for children going into careand the support offered to the foster parents and social workers working with them. There's a stigma attached to being in care which we must change.I want hundreds of thousands of people to see this film. If we manage to get it on to network television and it helps to start challenging perceptions of children in care then we've achieved something hugely positive. But we'd also like to change legislators' opinions so that the next stages of reviews take account of the opinions and thoughts of the people who really matter.
More about the film
Wall St to fostering
- 1988: Worked on Wall St; studied for an MBA.
- 2001: Returned to the UK and set up By The Bridge, a fostering company in Kent.
- 2007: Sold By The Bridge and started research for Hell's Pavement.
- 1988: Worked on Wall St and studied for an MBA2001: Returned to UK and set up By the Bridge..
- 2007: Sold company in 2007 and started writing script for Hell's Pavement..
This article is published in the 5 November 2009 edition of Community Care magazine under the headline A Cathy Come Home for foster care