Over the summer I read a fantastic, inspirational book which I think should be compulsory reading for students, children’s social workers, IRO’s, foster carers and adoption agencies.
The book is about Leon who is a 9 year old child of dual heritage who has a baby brother Jake and whose mother has significant mental health issues and becomes unable to care for them. The story, told through Leon’s eyes, describes him being separated from his baby brother (who is white) and who is placed for adoption and him being placed with a foster carer. There are excruciating passages describing an exchange with the IRO who tells him his job is ‘to listen to his wishes and feelings’ and asks him about his ‘access visit with his mum’. There are descriptions of Leon overhearing parts of adult conversations about what will happen to him when his foster carer falls ill and about the relationship he develops with some older men on the allotments. There are also powerful descriptions about his relationship with his mother for whom he has been a carer, and about his occasional contact with her once he has been removed into foster care.
Kit De Waal worked for 15 years in criminal and family law and as a magistrate , she sits on adoption panels and has written training manuals on adoption and foster care. Her mother was a registered child minder and foster carer. She draws on her own experience as a dual heritage woman, and of adopting children of her own. The book is a fantastic story about loss, identity, loyalty and about how often adults get it wrong when children are in trouble. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
‘My Name is Leon’. By Kit De Waal, published in 2016 by Viking Books.