Chesterfield father emphasises importance of connecting foster children with their heritage

A foster carer from Chesterfield is calling for cultural identity to be recognised and celebrated for children in care, after one of his foster children felt ashamed of their heritage when they first came to live in the UK.

Andy Thompson, 54, who began fostering over two years ago, has supported more than ten children and young people from different backgrounds, and says that nurturing the culture of his foster children has allowed them to feel supported, understood and loved.

Andy, who also works part-time as a wedding guitarist and DJ, and his wife Peggy, first considered fostering when their own family were holidaying in Turkey and met a foster family.

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Andy said: “We met a family with two foster children and we all got along really well. I felt like I had a real connection with the two foster children, and in fact, we all stayed in touch for a while after we got back to the UK. It was then that I knew Peggy and I could provide a safe and loving home for children or young people in need.”

Not long after, Andy was approved to begin his fostering journey with Chesterfield-based Five Rivers Child Care and has since looked after children and young people on respite, short-term and long-term placements.

Andy’s full-time foster child is 13-year-old Evan, who has been with the family since he was 11.

Originally from Poland, Evan has struggled to embrace his Polish roots while trying to fit in, which is something Andy has tried to change.

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Andy said: “When Evan first came to live with us, he was really defensive and dismissive of his Polish heritage. I think it was because he felt like he was an outcast and didn’t fit in, so much so, he refused outright to speak about Poland and told me he couldn’t speak any Polish. It was heart-breaking from my perspective that he didn’t want to have anything to do with his heritage.

“Over the years I’ve really worked hard on encouraging Evan to be proud of who is he. It’s small things like going to the Polish section of the supermarket and asking Evan to pick out something. The whole point of connecting Evan to his cultural identity is to show him that he can be proud of it.”