top of page

Channel 5 show shines a light on the shocking lives of 'farmed' foster children

By Ros Wynne Jones

Real Britain columnist

20:52, 28 Sep 2023

Between 1955 and 1995, more than 70,000 West African children were privately fostered by White Britons, and many of them have lived with the long-lasting impact

White Nanny, Black Child

When Ore Ogungbayi was little, like many children, she asked her parents where babies come from. “My mummy told me, ‘You get them from a catalogue’,” she says.

In Ore’s case, this was the truth. Her British parents had seen her baby photo in a newspaper, advertised by her Nigerian parents for private fostering while they studied in the UK. “After an interview with my Nigerian parents, they fostered me from two months old until I was seven,” Ore, now 57, says.

“I thought they were my parents. I knew they loved me – they had given me so much love. It never occurred to me that they were White and I was Black – or that the people who sometimes visited were my real parents.” Between 1955 and 1995, more than 70,000 West African children were privately fostered by White Britons, in a practice known as ‘farming’.

Many of them have lived with the long-lasting impact of this controversial and unregulated practice on their life and identity ever since – often in silence. Ore’s experience of ‘farming’ ended abruptly when her mum and dad panicked that her British foster parents were about to try to adopt her.

Ore Ogunbayi

Yewande Ogunnaike

“They kidnapped me,” she says simply. “They invited me to a Christmas party in London, took me outside to see the rocking horse they said they had bought me and told me to get in the car. There was no rocking horse. They took me to Nigeria, a country I knew nothing about. It was very traumatic. They told me my foster parents had moved and I couldn’t get in touch with them.”

Yewande Ogunnaike, 60, was farmed out at two months old with her twin sister, and moved between families. “The first place I really remember was Leicester and I just remember darkness,” she says. “It was so bad we had to be removed by social services.

“I remember darkness and being beaten so badly. I don’t remember the sexual abuse, but I know it happened there. I remember a cigarette being put out underneath my chin. I was beaten so hard that I wet myself, and I was forced to lick it up off the lino floor. I remember ‘n*****’, ‘n*****’, ‘n*****’.

“I remember they made me sleep in the bath because I wet the bed, with the dog’s blanket for warmth.” Yewande’s mother had come from Nigeria to the UK to study, before an arranged marriage back home. In London, she met and married a Nigerian architecture student, bringing shame on her well-known Royal family.

Yewande and her twin sister escaped their foster parents, but came home to find a second set of twins had been fostered, and their father had left for a new family. Their mother was unable to cope. “In 1970 I was taken into care and sent to a children’s home at the centre of a paedophile ring,” she says. “There was constant sexual abuse and rape.”

Her life since has been a battle for survival, and a fight to bring up her own children alone, one of whom has complex needs. But Yewande is determined her abusive childhood will not define her. “I want to say that this is not a story of victimhood,” she says. “It’s a story of surviving and ultimately thriving.”

Gloria Dixon with her British family featured on the documentary ( Image:DAILY MIRROR)

Ore and Yewande were among fostered British-Nigerians brought together by film-maker Andy Mundy-Castle for a new feature documentary White Nanny, Black Child which tells the story of the complex legacy of farming. “Across the decades, 100,000 people may have been privately fostered in this way,” Mundy-Castle says of his film, which invited people with experience of the private fostering scheme to a retreat with the support of psychotherapy and well-being professionals.

“I have friends who had this experience – and to many people it’s just something that happened in their childhood. But when I was going on my own personal journey of identity, I became more and more interested in it. I’m British-Nigerian, so it’s unifying the story of me.”

The result is an emotionally arresting film, which will be screened at the Brixton Ritzy in South London over the weekend and on Channel 5 next Tuesday. Private fostering is hinted at in the autobiographies of the musician Seal and at hlete Kriss Akabusi but, until recently, the accounts of ‘farmed children’ went largely unrecorded.

Shola Amoo’s semi-autobiographical film, The Last Tree was one of the first to tackle it in 2019. Now Mundy-Castle hopes his film will bring the experiences of tens of thousands of people into the light. When Ore was in her late teens, she returned to the UK. “My experiences with my British family were beautiful,” she tells me. “It was my own mum who kidnapped me.”

Aged 21, she went to her foster parents’ house. “I had a speech prepared to ask where the family had gone,” she says. “My foster dad opened the door. I wasn’t prepared for that. I was in shock. He recognised me straight away. ‘Ore,’ he said. ‘I’d bought you a coat for Christmas and I was waiting to give it to you when you went’. He said my British mum had to be sedated when she found out I had been taken.”

Before the foster couple passed away, Ore visited with her mother so they could make peace. “My mum was terrified,” she says. “But it was OK.” Over the years, she has come to understand that her Nigerian mum also acted out of love. “But many people were hurt along the way.”

7 views0 comments


bottom of page