Fostering & Me with Lorraine Pascale, TV review: A model guide to the country's foster-care crisis

 

If you thought Uruguay was a tough draw, then spare a thought for the poor TV programmes going up against an England World Cup match. Rising to the occasion means the opportunity to unite non-football fans around an exciting viewing alternative, but judging by what was on the other side during England vs Italy (Road Rage Britain: Caught on Camera, anyone?) most channels don't bother. Fostering & Me with Lorraine Pascale (BBC2) was a happy exception, thanks to the TV chef's natural manner and eventful personal history.

The host of BBC2's forthcoming How to Be a Better Cook deserves admiration for parlaying a modelling career into success as a TV chef. The 41-year-old now occupies a place in the public consciousness somewhere between Mary Berry and Naomi Campbell – her macaroon recipe is as flawless as her complexion. But belying this cheerfully chintzy persona are this documentary's revelations regarding an unhappy childhood, spent in and out of foster homes, with nary a Cath Kidston bed spread in sight.

As well as speaking sympathetically with children currently in care, Pascale retraced her own history, meeting with each of the foster families who cared for her – and tentatively broaching some emotional questions. Why did her adoptive parents put her back into care? Why were her other placements so short-term? Pascale's adoptive mother, who now has dementia, was unable to speak for herself, but the social service documents detailing her alcoholism and attempts to suffocate her three-year-old daughter told a disturbing tale.

Pascale's emotional documentary ultimately aims to continue the work already begun by Channel 4's 15,000 Kids and Counting and ITV's Wanted: a Family of My Own. But while it did help to demystify the care system for prospective parents, this wasn't an un-nuanced picture of angelic orphans and heroic carers. Pascale's own story illustrated the devastating consequences of placements that break down – and with the proper support, it might all have been so different.

The most heart-rending moment in a tear-soaked tale came near the end, when Pascale finally tracked down the first couple who fostered her and they explained their decision to hand her over to another family. "We were very working class and they were obviously very middle class. We thought you would get a good level of education... It was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do."

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