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Future Voices: When it comes to children's care homes, is Tracy Beaker fact or fiction?

PUBLISHED: 12:00 19 October 2016

Dame Jacqueline Wilson poses for photographers in a recreation of her childhood bedroom during a photo call at the V&A Museum of Childhood, London, ahead of an exhibition entitled Daydreams and Diaries, the story of Jacqueline Wilson, which charts Dame Jacqueline's contribution to children's literature and opens on the April 5th. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday April 3, 2014. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Dame Jacqueline Wilson poses for photographers in a recreation of her childhood bedroom during a photo call at the V&A Museum of Childhood, London, ahead of an exhibition entitled Daydreams and Diaries, the story of Jacqueline Wilson, which charts Dame Jacqueline's contribution to children's literature and opens on the April 5th. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday April 3, 2014. Photo credit should read: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Fierce, feisty and full of attitude - three phrases you can definitely use to describe Tracy Beaker, but can you add realistic to that list?

Picture shows Starring Tracy Beaker (Hardcover) 
by Jacqueline Wilson (Author) 
full libraries report from CIPFA
For EDP
Copy: Lorna MarshPicture shows Starring Tracy Beaker (Hardcover) by Jacqueline Wilson (Author) full libraries report from CIPFA For EDP Copy: Lorna Marsh

It is through the eyes of Tracy Beaker that many children get their only insight into life in a children’s care home. As an avid reader of the Jacqueline Wilson’s books, and viewer of the TV shows The Story of Tracy Beaker and The Dumping Ground, I was interested to find out how much research went into them.

Jacqueline Wilson was certainly aware of the responsibility on her shoulders.

In 2013, the former Children’s Laureate told the Daily Mirror: “For children who are lucky enough to have secure homes, with loving parents, it’s a gentle education. Often, it’s the luck of the draw and it’s important for young people to understand what other people are going through.”

But Dame Jacqueline is not frightened to cover some tough topics - siblings being broken up, fostering, internet safety and more. However she has always drawn the line at storylines around drugs and sex.

In a Guardian interview, she suggested the books do give a true reflection of a life in children’s home: “They (the audience) do see the downsides of it, too...they see that no matter what, it’s still your mum that you want.”

The TV producers of The Dumping Ground are also very careful to make the details as realistic as possible, and Bev Costello, a children’s advocate, is an adviser. She attends the initial story conference when writers develop ideas for plots.

She said that this has caused “no battles, although I’ve had to put to put my point across quite strongly”.

The writers have also been into one of the children’s homes where she works to talk to children and get their views on storylines.

However, the name of the show Dumping Ground certainly does not describe the care home featured in the CBBC show. It portrays a loving and caring home, with kind care workers who do their best for the children.

I don’t think people should be influenced by its name – but should be influenced by the stories.

To find out more about Norfolk Children’s Services and looked after children visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/children-and-families/children-in-care

Emily Oxbury, 15, Thorpe St Andrew School

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