The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge carried out their first joint engagement of the year with a visit to London’s Foundling Museum to learn more about the care sector.
Kate, the Foundling Museum’s royal patron, and William took part in a roundtable discussion with experts in the early childhood and care sectors to discuss the “wider landscape of care, the challenges that young people leaving care can face, including employment, housing, mental health and addiction, and the work that is being carried out to tackle these issues,” according to Kensington Palace.
Kate was overheard asking the experts, “From your experience what makes the difference between a young person succeeding after leaving foster care and when they do not?”
She also recognised how children moved from home to home are forced to “tell their story again and again.”
Prince William added that it might be “emotionally exhausting” to have to tell their stories over and over, and said: “We’ve had that in the mental health side of things; people end up on the street, go through hoops and hurdles, tell so many people in authority and nothing changes. You have to get to them a lot earlier so they don’t have to keep doing this.”
The royals also met with people who have lived in the care system to hear their stories, including Lemn Sissay, author and poet; Kriss Akabusi, track and field athlete; and Allan Jenkins, writer.
Akabusi told the Duchess about the traumatic experience of leaving care when he was 16-years-old, with Kate suggesting, “You are petrified leaving for independence.”
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Akabusi said: “It is great to have so many vital resources for young people. As a young person in care, to know people at the top are interested in your story and growth as an adult is very encouraging.
“Hopefully they are not forgotten. Young people who were in care are over-represented in gangs, sex industry and crime, I hope society has not forgotten them as these children are in care throigh no fault of their ownnso it is great to have this infrastructure.”
The royals also spoke with young care leavers to hear about the challenges they’ve faced and the support they receive through the museum’s Tracing Our Tales programme, a training and mentorship programme.
Finally, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined in an art-themed icebreaker with a group of women who grew up in care. Each drew on a paper on the floor using pencils that were three feet long. The group was required to doodle on the paper without looking at the floor, only keeping eye contact with the people in front of them.
William laughed after seeing the finished product, saying, “The kids would really enjoy that.”
The Foundling Museum said it was looking at ways of potentially displaying the artwork at a later date.
Following their visit, Kensington Palace tweeted: “It’s lovely to be back at the @FoundlingMuseum and see how they’re continuing to help to transform the lives of young people, but also hear some of the difficulties that care leavers have faced over the years including during the pandemic.
“We were able to understand first-hand the impact of spending time in care in the UK and its links with employment, housing, mental health, addiction, and the youth justice system, and some of the work that is being done to tackle these issues.”
Kate became the royal patron of the Foundling Museum in 2019 in a bid to recognise the “unique work to transform the wellbeing and life chances of vulnerable children and young adults, through creative collaboration with artists,” the museum says on its official website.
The Foundling Museum shares the story of the Foundling Hospital, founded in 1739 as the first children’s charity in the United Kingdom, and one that supported children when their mothers could not keep them.