Youngsters to explore history of UK’s first children’s charity
Published: Tuesday 7th May 2013
Coram, the UK’s first children’s charity, has received a £46,000 grant allowing young people from its Supported Housing service to work alongside professional archivists to explore its historic Camden roots
The grant from the Heritage Lottery will go towards a 12-month project training young people living in Supported Housing accommodation (and other local disadvantaged youngsters) in different types of historical research, and culminating in an exhibition and theatre performance next year.
The project gives young people the opportunity to learn more about the history of residential care, drawing on documents and photographs about Coram held at the London Metropolitan archives.
The charity’s rich collection of materials map its beginnings as a hospital in 1739 for ‘foundlings;’ a term referring to children and babies whose mothers lacked the means to bring them up and were often tragically abandonment. The Foundling Hospital, as Coram was known, stood near Russell Square on the site of Coram’s Fields, and placed children with foster families until the age of five, when they were then returned to live and be educated in the Foundling Hospital until they were 16.
This continued until the 1952 Children Act changed residential care for children, and in 1954, the doors of the Foundling Hospital were closed and children returned to birth mothers, foster or adoptive families.
Coram Youth Projects lead Kemi Akinola says this change marked the start of Coram’s work today:
“Today Coram’s services include adoption and support for young adults leaving care. Our Supported Housing service offers young people aged 16-25 who’re either homeless or at risk of being, a roof over their heads, but crucially also practical and emotional support.
“We help young people prepare for independence, manage their health, well being and finances, and pursue educational and work opportunities.
“Coram is delighted with the grant because it benefits and up skills young people who’ve mainly had direct experience of the care system, which is empowering for them as well as an educational opportunity.”
Research and oral history skills training workshops will take place at the Foundling Hospital archive collection at the London Metropolitan Archives and at the British Library throughout the year. Young people will interview people who were cared for by Coram or the Foundling Hospital in the mid 20th century.
The project will finish with a drama and music performance and exhibition in 2014 by the group, which other local young people in residential care will also have the opportunity to be involved in.