Foster carers have shared exactly what they think of this year’s John Lewis advert – and it’s been a bit like Marmite. Some love it, some are not so keen.
For those who haven’t yet seen it, the 90-second clip follows the story of a couple as they gear up to become foster carers and welcome a young teen into their home.
The star of the show is undoubtedly a foster dad who we see trying really hard to master the art of skateboarding – with lots of failed attempts, mishaps and the odd injury sustained along the way.
It’s not until the end that you realise why exactly he’s gone to so much trouble.
The advert concludes with the couple opening their front door to a social worker and a very anxious young girl, Ellie, who they’ll become foster carers for.
In her hand is a skateboard. Cue lots of people crying into their cereal at 8am.
“Wow, that really was a tear-jerker!” Fay*, a foster carer with TACT Fostering, who is based in south London, tells HuffPost UK.
“It illustrates the lengths we go to for our young people – and that ad was just the more physical and social aspect. There’s tonnes of emotional investment that doesn’t get seen… or appreciated sometimes.”
Carol*, another foster carer based in Leeds, says she was “very emotional” after seeing the advert.
“It just shows the lengths that we, as carers, will go to to make a child welcome. Making Christmas special for my foster children is so important,” she adds.
But Cathy Glass, an author who has been fostering for nearly 30 years, wasn’t blown away by it: “Will the video clip make a difference? I doubt it. To be honest the first time I viewed it I wasn’t sure what was going on. Then I viewed it again and realised.”
She adds: “I don’t think it’s an accurate portrayal as the hardship of arriving at foster care is glossed over.”
There are an estimated 100,000 children and young people who will spend this Christmas in care this year.
“We want them to feel seen this Christmas and to inspire our customers to come together with us to make a real difference to those that need it,” said the retailer.
“Through a heartfelt story of one man’s determination to connect with a child, we see the power that kindness can make to someone else’s life.”
The advert forms part of the launch of a ‘Building Happier Futures’ programme, a commitment by the retailer to help young people with experience of the care system, including to find meaningful careers.
John Lewis said it will directly support children in care and young people leaving care through the tough Christmas period with donations of decorations, food and gifts. They’ll also be invited into stores to enjoy Santa’s Grotto experiences, while communal spaces of selected residential facilities run by Action for Children will be decked out with electronics, furnishings and decorations from the retailer.
Customers can also support the cause by purchasing new ‘Lewis Bear’ products as 25% of sales will go to Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland.
Louise Hunter, CEO of Who Cares? Scotland, said of the new ad: “We’re delighted that the John Lewis Christmas advert will feature a different kind of family, one which will resonate with the many thousands of people across the UK, with experience of care.”
*Surnames have been omitted to provide anonymity to foster carers.