A HIDDEN HISTORY:
African Women and the
British Health Service
By 1960 there were 11,000 ‘recognized students’ and thousands of private students in Britain who had come from African Colonies to receive a higher education. Those who had children were encouraged to place them with white working-class families who received up to 3 pounds a week. In 1968 five thousand children were enrolled in this scheme. The NCB reports that there were many other reasons for parents leaving their children in private foster care, some believed they were offering their children a better life living in England or that they would be offered a better education. The African Children were sent to Kent, Surrey, East Sussex, Hertfordshire and Essex.
The media coverage varied however in the early 1960s the press coverage was positive with The Evening Standard refereeing to a baby as “plump with joy”. However, the press coverage evolved negatively with headlines like “Babies for Hire” and “Squeezing Gold from Babies” claiming to reflect concerns many people had.
Between 1961-1964 eighteen African children sadly died due to the neglect they received in private foster. Both African and British healthcare workers began to voice concerns over the children’s welfare, a Nigerian doctor reported that returning children had poor mental and physical health.
Systemic failings such as Local Authorities providing lists of unsupervised homes that took in African children and allowing the private foster homes to be unregulated by Children officers would have led to cases of neglect. Many children developed attachment and development issues. Some children were lost in private foster care entirely and were unable to be united with their families.
Immigration policies by the Colonial Office which encouraged African men to bring their wives in 1955 were now abandoned by 1968.Female students were now discouraged from bringing their kids and told “to put the welfare of the children above her studies or job”. In 1965 children under 16 were not to be admitted to join relatives other than their parents and those over 16 were effectively banned altogether despite having parents in the country.