Presenter who grew up in foster care discovered long lost brother

10 mins read


A presenter who was taken into care at the age of two was has revealed his shock at discovering he has four long lost siblings after 20 years of thinking he was an only child. 

Ashley John-Baptiste, 32, from London, was in his mid-twenties when he learned he had four siblings, after a man claiming to be his brother reached out to him on social media. 

The former X-Factor star, now a journalist for the BBC, opened up about his experience in his new documentary, Split Up In Care, exploring family separation in the care system. 

Ashley, who has only met his brother once, discovered that even his social worker Roselyn, who looked after him from the ages of 15 to 18, had no idea that he had a brother. 

Ashley John-Baptiste, 32, from London, was taken into care at the age of two. He grew up in different South London foster homes, leaving the care system when he was 18.

Ashley John-Baptiste, 32, from London, was taken into care at the age of two. He grew up in different South London foster homes, leaving the care system when he was 18.

The former X-Factor star, now a journalist for the BBC, opened up about his experience in his new documentary, Split Up In Care, exploring family separation in the care system

The former X-Factor star, now a journalist for the BBC, opened up about his experience in his new documentary, Split Up In Care, exploring family separation in the care system

‘As i’m still coming to terms with my own childhood, I get a message from a man on Facebook. He tells me he’s my brother. 

‘It was completely crazy, because for a long time I thought I was totally isolated in terms of family, that I didn’t have anyone. But sh*t I have a brother, that’s life changing.’ 

Ashley, who appeared on ITV talent show the X-Factor as part of boyband The Risk in 2011, grew up in different South London foster homes, leaving the care system when he was 18. 

‘I can’t even remember the first foster home I lived in because I was so young’, said Ashley. 

It wasn't until early 2020 Ashley would meet his brother, in a chance meeting outside a South London hospital where Ashley and his partner were taking their newborn baby girl for a check up

It wasn’t until early 2020 Ashley would meet his brother, in a chance meeting outside a South London hospital where Ashley and his partner were taking their newborn baby girl for a check up

‘It’s really hard to describe what it felt like being shunted between five different homes before the age of 18. It felt like being under a could of rejection no sense of family no sense of belonging.’ 

After leaving the care system, Ashley won a place to study history at Cambridge University – where he graduated with a 2.1 – and forged his career as a successful BBC journalist. 

It wasn’t until early 2020 Ashley would meet his brother, in a chance meeting outside a South London hospital where Ashley and his partner were taking their newborn baby girl for a check up. 

While filming the documentary Ashley paid his old social worker Roselyn a visit to tell her he had been in contact with his brother, who had got in touch after seeing the presenter on television. 

‘I few years ago I had a brother get in touch with me’, he told Roselyn. ‘He just spoke to me on Facebook. I don’t know why I feel emotional. 

‘On my dad’s side I have at least four siblings who are all older than me. Was there any information in my file about me having siblings?’ 

Ashley, pictured as a child, revealed his shock at discovering he has four long lost siblings after 20 years of thinking he was an only child

Ashley, pictured as a child, revealed his shock at discovering he has four long lost siblings after 20 years of thinking he was an only child

After leaving the care system, Ashley won a place to study history at Cambridge University - where he graduated with a 2.1 - and forged his career as a successful BBC journalist

After leaving the care system, Ashley won a place to study history at Cambridge University – where he graduated with a 2.1 – and forged his career as a successful BBC journalist

‘No, not to my knowledge’, the social worker responded. ‘Files and information gathering has come a long way. 

‘Back in the day we had paper files now we have electric files and I think families don’t always tell us what we want to know at the time’. 

As well as information about his siblings, Ashley was never told whether he had been considered for adoption as a young child  and decided to see whether Roselyn had any more information.  

‘I think you were, from what I can remember you were but I think they fell pregnant and they pulled out’, she said. 

A stunned Ashley responded: ‘Oh my god. I didn’t know that. The thing is you feel like your narrative and life and identity doesn’t belong to you. 

‘The fact you could have been adopted, you could have siblings, but nobody necessarily tells you that they’re there. I just feel like everybody wants to know who they are everybody wants to know who they’re connected to.’ 

While filming the documentary Ashley paid his old social worker Roselyn a visit to tell her he had been in contact with his brother, who had got in touch after seeing the presenter on television

While filming the documentary Ashley paid his old social worker Roselyn a visit to tell her he had been in contact with his brother, who had got in touch after seeing the presenter on television

Ashley, who has only met his brother once, discovered that even his social worker Roselyn, who looked after him from the ages of 15 to 18, had no idea that he had a brother

Ashley, who has only met his brother once, discovered that even his social worker Roselyn, who looked after him from the ages of 15 to 18, had no idea that he had a brother

According to the BBC’s research, around half of sibling groups in care are split up – meaning more than 12,000 kids in care who are not living with at least one of their brothers or sisters.

To discover how local authorities are coping with rising demand for accommodation and carers for vulnerable young people, Ashley met up with Suanne Lim, Early Help and Children’s Social Care for Derby City Council.

When asked whether the council had adequate resources to help children in care, she said:  ‘No. We don’t, we are very stretched as a local authority. There has been year on year cuts to services that we’re delivering and yet demand is rising. 

‘We won’t compromise in terms of safeguarding standards, but it will mean other parts of the council and further local authorities will have to make some very tough decisions.’ 

When asked what this could mean for siblings in the care system she went on: ‘I think that’s what keeps me awake at night. In terms of what happens when the money runs out. Local authorities are close to the bone’. 

To discover how local authorities are coping with rising demand for accommodation and carers for vulnerable young people, Ashley met up with Suanne Lim, Early Help and Children's Social Care for Derby City Council

To discover how local authorities are coping with rising demand for accommodation and carers for vulnerable young people, Ashley met up with Suanne Lim, Early Help and Children’s Social Care for Derby City Council

Reflecting on his discovery, Ashley said that making the documentary had given him a new found perspective and level of sympathy for social workers, who he described as ‘so overworked’.  

‘Even though I grew up not knowing my siblings, I now have a chance to rebuild my family’, he said. ‘I have chance to move forward with who I am, with the people I want. 

‘Sometimes it will be blood sometimes it won’t, it doesn’t actually matter as long as you have people you love and who love you back. I think that’s enough.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said: ‘The law is clear that whenever it is in the best interests of each individual child, siblings should be placed together, Where this is not possible, contact between siblings should be prioritised when it is right for each child.

‘Every child deserves to grow up in a stable, loving family, which is why we commissioned an independent and broad review of the whole care system to improve outcomes.

‘We are also recruiting more adopters for children in care with a specific priority on sibling groups so they can stay together’. 

Split Up In Care: Life Without Siblings is available on BBCiPlayer now 

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