What Doctor Who's Companion teaches viewers about foster care


Fans of Doctor Who started to learn about the Time Lord’s new companion a year before her first appearance. In that time, we learned quite a bit about Bill Potts, played by Pearl Mackie, and much of the media focus rested on the fact that she is the first openly gay companion.

What no one knew until the first episode was broadcast is something that resonates with me on a professional level. I work at Celcis – the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland – an organisation that works to make positive and lasting improvements in the well-being of children and young people who, for a variety of reasons, are looked after by the state, for example in foster care – children like Bill Potts.

Viewers first find out about her circumstances in a low-key way in the first episode, when she tells her foster mother, Moira, about the Doctor: “You know you’re my foster mum? He’s like my foster tutor.”

I was keen to see how this aspect of Bill’s character would be received by viewers, given that media portrayals of foster families are sometimes problematic.

The first thing I noticed is that Bill is a working adult in her 20s, but still lives with her foster mother, Moira. Young people in care are often expected to become self-sufficient more quickly than their peers, but Bill’s situation is a nice example of the recent shift in policy that recommends young people have more gradual transitions to adulthood. Although we see Bill move out in episode four, this doesn’t work out, and by the sixth episode, she is back living with Moira. I wonder how many viewers are aware that Bill’s experience isn’t the norm? How many would question the apparent ease with which Bill returned to live with her foster mother? In Scotland, less than 3% of young people eligible for support after leaving care remain with their former foster carers.

Read the full article here.  (Source: The Guardian)

(Photograph: BBC/PA)