Heart FM's Pandora: 'Foster care saved me from a life on park benches and in police cells'

Pandora Christie attending an NSPCC fashion event in London. Credit: PA

Fans of her radio show are familiar with the type of music she likes to play.

But many may not be aware of the backstory that has been instrumental in shaping Pandora Christie into the success that she is today.

The Heart FM DJ was abandoned by her father and she and her older sister, Abigail, were raised by their alcoholic mother, Jay, who struggled to cope.

Recalling the turmoil, Pandora, who is now 37 and lives in west London, said: ''I was in and out of foster homes quite a lot. I was homeless quite a lot because we would get evicted.

"I remember some nights sleeping on park benches, getting picked up by the police, sleeping in police cells which was actually quite nice because it meant I was not on the street. It was really difficult.''

When she was nine, Pandora was larking around in front of her mother only to watch in horror as she suffered a heart attack and died moments later.

Soon after, Pandora was placed with foster parents permanently.

She told ITV News how the unconditional love she received from them transformed her life.

Her story highlights The Fostering Network's Foster Care Fortnight 2019 which is running from 13 to 26 May.

Pandora Christie at a London film premiere in 2018. Credit: PA

Memories before the age of nine for Pandora are merely snapshots.

She can remember the police being at her front door quite a lot and frequent visits from social services as she and her sister were taken away and placed in care temporarily.

She recalls: ''From the ages of three, four and five, it was a thing that I was used to and I used to treat it like a holiday. It became more a way of life for me.

''I can remember being about five or six and being evicted - one minute we had a roof over our heads and the next minute we were sleeping on a park bench.

''It was a chaotic, feral existence, definitely.

''To be honest, I thought my mum was just funny - I was too young to understand that she was a drunk.''

One horrifying moment Pandora remembers all too well involved buying alcohol for her mother when she was underage.

She said: ''My mother was barred from the newsagents and other local shops because of her behaviour.

"And I can remember going downstairs to the shops with a note from her with my sister asking if she could have a bottle of sherry and the shocking thing is, a lot of the time we would get it.''

Pandora Christie with her foster mother Ruby Hoyte pictured at her home in Barbados. Credit: Pandora Christie

Placed in foster care permanently, Pandora stayed with her first family for four years before moving in with Tony and Ruby Hoyte in Catford, south-east London, during what she refers to as her difficult teenage years.

Their unconditional love healed her and encapsulated the important role that foster parents can play.

She said: ''They really took their time with me. I blamed myself for what happened with my mum.

''I was a teenager and being an absolute git - I was rebelling and I don't think I was very grateful - I think I took them for granted.

''I felt that the world had done me wrong - that's why I can't champion foster parents enough - the amount of stress that Ruby and Tony put themselves through, but they turned my life around.

Tony and Ruby Hoyte, Pandora Christie's foster parents. Credit: Pandora Christie

''I just remember feeling like I wanted to be a tearaway, life is rubbish, but they taught me that life is what you make it.

''You are in control of your future. Don't forget about your past but don't complain about it. Use it to spur you on and do better.

''Tony and Ruby changed me through their love - that's the truth.

''I woke up one day and I remember just feeling that I belonged there with them - that this was home.''

Heart FM DJ Pandora Christie: 'My foster parents made me who I am' Credit: The Fostering Network

When she decided she wanted to become a DJ, Pandora said Tony and Ruby spurred her on and refused to let her give up.

Pandora said: ''My foster carers have had a huge impact on my life especially with my career as well.

''The moment that they heard my specific choice - that I wanted to go into the music industry and be a DJ, they helped me in every way possible.

''They literally told me to not stop at anything to follow my dreams.

''They are my parents, they are the family that I never had, and they always will be that to me. I can't thank them enough.''

Facts about fostering in the UK

  • Over 8,500 foster families are needed across the UK over the next year, according to new figures

  • Across the UK, a child comes into care in need of a foster family every 20 minutes

  • On any given day, there are around 65,000 children living in foster care