Bel-Air star Jimmy Akingbola reflects on his personal journey through care

Acclaimed actor and presenter Jimmy Akingbola explores his own journey through the care system in a new documentary which sees him move from England, to Northern Ireland and on to the bright lights of Hollywood.

The number of children in care has risen by a massive 28% in the past decade to almost half a million.

Of the children in Britain awaiting adoption, over 40% are black, yet black foster families are rare in comparison, resulting in white parents raising children from other ethnicities and cultures. 

In a new documentary for ITV, Jimmy Akingbola Handle With Care, the 44-year-old British-Nigerian actor explores his own upbringing in the care system and finding his foster family.

At two years old Jimmy was uprooted from his Nigerian family and fostered by a white British family, who raised him alongside their birth children as if he were their own. Jimmy spent most of his childhood with his foster family in England, but during his adult years the family moved to Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland.

Now living in the bright lights of Hollywood with a glittering career, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star often returns to see his family.

"My mum knows everybody, she's like the mayor of Carrickfergus," he told UTV.

"We go to the shopping centre and she's dragging me in every shop because she's like, 'Have you seen him? He's in Holby', 'Have you seen him? He's in Death In Paradise', 'Have you seen him? He's in Rev', and I'm a bit like, I'm exhausted!

"What I love is that that community and Irish community, the way they've welcomed my mum, but they do tune in and they do support me."

In his documentary, Jimmy speaks to his own foster family and biological siblings about their feelings and meets fellow actor Lenny James and retired Olympic athlete Kriss Akabusi, who both share their own personal stories of foster care and children’s homes, good and bad. 

While exploring themes of identity, abandonment, the importance of role models and cultural connection, this thoughtful, engaging and emotional film, directed by Andy Mundy-Castle, considers whether a loving family, no matter their ethnicity, is always more important than racial or cultural differences.

You can watch the documentary in full on the ITV Hub.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.