Andrew Kew has had a busy 22 years – during that time, he and his wife have fostered more than 300 children.

Andrew, the 199th person I’ve met on my quest to have lunch with 500 strangers, felt drawn to fostering after he lost both his parents as a child and moved in with his grandparents.

During his two decades as a foster parent, Andrew has experienced many highs and lows – from witnessing the powerful emotional bond that connects children with their biological parents to seeing the debilitating effect trauma can have on the lives of children. 

Andrew has also learned that one reason children sometimes need fostering is because their parents may be in jail. 

That was why, after spending his career in the not-for-profit sector, Andrew became CEO of SHINE for Kids, a charity that supports children, young people and families with relatives in the criminal justice system.

Part of SHINE’s role is to give these children financial and emotional support. SHINE also provides the children with mentoring, to help them make better choices and break the cycle of disadvantage. As Andrew explained, a child is six times more likely to end up in jail if one of their parents has also been incarcerated.

Andrew was an elite footballer when he was younger. He played as a goalkeeper, alongside a friend and rival named John Filan, who later kept goal in the English Premier League. Part of the reason John ultimately outshone Andrew was because his parents were able to drive him to training and matches, whereas Andrew had to ride his bike and struggled to attend.

Yet again, it shows how our experiences as children affect our outcomes as adults. 

That’s why the support that Andrew and other foster parents provide is so valuable.