Ibironke John – Happy Memories of being privately fostered

My name is Ibironke, my parents are from Nigeria, the Yoruba tribe, and Ibironke is a Nigerian name which means “someone to pamper”. Do I feel like I was pampered? No, the extreme opposite would be true. Which led me to write about my experience of being abused physically, emotionally and sexually, in my book called ‘Love Broke The Silence’. The book has been written in my pen name - Serena Peters.

I qualified as a Social Worker from Durham University in 1995. I have had the privilege of working with diverse people with a variety of needs. I discovered that job satisfaction can be partly achieved when you use your DNA or own special design to engage with people. To this effect I have always found myself demonstrating a great strength and skill when working with people, especially young black males who have committed offences. The strong sense of knowing, I wanted to motivate and help elevate potential young Leaders who experience crisis and sometimes abuse, or even discrimination led me into becoming an Independent Certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker with John Maxwell Leadership Team.


“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”
– Martin Luther King Jr –


In my book I share my true story of being fostered in a white dominated area, my thoughts, the nostalgia, issues of closure, identity crisis, racism and sexual abuse from family members, the misuse of power and authority form parents and recognising how trauma affects us.

Someone once said, “Black don’t Crack”. Excuse me! Is this true? Certainly not in my real world! Black people may suffer significantly, hold it all together, but inside they are crumbling and withering. That was the situation I found myself in, smiling and greatly spiritual, but inside dying and reliving deep seated trauma. I masked my own pain, bitterness, anger, anguish, suicidal tendencies, shame and also another person’s hidden secret. These deep-rooted feelings and emotions encouraged me to write my story. In my book I devote Chapter 2 and 3, called: My Early Life in Kent. Here I relay my early memories of being privately fostered to a white single mother in Kent and how this impacted me and proved to be one of the happiest times in my early childhood. I also talk about being snatched from a loving home and the concept called ‘closure’.

My Noslagia for the fragrance of love and safety relates back to Kent. Between the 1950’s-1970’s many African students who had been sent to the United Kingdom to study full time, entered into private arrangements with usually middle-class white people to foster their children. The child could live with the foster parent for a long time, sometimes years, until the parents or Carers completed their education and found a footing in England. This worked for some families, but for others there were tragic stories of either the foster carers abusing and neglecting the children or in extreme cases deciding they wanted to keep the children and would use their race and money to influence the courts to award them permeant custody of the children, as they wanted to adopt them. I have very good memories of these days and would like to invite others to contact me to share their story.

Hollingbourne is in East Kent in the county of Maidstone. This is where I lived with my Nana, my Foster Carer. We lived not too far from a train station. I felt free, loved and protected my Foster Carer. My Nana had fostered other black children, but I felt special. I have fond memories of Nana. I loved her baking. Nana would always ensure that I looked my best, she did not know or learn how to plait my hair but gave me plenty of hugs. I attended a Primary School close to Nana’s home. I thrived in school, receiving stars and rewards for my effort, more than for my progress in English and Maths. Life was bliss until one day, unexpectedly my parents arrived.

I remember that day so clearly. They arrived not for a visit but to take me away to live with them. There was no warning, no preparation; it was sudden and dramatic. As a child I recall feeling sad, overpowered and initially having no emotional connection with my parents and neither did they with me. They exercised their authority causing emotional damage that could have been avoided. I still had to respect them. Years down the line I realised I was dealing with the issue called ‘no closure’, no saying goodbye therefore having to quietly grieve Nana’s affection and kindness towards me. And in the meantime, the cruelty which led to abuse from my parents continued.

Years later I became a qualified Social Worker and Probation officer, wife and mother, whilst still dealing with from the past. We were not allowed to cry at home. If we dared to cry, we would be beaten, so we tried to muffle our cries and pain. I suppose this is where I mastered the art of masking pain, smiling through it whilst becoming a person with varied personalities. I was up one moment and suddenly down the next. This led me on a journey of self-discovery and inner healing.

I used the attitude and art of gratitude to acquire the strength to breaking the silence. I remain grateful for those great memories with my Foster Carer. The relationship I had with Nana does not make me indifferent or ignorant to racism, but rather gave me a broader perspective of life. In my case I was treated well by a white person when I was a child. She may not have had all the skills but had the heart and I felt it.

As a mature adult now, when I look back at those moments, her love and care have engineered within me a heart of gratitude. The aspect of ‘closure’ is a subject, I remain aware of and has helped me work more sensitively with Service Users in my field of practice.

We should not allow our experiences of racism to limit or define us, instead we overcome those challenges with strength and resilience. We should continually use those challenges of racism to propel us to become more effective Black Leaders influencing generations to come.

Love Broke The Silence (9781916159501 Book 1) Kindle Edition

A compelling true story of a woman’s journey of how she broke free from sexual slavery and shame ,from her father . Having been raised in a family where parents held traditional beliefs , this story highlights the trauma caused by sexual and physical abuse. The author takes the reader on a journey of how she became free to really live and find healing , strength, hope and comfort through Jesus Christ