While Black History Month (BHM) pulls focus on the contributions of black or ethnic minority people on the UK’s socio-economic and cultural landscape, for TACT it equally calls for an assessment of the present state of fostering for foster carers, as well as children and young people from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds.
The 2021/22 national statistics on fostering in England reports 82% of foster carers come from white versus 18% from ethnic minority groups. This highlights a gap when considered against 25% of looked after children coming from ethnic minority backgrounds. More needs to be done at government level to increase the number of foster carers from BAME communities to better meet the diverse needs of young people. It is also crucial that the barriers to fostering faced by people from BAME communities are identified and suitable measures put in place.
Equally we must address the opportunities and recognise the abilities individuals possess in their backgrounds. Culturally, black and ethnic minority communities often share the care of family members in need. Therefore, the skills to fostering are not only within their abilities but lived experience. Sandra’s experience of looking after her 6 week old nephew at age 16, was the springboard that forged a fruitful career in childcare and social work, which has led to becoming a TACT foster carer. This legacy of caring for the children continues through her own daughters, who work for the benefit of children.
No foster carer is the same. Yasmin, a TACT foster carer specialising in the care of unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) says “It’s very important for our own community to help these children by keeping them in their cultural environment. My family practices the Muslim faith and while I’ve looked after children of different nationalities, they have all been Muslim. That’s not to say, they wanted to practice with us, but I believe it’s better to have the information than not”.
In the DfE’s 2021 guidance, ethnic origin and culture are amongst the protected characteristics that ‘contribute to a child’s sense of identity, as well as feelings of belonging and acceptance by family, peer group and wider society, including other cultural groups’. It is widely acknowledged that placing children or young people with foster carers of an ethnically or culturally similar background encourages cultural socialisation and lowers the levels of uncertainty already experienced by the transition into care. It is evident from the statistics that we need more foster carers from BAME backgrounds to meet the needs of children.
However, while there is a shortage, transracial placements can be successful with research* evidencing the positive outcomes for children, where cultural identity development is respected.
Ali, a TACT carer and former teacher with trauma and interventions training, makes Sudanese dishes and has been learning Arabic for over a year to thoughtfully support the UASC teenager in her care, saying, “I think that helps him know that I am trying to connect with him”.
In future proofing an inclusive foster care system, it is crucial that we encourage adults from BAME communities to consider fostering by investing in more deeply understanding and effectively addressing barriers faced. A level of accountability must be built into the care system to ensure the needs of young people from BAME backgrounds are heard and met. By creating opportunities that attract future foster carers, with awareness of the diverse nature in which caring abilities form across backgrounds, ultimately we equip young people in care to thrive and have the choices that help form their identities.
*Parents’ Ethnic–Racial Socialization Practices: A Review of Research and Directions for Future Study