Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) children are overly represented in the UK care system. In addition to this, there is a shortage of BME foster carers to support BME children which often means that these children are placed with foster carers from different cultural, religious or ethnic background.
Although this is positive as children’s needs are being met, there are elements of this type of placement (BME children been placed with non BME foster carers) which may unintentionally cause challenges in a child’s life later on.
Example in relation to a BME child growing up with white British foster carers in a rural environment (please note that part of this example is based on a true story)
Suppose a BME child is placed with white British foster carers in a rural environment. As the child grows up and becomes aware of societal issues (racism and injustice against BME people) or experience this first hand due to his/her environment, the child may cause some frustrations and distress for a child which could translate itself into challenging behaviour.
If the child is unable to identify with his/her foster carers due to race as a barrier, this frustration could grow and may begin to affect other areas of a child’s life such as education.
If the education system accessed by the child also lacks diversity/ someone who understands the child or someone whom the child can identify with, the child could be branded as a problematic child and may be excluded from school.
This exclusion from school may lead to other issues such as absconding due to desire to discover self and identity.
This process of self-discovery may lead to a child interacting and associating with the wrong crowd which could lead the child into the criminal justice system another area with clear evidence of institutionalised racism, which may label a BME child as a statistic – failing to analyse the cause of the problem.
Some may argue that, race should not be issue when placing a child in foster care as the most important things is to ensure that the child is safe and away from abuse and or neglect.
However, the issue of race and the environment in which a BME child is placed could have an impact the his/her well-being holistically.
Neglecting identity when placing BME children can cause significant emotional impact for the child which often translates into low self-esteem, mental health and or challenging behaviour.
Often children are not placed with BME foster carers due to the shortage of them however, it is important that a child is placed in an environment whereby they can access and identify with people who look like them.
Fosterline stated that foster carers “need to be pro-active in encouraging mixed heritage children to understand and feel positive about the Black and minority ethnic part of their family background. People who have not taken time to consider identity may think that a mixed heritage child “looks white” and will therefore be viewed as white within their community and accepted. However research shows that mixed heritage children will generally be seen as Black children by the community they live in, and by wider society, and so need to be equipped by their carers for the racism and discrimination they may experience as a result of this”.
A BME child growing up with alternative foster carer residing in an environment whereby he has limited access to individuals who he/she can identify with may struggle and suffer from emotional consequences later on down the line, basic needs such as hair, skin care, religion, traditional foods and celebrations may be ignored. It is important that BME children if placed with white British foster carers are supported and encouraged to feel positive about their heritage.
Fostering agencies are committed to ensuring that children placed in care are matched appropriately and where possible placed with carers who best meets a child’s racial, linguistic, cultural and religious needs. However this is not always possible due to the lack of BME foster carers. It is evident there is a need for BME foster carers to support BME children in the care system as this does not only support a child’s culturally needs but also their identity which is an essential part of development.
If you would like to foster a child or for more information about fostering, the process, training courses, requirements etc please visit:
- nfa.co.uk –(0800 044 3030)
- ukfostering.org.uk – (0845 222 0518)
References and Further Reading