Black and minority ethnic children: placement with foster carers

Introduction to new policy and support service

Children and Families' policy on the placement of black and minority ethnic (BME) children and young people with foster carers clarifies our approach to placing BME children on the occasions when suitable same race and heritage placements with carers are unavailable and provides guidance and procedures for staff and carers.

Over the coming year the Fostering Team will be trying to recruit local carers from BME communities in line with our recruitment strategy. Until sufficient numbers of BME carers are recruited to enable most BME looked after children to be placed appropriately, our white carers will find themselves caring for children from different racial and cultural backgrounds. Therefore we considered it essential that carers had sight of the new policy in full, which will be guiding staff when they have to make trans-racial/cultural/religion placements and for you to be aware of the support and training that is available for you to carry out this key caring task until our number of BME carers increases. The policy describes the extra support that is given to carers who have a child trans-racially placed with them, including a resource pack, additional training, advice and assistance from your supervising social worker.

The new policy, supported by additional services and training, is viewed as a positive step forward by the Council. We hope the policy is helpful to you in your work with BME children.

Please feel free to raise any queries or to make suggestions about how our care of BME children and

Brighton and Hove City Council Fostering Service

Policy on occasions when Children and Families is unable to place children with carers of the same heritage

1 Introduction

1.1 This policy clarifies the Fostering Service’s approach to placing Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) children on the occasions when suitable same heritage placements with foster carers are unavailable. It highlights the key principles underpinning the policy, the assessment, planning and decision-making process and the support services that should be available to children and carers.

2 Principles underpinning placement of BME children

2.1 The Brighton and Hove Fostering Service is committed to ensuring that looked after children, who cannot live with their birth family, experience a stable family life in a placement that meets their racial, linguistic, cultural and religious needs. The placement can either be a foster family, an adoptive family, friends and family care, or where a child’s needs are such that they can only be met in a residential setting. As part of our commitment to involving and empowering people, the Fostering Service will listen to the views of children and their families and respect those as is consistent with the welfare of the child, and as resources permit.

2.2 The Fostering Service’s commitment to meeting the placement needs of BME children must be viewed within the context of legal requirements, research, best practice, policy guidance and available resources.

2.3 The most desirable way of achieving this is to ensure that looked after children are placed with carers who share the same race, ethnicity and language as their birth family. It must be recognised that, on occasions, it will be necessary to place children in a foster placement that does not ideally match their heritage. In these circumstances the Fostering Service remains committed to achieving a placement that is capable of positively promoting the child’s identity and meeting their other assessed needs.

2.4 A child’s history, identity, experiences and ‘sense of self’ is intrinsically linked with gender, race, ethnicity, religion, family and social culture. The needs of a child cannot be understood and met without full consideration of these factors. Supervising social workers must, therefore, ensure matching children with foster placements gives comprehensive consideration to these dimensions. It is the Fostering Service’s policy to ensure that a looked after child is placed in an environment where all aspects of their identity can be positively promoted. It is only in exceptional circumstances that a trans-racial or religion placement should take place.

2.5 Current Department for Education Guidance makes clear the necessity to avoid placement drift and the unacceptability of children remaining in the care system, if suitable homes are available. The Council’s performance for family finding in relation to foster care and adoption is inspected three-yearly.

2.6 The National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services 2011 state that each child and her/his family should have access to foster care services which promotes all aspects of their individual identity, recognise and address her/his needs in terms of gender, religion, ethnic origin, language, culture, disability and sexuality (Standard 2). National Standards also require foster carers to receive additional training, support and information to enable a child in a trans-racial placement to be provided with the best possible care and to develop a positive understanding of her/his heritage (Standard 20).

2.7 The Fostering Service aims to meet all the requirements of the National Minimum Standards regarding trans-racial placements and the support to be given to children and carers.

3 Consideration of race, culture and ethnicity in placement choice

3.1 A placement of a BME child with carers of the same race, ethnicity and religion will be the most desirable outcome for a child. However, the number of families available will not necessarily equate with the number of children requiring a family placement within given timescales.

3.2 Race and culture are closely related but are not necessarily co-terminous, therefore, where different cultures are present within the same racial group, consideration must be given to those dynamics.

3.3 The Fostering Service’s recruitment strategy positively targets ethnic and religious groups that reflect the characteristics of the local looked after children population and predicted future need.

3.4 When considering placement options the views of the family, and the child (if age appropriate), must be taken into account and if possible an element of placement choice offered.

3.5 Promoting choice and respecting the wishes of the child/family may be constrained by the need to protect the child or by resource limitations.

3.6 Where an assessment concludes that a residential placement best meets the child’s needs consideration must be given to how the child’s cultural and religious needs will be met. The unit’s location, staff complement, policy and practice for meeting the needs of BME children must be shown as being capable of promoting a positive cultural identity.

3.7 Changing family and social structures are making matching an even more complex process as a child requiring a placement may have parents from very different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

3.8 It is important to remember that a child’s heritage may not always be obvious from their physical appearance. Yet their life experiences may be closely linked to a particular culture, ethnicity or religion. These factors must be taken into account when choosing a placement.

3.9 Where a trans-racial or cultural placement is necessary, the worker who identifies the placement is responsible for ensuring that the carer is suitable for a child from an ethnic or religious group different to their own. The ability to parent a child is not of itself evidence of suitability to parent a child in a trans-racial or trans-religion situation.

3.10 The social worker must explore with the carer how the family will deal with issues of racial challenge, identity issues and/or rejection by the young person of their black identity, ethnic heritage or religious affiliation.

3.11 Birth children in the new family will also be affected by a trans-racial placement and the family finding worker will need to explore with the carer, how this could impact on sibling relationships and the attitudes of extended family members and family friends.

3.12 Living in a racially diverse area is not a sufficient reason to justify or support a trans-racial placement. BME children can be exposed to racial challenges in racially mixed areas, particularly when the dynamics of peer group pressure or adolescent culture are considered. The carer’s awareness of the issues should be part of the matching process.

4 Consideration of religion in placement choice

4.1 Birth parents have the right to state to staff the religion in which their child should be raised in a placement, which must be taken into account. Placement choice has however to be determined by the assessed needs of a child and resources available. Decisions must not be influenced by staff’s personal religious or secular views.

4.2 Religion and culture are often intrinsically linked, particularly where religious observance is a fundamental part of social development and being part of a community. Matching therefore should take account of ethnicity and religion and try to avoid making a choice between these two potentially important aspects of a child’s identity.

4.3 In some cases a same religion (and denomination) placement may be more important than a same race placement, if the two cannot be equally reconciled. In cases where a trans-racial placement is necessary, ensuring a match on the grounds of religion will be specially important where religion is a core part of the family or community tradition.

4.4 Social workers will need to be aware of the diversity of religion and cultures within BME communities. It should not be assumed that a same continent or nationality placement would adequately address a child’s ethnic, cultural and/or religious needs.

5 Making a trans-racial, trans-cultural and/or trans-religion placement

5.1 When a social worker identifies that a child needs to be placed in foster care, they will refer the child to the Fostering Duty Service, which operates Monday – Thursday, 9.00am- 5.00pm, and on Friday, 9.00am - 4.30pm.

The Fostering Duty Officer is responsible for completing a referral form, outlining the child’s needs in terms of behaviour, health, education, contact and other relevant matters. The Duty Officer is also responsible for taking details of the child’s ethnicity and culture and the needs that arise from this.

After completing the form the Duty Officer, in consultation with the Fostering Duty Manager, attempts to identify a foster placement that will fully meet the needs of the child. This will include consideration of matching the child’s cultural and ethnicity needs with an appropriate foster carer(s).

5.2 Best practice should be that in every placement, all or most of a child's diversity needs are met. When considering a trans-racial placement it must be acknowledged that the dynamics of placing a BME child in a white family are very different to placing a white child in a black family. This is because a white child will continue to have the cultural re-inforcement of the dominant culture and is less removed from their heritage than a black child would be if placed in a white family. Consequently, the child’s needs are different depending on their ethnicity and that of the prospective carer. The matching process will need to demonstrate consideration of these factors.

5.3 The following are examples of when a trans racial placement will be more appropriate:

1) Where a parent expresses a wish for their child to be placed (particularly if S.20 CA 1989) with an identified carer, and where an established relationship exists between the child and the proposed carer.

2) Where a child needs to remain part of a sibling group.

3) A same day placement when there is no other alternative.

4) Religious preference - particularly where expressed by the parent and /or where religion is intrinsically linked to the ethnic identity can take priority over a same race placement.

5) Where a child has been in a trans-racial/cultural/religion placement for a long time and permanence with the current carers is being considered.

6) Friends and family care.

5.4 When a trans-racial or religion placement is being considered, the proposal must be discussed by the Duty Officer with Fostering Duty Manager and all options considered, including the possibility of placing the child in a culturally appropriate Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) placement. The grounds for making a trans-racial placement must be clearly thought through and recorded on the child’s file.

5.5 Recording giving reasons for the proposed trans-racial placement must be made available to the Fostering Team Manager, and their written authorisation given, before the placement goes ahead. 

5.6 The Fostering Duty Manager must keep detailed information of all trans-racial placements and provide this information each month to the Fostering Recruitment Manager to inform the planning and recruitment process and facilitate post placement support/training to carers if appropriate.

5.7 If there are particularly sensitive or complex issues the Fostering Team Manager and the relevant fieldwork Team Manager must be involved at an early stage.

6 Reviewing trans-racial foster placement

6.1 Under the Looked After Children procedures, when a child is placed in foster care, there are regular review meetings to discuss all aspects of the child’s welfare, including how their racial and cultural needs are being met. This applies to all foster placements, including trans-racial placements. The Independent Reviewing Officer who chairs reviews has a key role and should be fully briefed by social workers supporting placements.

6.2 Each review will consider the child’s future and address whether the placement is continuing to meet their racial and cultural needs, or whether a more culturally appropriate placement needs to be sought.

In making this decision, the review will need to balance the child’s racial and cultural needs with a range of other factors, including the length of the placement and the child’s level of attachment to their carer.

6.3 When a decision is made that a child needs to be moved to a more racially appropriate foster placement, a referral will be made by the child’s social worker to the Fostering Duty Service. The referral will include details of the child’s needs with regard to race and culture.

6.4 Upon receiving the referral, the Fostering Duty worker will seek to identify a new foster placement for the child. This will include the referral being considered by the Fostering Team at their weekly Children Awaiting Placement meeting.

6.5 If a suitable, culturally appropriate, in-house foster placement cannot be identified, the Fostering Team and the child’s social worker will discuss the referral with the Agency Placements Manager who will then take on responsibility for identifying and funding a placement with an IFA.

7 Supporting trans-racial foster placements

7.1 When a child is placed in a trans-racial placement the child’s social worker, and the foster carer(s) supervising social worker, must be informed and a home visit to the placement arranged within 7 days.

7.2 When the LAC Placement Plan is completed about a trans-racial placement, it must clearly outline what the expectations of the carer(s) are regarding meeting the ethnicity and cultural needs of the child(ren) and what support will be offered to the carer by the Fostering Service to assist them in meeting these needs. Referrals can be made to the Placement Support Team who can provide additional support to the child and carers, including a BME sessional worker to assist with meeting the child’s identity needs. The foster child should be encouraged, if appropriate, to contribute to these discussions. Contact with the child’s birth parents and wider family and friends should also be maintained and promoted (if part of the child’s Care Plan) as a key part of helping to meet the child’s identity and cultural needs.

These expectations are the subject of regular review between the foster carer, their supervising social worker, the child’s social worker and, if appropriate, the child in placement.

7.3 All foster carers who have a child trans-racially placed with them will receive a resource pack, giving them advice and support on how to meet the child’s racial and cultural needs. The pack will include age appropriate books for children about living in a family of a different racial origin to their birth family. The foster carer’s supervising social worker is responsible for ensuring that the carer receives the pack at the beginning of the placement and that the pack is discussed during subsequent home visits. The supervising social worker should also remind carers that the Fostering Team has a website, library and information resource bank with books, videos, DVDs, CD-ROMs and other materials, including a range of cultural diverse dolls, which can be accessed to support them in their care of BME children.

7.4 As part of their regular visiting, the supervising social worker will discuss with the carer how they are meeting the racial and cultural needs of any trans-racially placed child and any issues arising from this. This will include discussion with the foster carers’ birth children living in the household. A record of this discussion will be included in the record of visit to the carer and a copy sent to the child’s social worker.

7.5 If a supervising social worker has concerns about how a carer is meeting the racial and cultural needs of a child in a trans-racial placement, s/he will discuss this with their line manager, who will decide what further action needs to be taken. This discussion will involve the child`s social worker.

Further action could include additional support or training for the carer and/or the child, the organization of a meeting to review the placement or a decision to move the child. Any decision to move a child in these circumstances would involve consultation with the child’s social worker and the authorisation of the Fostering Team Manager.

8 Training

8.1 All approved Brighton and Hove foster carers will be expected to attend training on caring for BME children, which is a mandatory element of the training programme. Supervising social workers will monitor their carers’ attendance on this course.

8.2 Should a foster carer have any specialist training needs arising from caring for a trans-racially placed child, their supervising social worker will advise the manager responsible for foster carer training, who will be responsible for identifying appropriate training.

8.3 Supervising social workers, as part of their induction and ongoing development, will be expected to attend training on how to support foster carers with trans-racial placements.

9 Review of policy

9.1 This policy will be reviewed annually by the Fostering and Adoption Service in consultation with children and young people, the Brighton and Hove Foster Care Association, foster carers and staff.

 

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