Memorandum submitted by The Bibini Centre
for Young People
The Bibini Centre was established to challenge
racism and discrimination within the care system, to support African,
Caribbean, Asian and Black British young people in care and empower
both Black young people and their families.
To provide high quality residential and community
based services for Black young people in or leaving care and those
at risk of family break up. To develop a range of innovative projects,
which offer practical solutions to the support needs of Black
young people. Highlight and challenge discrimination and disadvantage,
both within social care and the wider society.
The Bibini Centre for Young People welcome's
the requirement for local authorities to assess the needs of those
involved in adoption and to provide support where required. However,
the success of the new Adoption Bill and standards will depend
on the effective recruitment of a diverse group of applicants
to become adoptive parents. This is an area I feel needs greater
consideration, as many agencies do not have a strategy for pursuing
the greater recruitment of black adoptive parents.
The emphasis on adoption and making speedy decisions
regarding children and young people's long-term plans is important.
We would emphasis the need to temper acting quickly with the offer
of continued support of families who are struggling but may be
able to maintain the care of birth children, if they receive greater
support. This is particularly important with black families, as
they are less likely to seek help from statutory agencies and
are more likely to experience inadequate housing, poverty, health
problems and disadvantage.
The Bibini Centre is also extremely concerned
about the number of Black young people being received into care
and placed with carers who do not reflect their culture, parentage
and upbringing. It is stated in the Adoption standards, that the
family of choice for the looked after child is one that reflects
his or her birth heritage. It is unhelpful in our view to add
the proviso, "if this can be found without unnecessary delay".
Unnecessary delay should obviously be avoided. It has a negative
affect on young people. And can be detrimental to their ability
to make attachments to new carers. Unfortunately until Local Authorities
make significantly increased efforts to recruit a diverse range
of carers, they cannot claim to be fully meeting the overall needs
of each Black child. Placement teams for example, could undertake
targeted campaigns; Black recruitment courses and assessments
as well as developing other forms of targeted recruitment strategies.
In addition, all generic recruitment campaigns could involve existing
Black carers and develop effective links with local Black communities.
It is crucial that within the current review of Adoption services,
the importance of recruiting a diverse population of adopters
and foster parents is not lost. In this light Local Authorities
must be more proactive in their efforts to recruit and retain
Black carers, and it is important that they show necessary creativity,
in rethinking what are in many cases age-old ways of operating.
While trans-racial placements may undeniably
solve the immediate problem of finding a placement for black young
people, they can cause decades if not a lifetime of difficulties
for the young person in understanding themselves and their identity.
This has been regularly highlighted through our work in Greater
Manchester. This has especially been the case in providing services
to black children and young people in the care system, both at
the residential children's home, and in the supported flats for
young people. Our experience has reinforced the view that placing
Black children and young people with white carers is generally
to their detriment. Young people in these circumstances grow up
without the cultural references other black young people take
for granted. It is crucial that placement services and staff ensure
that they have knowledge of and fully utilise a diversity of placements
and support services. These services should enable a package to
be developed, which will meet the full range of each young person's
Where this does not happen the consequence can
be that one element of the young person's support needs is prioritised,
over other issues. For example, the need of a black young person
to understand their own culture should not be outweighed, by their
need for appropriate education or a placement in a particular
area. In the Bibini Centre's experience of working with Local
Authorities, we have been regularly disappointed that black young
people are still being placed in isolated white residential units,
or with carers who do not reflect their cultural background. Justifications
for these placements have included a lack of resources, or that
the placement meets another aspect of their requirements eg education
or health issues, and that these needs take precedence.
Placing young people inappropriately creates
an unnecessary conflict between the young person's need for a
positive experience of living within a placement, which recognises
and supports their black identity as well as their other care
needs. Young people's support needs should be met in full, and
not by deciding which aspects of their range of needs will be
prioritised when choosing a suitable home for them. A placement
with Black carers should not be seen as prioritising the young
person's cultural needs over others, as most available placements
can in addition meet educational, physical, emotional and the
other requirements of the young person. Assessed and appropriate
Black carers and residential workers can most effectively meet
the full range of support needs eg cultural, educational, physical,
health and emotional needs.
When a young person is removed from an abusive
parent they may search for an explanation or a justification for
their carer's behaviour. Where Black young people are placed with
white carers, especially those living in a white or predominantly
white environment, they are likely to impose their own interpretations
to their experience. This can result in the conclusion that Black
people are abusive and dangerous. When observing the stereotyping
and discrimination of Black communities, which is reflected in
the media, it is perhaps a miracle that any black young people
come out the experience of trans-racial placements with a positive
view of their own culture. This clearly significantly affects
their sense of themselves, and how they fit into the wider society.
Frequently, discussion about trans-racial placements
minimises the impact of racism on individual black children and
young people. Even where a Black young person is living within
a white environment and defining themselves as white, they will
continue to be exposes to racism and discrimination. Unfortunately
these young people, who probably have the greatest need for support,
will have to resolve these issues for themselves without the help
of adults who have had similar experiences. This can highlight
a major aspect of family life denied to black young people when
they are trans-racially placed, the development of strategies
to challenge bigotry and discrimination. Trans-racially placed
young people; in common with all Black people living within a
white dominated society are vulnerable to absorbing negative stereotypes
about themselves and other Black people.
In this light it is small wonder that some young
people resort to the denial and dismissal of their birth families'
communities. These conditions should not be used as a justification
for placing Black young people trans-racially, in the hope that
love will be enough to overcome cultural difference. All Black
young people will be confronted with racism at some point in their
lives and the earlier they develop strategies to deal with those
hopefully rare occasions, the less devastating they may prove.
The Bibini Centre for Young People welcomes
the review of adoption and a general emphasis on the needs of
the child. There is a continued importance in furthering children's
rights and a clear requirement to listen to young people. This
should be combined with an understanding of the motivations for
each young person's stated wishes. Practitioners need to assess
the overall needs of each individual young person. A young person
may feel that they would be more comfortable with white carers,
but workers have a responsibility to examine the request more
closely. Young people's wishes may be motivated by lack of confidence,
fear or dismissal of their own identity, rather than as a result
of a positive decision. Professionals, have a responsibility to
work in partnership with Black young people to widen their choice
and challenge these negative reactions.
It is crucial that carers and residential units
reflect the diversity of wider communities. While I recognise
that there are Authorities who are finding it difficult to recruit
carers from a range of Backgrounds, the lack of placement matching
with each young person's individual circumstances results in those
Black carers currently available not being effectively utilised,
eg some caring for white young people, or not being used at all.
There are many examples of the devastating impact when agencies
fail to develop a range of placement options available from the
beginning of a young person's care history. Few could disagree
that Black young people have the right to be appropriately placed
from their reception into care. This I am sure would improve the
outcomes of the placement, reduce the likelihood of future alienation
from young people's birth culture and will raise Black children
and young people who are confident and proud of who they are.
While there are trans-racial placements being
made due to a lack of culturally appropriate foster and adoptive
placements there is significant evidence that many Local Authorities
do not have a recruitment process which targets Black communities.
The Social Services Inspectorate report "Adopting Changes,
Survey and Inspection of Local Council's Adoption Services 2000",
reflects that the majority of councils have no foster and adoptive
carer recruitment strategy at all, and that this reactive approach
"was not ensuring an adequate supply of Black and Ethnic
Minority adopters, even in those councils with significant Black
and Ethnic Minority populations". This does not lead to effective
planning or diversity in recruitment.
In addition there is the continued concern about
the impact of institutional racism highlighted within the McPherson
report and elsewhere. In the Family Rights Group report, overcoming
the Obstacles 2000, the researchers reported one case when "it
took somebody six and a half years to become a foster carer".
The researchers comment "that Black families are willing
to become foster carers, but current bureaucratic process and
lack lustre approach to recruitment militates against them".
Black people anticipate discrimination and are subsequently reluctant
to apply until they feel confident that they will receive a positive
response, from workers who understand their culture. This message
has to be spread over and above ensuring that Black communities
have access to information about how to apply.
The Bibini Centre welcomes the setting of standards,
greater standardisation, monitoring and review of adoption services
and believe that the result will be a more effective service,
for young people. We would strongly reinforce the need to approach
recruitment of adoptive parents in flexible ways encouraging applicants
from communities not currently applying.