Select Committee on Select Committee on the Adoption and Children Bill Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


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 needs.

  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.

May 2001

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