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Black History Month reminds us that we need more carers from black and mixed ethnicity backgrounds

Published 07 Oct 2021

Black History Month is a time for all of us to sit and reflect on the impact that past actions have had on black and minority ethnicity people living within our society. The past is something that shapes us and is something that we should all learn from. In a world where people still think it’s ok to send racist tweets to black members of the England Men’s Football team, it’s also a time to question whether things have changed and how we can play our part in making change possible.


At Affinity Fostering, our focus is and always has been to ensure that the young people and children placed in our care have the opportunity to flourish within a nurturing family environment. That’s what every child deserves, no matter their background or ethnicity. There is always a reminder that the role we play is essential, helping children with so much potential reflect on their past and look towards the future. Another stark reminder is that the number of children within the care system is growing. Between 2015 and 2019 the number of Looked After Children increased by 12% to 78150 (that number has more than likely increased during the pandemic). More worryingly the number of Black and Mixed Ethnicity children living in care during that period rose from 18% to 22%.


There are many reasons for this rise, in part connected to the fact that a disproportionate number of children from Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Caribbean, and African backgrounds live in the most deprived neighbourhoods of our country. Added to this, little attention has been paid to ethnic inequality over the past 20 years if not longer. The lessons that we learn from Black History Month can still be seen being played out in our society today.


So, what can we do? Obviously, anyone who is accepted as a foster carer with Affinity will have shown that they are making the decision to look after children with the best intentions; to nurture and support them. An excellent foster carer can make the world of difference to the life of a young person or child. The emotional reunion between the world-famous black singer Seal and the white foster family from Essex who raised him from birth until he was 4 is a case in point. However, there is also a shortage of black, Asian, and minority ethnic foster carers across the UK with two-thirds of councils announcing that they don’t have enough BAME foster carers available. This can mean that while a foster carer may have the very best intentions for raising a child from a different ethnic background, the lack of a similar culture within the household may lead to a child feeling that they were losing their identity.


Understanding our roots and culture is an important part of being able to recognise our own identity as a part of our personal development. One of the reasons that Seal’s reunion with his foster family was that he didn’t have any photographs of himself before the age of 4. But, on a wider level, having a safe space to live amongst a family that understand your background removes risks of confusion, depression and arguments. Imagine living in a Muslim household where you celebrate Eid and suddenly finding yourself in a home where no-one knows what that is. It adds an extra level of discomfort and upset.


With the right nurturing, every child has the potential to be amazing. Gold winning gymnast Simone Biles is an excellent example and there’s a reason why she takes time to go and visit children who live in the foster system. She and her siblings were fostered after her biological mother could no-longer take care of her and her siblings. While she was eventually adopted by her grandparents, she has always argued that she had a good experience in foster care. The question for her will always be “what if?”


If you are from a black or ethnic minority background and would like to begin helping looked after BAME children within a family that represents their culture and roots, we would love to hear from you. We welcome foster carers from all walks of life and backgrounds, so long as you have good intentions and a room that a child or young person can call their own, we’d love to hear from you.

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