This month is Black History Month. The theme for 2023 is “Saluting Our Sisters”; a theme which encourages us to recognise and celebrate black women who have made an impact on our history and culture.
Black History Month is a real opportunity to celebrate the significant, individual contributions of black people to society and brings with it the hope that future generations will be inspired and empowered.
For children, it is particularly important that they have role models they can draw inspiration from, role models who have lived their lives, walked in their shoes. For children growing up in the modern world, identity is hugely important, and all children seek role models that they can relate to but who encourage them to break any constraints they may be living under. For black children and young people, particularly those in foster care, it is really important to recognise and celebrate the many men and women who have changed the course of history. Of course, we celebrate amazing people like Claudia Jones, journalist and activist who this year will have a blue plaque unveiled by English Heritage and Mary Seacole, pioneering nurse and war heroine, but there are also the unseen people, the ordinary folk, making a difference day in, day out whose names we may not know, people like our foster carers.
There is a serious shortage of foster carers in the UK, but in addition to this, black foster carers are really under-represented.
At the same time, when it comes to children, many fostering professionals also believe that black children are at times stigmatised and viewed in a negative light. For a child who has already suffered loss and grief and is probably questioning who they are and what their story is, a rather damaging scene is set.
Every fostering provider will always do their best to match children with carers according to a range of matching criteria including race, ethnicity, religion and identity. With an already small pool of foster carers and an even smaller pool of black foster carers, black children along with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are the most likely to be in ill-matched fostering families. This can have a significant impact on their sense of self, their confidence and self-worth and can make it much more difficult for them to heal and grow.
“At Affinity, we put a lot of support into carers who are looking after black and mixed heritage children,” says Karen, Head of Business Services at Affinity. “We provide guidance, training and resources that carers can draw upon when caring for children who are of a different ethnicity to them, and this is really important. But I don’t think anyone could deny that in most cases, the best person to care for a black child is a black foster carer and we will always try to make the very best match possible.”
Indeed, if a foster carer and a child have the same cultural heritage, it can really help strengthen attachment and allows a child to feel at home, accepted and part of a secure base in which they can thrive. But the reality is, that there are not enough foster carers, and this is reflected in the lack of diversity in the pool.
At Affinity, we are always looking for carers in all shapes and sizes because we care for a diverse range of children who just want to be cared for by someone with whom they have been thoughtfully matched.
If you have a spare room and feel that you could make a difference in the same way that many of the men and women we celebrate this month have, we’d love to hear from you!
We’ve put together some ideas and resources around Black History Month and how to have discussions with your children that inspire them and strengthen a positive sense of identity in our short guide.
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