While much progress has been made to confront racism in the UK, the problem still exists and remains entrenched in many communities throughout the country. Indeed, since the Brexit vote in 2017, experts believe there’s been a notable growth in cases of racism, with ethnic minorities bearing the brunt of both direct and indirect discrimination.
Sadly, this prejudice has a major impact on children and young people, and can be particularly detrimental to vulnerable youngsters in the social care system.
The problem here is that, when faced with racial abuse, black and ethnic minority children in the care of white British foster carers often don’t get the right support and empathy they need to move on and overcome such discrimination – leaving them exposed to further abuse, bullying and harassment.
When white carers foster children or young people of a different ethnic background, they may be unaware of the additional challenges of raising a child with such a cultural identity. This can lead to a lack of effective guidance and support, with the child not getting the right help they need to understand their cultural identity and respond appropriately to discrimination and abuse.
In order to help foster carers deal effectively with racial abuse towards a child in their care, here we look at some of the ways they can guide, support and empathise with young people who may be vulnerable to racial abuse, prejudice and discrimination.
As a white foster carer, it can be difficult to fully appreciate the daily stresses, challenges and anxieties of being from a black or ethnic minority background. While you may instinctively empathise with your child and consider racism abhorrent, your perspective is such that they may not be given the appropriate support and guidance – with racial abuse inadvertently being treated like a general form of bullying.
Racism, particularly when levelled at a child, can be very damaging. It can leave young people questioning their identity, feeling as if they have done something wrong, or with a sense of inexplicable guilt. Without the right support, the impact of racism can manifest feelings of alienation, depression and anger; problems which can quickly impact on other areas of a young person’s life.
Carers who foster children of an ethnic minority background should educate themselves on their cultural background and race, finding out all they can about cultural norms, traditions, biological differences and the history of racism towards their particular culture. Consider reaching out to the wider community to gain insight into the identity and customs of a child coming into your care, so you can be better placed to offer the right kind of support and guidance. A good place to start is your local fostering support group, while there’s also the option to head online and get involved in forum discussions.
If you foster a black or ethnic minority child in an all-white family from a young age, it’s important that they’re introduced to their cultural heritage and encouraged to explore their identity. As they get older, they’ll naturally become more interested in their family background and history, so it’s important that they’re given this kind of help and support early on, so they can appreciate and comprehend their race as they move into their formative years.
Being able to make sense of their own history and identity will help a child approach incidents of racism more objectively, helping them to prepare for any incidents of discrimination and prejudice they may encounter as they progress into adulthood. If they’re unsure or confused by their identity, incidents of racism will likely hold more weight and could generate feelings of insecurity and alienation.
It’s important to address differences and make sure the children and young people are given the support and encouragement to examine their own identity.
While it’s impossible to protect a child from racism, it is possible to enrich them with a sense of pride in their cultural identity and help them feel like they’re not alone. One of the best ways to encourage a healthy relationship with racial identity is to make sure your foster child is able to spend time and bond with people of their own cultural background – whether that’s their biological family, friends or through a local community group.
Studies show that children from black and ethnic minority backgrounds value living in a community where others share their cultural heritage and that they want to find their own sources of support when coming to terms with their heritage, background and family history. There’s also evidence to suggest that children need extra help in making sense of their identity when placed with white foster carers, and that without the contact of people of their own race, they can often feel a sense of alienation and find it difficult to bond with people of their own culture in later life.
While this isn’t necessarily a direct way to help deal with racial abuse, encouraging them to find a place in a community which shares their cultural heritage will ensure they have a support network which can empathise and understand what they’re going through. Talk to your social worker and support group about how you can help a child in your care build relationships with people of similar backgrounds, and provide positive support and encouragement to help them explore their identity.
We offer a network of dedicated foster carers from all walks of life, helping them offer effective homes to young people in need. With our training and support, you too can make a difference and help vulnerable youngsters in your local area get a positive start in life. Get in touch to find out more.