Charities call for ‘linguistic heritage’ consideration in child protection policies and practice

Charities call for ‘linguistic heritage’ consideration in child protection policies and practice

Two charities have joined forces to raise awareness and highlight the importance of language within child protection amid concerns of cultural and linguistic misunderstandings for children destined for, or in care.

VCF – The Victoria Climbié Foundation UK and Mothertongue are leading on discussions at a conference to be held 1st March 2016, which will focus on the particular impact experienced by multilingual families where there are Child Protection issues, and what can be done in practice to improve these families’ experiences and chances of harmonious family life.

The event will also launch a joint White Paper; My Languages Matter, which explores the impact of linguistic and cultural heritage through child protection work, and asks whether we are effectively considering the relevance of these themes when we are making decisions on behalf of children.

Through its independent casework service, VCF advise, support and advocate on behalf of children and families involved with all children’s services, particularly children’s social care. Running through many of its cases is the theme of cultural or linguistic misunderstandings leading to conflicts between family members and professionals in statutory agencies and the role to mediate these misunderstandings to achieve improved outcomes.

As a multilingual therapy service, Mothertongue’s focus is on people’s experiences of themselves as multilinguals – speakers of more than one language. People who are multilingual are different from people who are monolingual in a variety of ways.  Some of the most significant ways concern people’s emotions, their sense of identity and who they are, and the way they recall memories.

These are all important issues for children and their families and become intense and poignant when children are separated from their families of origin – the people, their culture and their language.

A roundtable debate at Parliament in October 2014 delivered a comprehensive multi-agency response, with contributions from statutory and voluntary sector organisations, as well as individual lawyers, academics, counsellors and interpreters.

For VCF and Mothertongue the event offered an opportunity to shine a light on an area of need that has been woefully inadequate and largely ignored, and an action plan to take forward.

According to Beverley Costa, CEO and Clinical Director at Mothertongue “the discussions raised awareness of the importance of a child’s cultural and linguistic heritage”, with Mor Dioum, VCF’s Co‑Founder and Director adding that “the debate highlighted a number of gaps in policy or practice which could significantly enhance the rights and protection of a child, if addressed.”

Together, with a network of organisations and academics, VCF and Mothertongue are committed to taking this work forward to develop ways in which the impact of cultural and linguistic misunderstandings for children in care and child protection system can be reduced.


Illustration by Lisa Marie Gibbs

See also:

More than words; the importance of communicating across languages in child protection, 1st March 2016

The importance of language within child protection:
My Languages Matter; the multilingual outlook for children in care – a White Paper:

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