We cannot continue to ignore race and identity within child protection

We cannot continue to ignore race and identity within child protection

The Children and Families Act was given royal assent in April 2014. Yet many still question the validity of the decision to repeal the ethnicity clause and today we are seeing the impact of the decision which applies to fewer than 3% of BME children in the care system and in our view does not adequately address the cultural or linguistic heritage of children placed in care, nor the lack of care of language matters in practice.

Through clinical work and interpreting assignments, local agencies, such as Mothertongue multi-ethnic counselling service, have become aware recently of a number of multilingual families where children have been removed into care. Parents can feel this is because they have misunderstood or been misunderstood, culturally and/or linguistically. They despair of ever being able to make their situation understood.

The requirement for social workers to pay less attention to matching a child’s – and would-be parents’ ethnic background fails to address the root cause of the over-representation of BME children in the care system, on child protection plans and in serious case reviews, an indication of the institutional racism we have not properly addressed post-McPherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

VCF is keen to explore the impact of linguistic and cultural heritage through child protection work. Are we effectively considering the relevance of these themes when we are making decisions in the best interest of the child?

What we have seen through the cases of many families being supported by VCF is that what would amount for a black or minority ethnic child to be removed from a family is not the same for a white child.

It is clear that there are fundamental questions that need to be addressed about how children end up in care. Why are BME children over-represented in the care system? Is it that they are more likely to be removed from their families and placed into care? Is not enough being done to keep children with their families?

Our campaign to raise awareness of culture and faith is VCF’s response to what we view as a lack of understanding by many child protection professionals, when completing child or family assessments. Lack of knowledge, or even ignorance, may result in professionals adopting a reactive and punitive approach when confronted with cultural or religious values – or a fear of being viewed as racist.

‘Protecting children across culture and faith’ is a protocol VCF uses to ensure that the cultural needs of BME families are addressed within safeguarding policies and practice, nationally.

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