Practice in focus: Promoting inclusivity in adoption and fostering

Last week, Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson called for an end to ‘burdensome bureaucracy’ in adoption, in a controversial speech marking National Adoption Week.

The minister claimed the current system ‘places too high a burden on parents who want to adopt, making it harder for people who want to give a child a stable home,’ claiming ‘too many lifestyle judgements’ are made on potential adopters, with the consequence that there are not enough adoptive parents to go around.

However, the minister’s comments have been widely criticised by leading figures in the adoption and fostering sector. Writing in a blog for Adoption UK, chief executive Sue Armstrong Brown, said: “Adoption agencies have heard a very clear message to make adopter recruitment more inclusive, and prospective adopters might have heard that they are welcome and valued. Those would both be good outcomes.

Adding: “Social workers, who include some of the most professionally selfless people I know, have heard that their snobbishness is keeping children in care.”

With this inclusivity in mind, Social Work Today returns to a practice article in which David Eggboro from The Fostering Network outlines how to help more Muslim families become foster carers in the UK.

“Currently, there are an estimated 65,000 children living with around 55,000 foster families in the UK and every 20 minutes another child comes into care. The majority of these children are placed in care due to abuse or neglect. Foster carers are trained and supported to help these children work through the challenges of their early years, and to help them transform their lives. The Fostering Network is the UK’s leading fostering charity, bringing together everyone who is involved in the lives of fostered children to make foster care the very best it can be. As such we continually strive for improvements to fostering.

One way in which we achieve this is through our innovation work such as the introduction of schemes such as The Muslim Fostering Project.

Led by The Fostering Network, in partnership with Mercy Mission UK and My Foster Family and funded by Better Community Business Network (BCBN), The Muslim Fostering Project explores the experiences of Muslim foster carers and prospective foster carers in England. The focus remains on identifying the barriers that stop more Muslims coming forward to foster, looking at how non-Muslim foster carers can be supported to care for Muslim children and young people, and using our networks to showcase good practice in this area.
The project’s latest report sets out the importance of recognising that, while significant, a child’s faith is one of many elements of the matching decision and there are many positive examples of non-Muslim foster carers enabling a Muslim child in their care to thrive.

A lack of knowledge and understanding of the Muslim faith among some non-Muslim fostering service staff is a significant challenge in the recruitment of Muslim foster carers. For example, non-Muslim social workers interviewed within the project expressed a lack of confidence to conduct assessments of Muslim families. This was due to both the level of spoken English by some prospective Muslim foster carers and causing unintended offence due to an unawareness of Islamic customs – such as how males should greet females and vice versa.

The project also found that, among some sections of the Muslim community, there can be a misunderstanding or mistrust of the role of the state in fostering. Some Muslims reported a fear that by becoming foster carers they might embarrass a family within their community whose children have been taken into care. Where families live together in multi-generational settings, with children sharing bedrooms, which is common in many Muslim households, the lack of a spare room can be a barrier.

The report contains a range of recommendations for vital change, which is hoped will help more Muslims become foster carers and aim to provide the right support to looked after children and young people from Muslim communities.

Recommendations include using specialised training and support to develop culturally competent and confident social work practice, which will enable fostering services to better understand the dynamic within Muslim communities. The project also recommends the recording of the faith, culture and ethnicity of both foster carers and looked-after children to understand the scale of local need and better target potential Muslim foster carers. This is a significant step to help quell any misgivings about the purpose of state intervention by social workers.”

This article was first published in the latest issue of COMPASS, the annual guide to social work and social care. For more information, head to www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk

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