Meeting the needs of Black and Mixed Heritage Children in foster care
The Black Minority Ethnic (BME) population of the UK at the time of the last census was approximately 8% of the entire population and many children of Black or mixed heritage (those who have one white parent and one Black or Asian parent), live in predominantly white communities unless they live in areas of high social and cultural integration such as London, Birmingham, Bradford and other large cities.
Research has shown that Black and minority ethnic children are over- represented in the care system in relation to the numbers of minority ethnic children in the general population. In addition, in many areas of the UK there is a shortage of foster carers with the same cultural or ethnic background as these children and consequently they will often be placed with foster carers from a different cultural, religious or ethnic background.
Identity is important for all children but is particularly crucial for Black and minority ethnic children placed in foster care. Black or Mixed Heritage children may be placed with Black or White foster carers and so foster carers need to think about what they can put in place to help the child with their identity as soon as possible.
Foster carers therefore need to be pro-active in encouraging mixed heritage children to understand and feel positive about the Black and minority ethnic part of their family background. People who have not taken time to consider identity may think that a mixed heritage child “looks white” and will therefore be viewed as white within their community and accepted. However research shows that mixed heritage children will generally be seen as Black children by the community they live in, and by wider society, and so need to be equipped by their carers for the racism and discrimination they may experience as a result of this.
Some mixed heritage children, particularly those who have lived with their white parent and have little or no contact with their Black parent or the Black parent’s family, may struggle to recognise or understand that they are Black and beginning to identify with other Black people, can have huge emotional consequences for the child. Helping a Black child to understand and feel positive about their cultural identity is crucial in enabling them to develop into an emotionally healthy adult.
For a downloadable pdf of practical advice when caring for a Black or Mixed Heritage child click here.